Magnesium: Usage, Health Benefits & Side Effects

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Magnesium is one of the most plentiful minerals in the human body, and it’s crucial for several bodily processes. It exists in many foods such as brown rice, potatoes, beans, beef, avocado, bread, raisins, broccoli, and peanuts (1).

If you’re not getting enough magnesium from your diet, you should seriously consider supplementing. This article will provide you with details about its functioning, health benefits, side effects, precautions, and other useful facts.

What is Magnesium?

Magnesium is a mineral that regulates hundreds of key biochemical reactions in the body, all of which require enzymes to function. These include muscle and nerve movements, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and protein, bone, and DNA formation (2).

Approximately 50-60% of this essential mineral is stored in the bones, most of the remainder in the soft tissue. Unfortunately, there’s only 1% in the blood, which makes it a challenge to assess levels in the body (1).

However, under normal circumstances, an adult holds about 25 g of magnesium. So it’s possible to become deficient, but it takes some time. Initially, your kidneys will try to retain the mineral by releasing less in your urine (1).

How Does it Work?

Magnesium is a molecule whose main role is to assist in over 600 enzyme reactions in the human body, including energy production. This makes it essential to the proper functioning of our systems (3).

The mineral plays a key role in protein synthesis and the fusion of DNA, RNA, and an antioxidant called glutathione. In addition, it’s important in the development of bones and support of the brain and heart (1).

Magnesium also carries other minerals like calcium and potassium across the membranes of the cells. According to the National Institutes of Health, this is crucial for conducting nerve impulses, muscle contraction, and regulating heart rate.

Magnesium Health Benefits

Magnesium Health Benefits

If you consume enough magnesium, it can help treat several chronic health conditions and other ailments. These are some of the most important health issues affected by magnesium:

1. Type 2 Diabetes

Magnesium plays an important role in regulating blood sugar levels in the body, so a deficiency in this mineral can put an individual at higher risk for developing both types I but particularly type II diabetes. 

Low levels of magnesium can create insulin resistance. This is when people with type II diabetes don’t produce the amount of insulin they require, and on occasion, this can also occur with type 1.

Supplementing with magnesium can help lower the chances of developing insulin resistance and allow people to control their condition (2).

What the Science Says

The research indicates that people with magnesium deficiency are more likely to develop diabetes. For example, a longitudinal study published in Diabetes Care found that over a 20-year period of time, people with the highest magnesium levels were 47% less likely to develop diabetes.

In addition, taking magnesium can improve blood sugar and metabolic control, specifically in people with type II diabetes. A second study published in Diabetes Care confirmed this finding.

2. High Blood Pressure and Heart Disease

There’s evidence that supplementing with magnesium can reduce blood pressure by a small amount. In addition, it may lessen the risk of heart disease or stroke.

Magnesium activates the sodium-potassium pump, transporting potassium into the cells and removing sodium. Thus, the pump is the primary transporter of ions across heart tissue (4).

Maintaining the sodium-potassium balance is crucial for the electrophysiology of heart cells. In addition, magnesium activates an enzyme group called adenosine triphosphatase (ATPase), which provides energy to the pump (5).

They are also necessary for the proper functioning of cell membranes (5).

What the Science Says

A review of the research published in Nutrients reported that higher circulating magnesium levels correlate with a lower chance of developing cardiovascular disease. It’s also linked to a lower chance of having risk factors leading to CVD, including hypertension, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.

A review of the research on magnesium and hypertension published in the International Journal of Hypertension decided that the studies in this area were too conflicting for a strong connection. Therefore, they did not recommend using magnesium supplementation as part of the treatment for high blood pressure.

3. Migraines

Magnesium can decrease the release of chemicals that lead to pain, including glutamate. It can also improve the function of platelets, which can lower the intensity of migraines (6).

The brain chemical serotonin can narrow the blood vessels in the brain. Magnesium can prevent this as it impacts brain neurotransmitters and their functioning (6).

Many sufferers experience visual and sensory changes in the form of an aura while having a migraine. There’s a possibility that magnesium could prevent brain signaling, which leads to this aura (6).

What the Science Says

A meta-analysis published in Pain Physician found that giving participants oral magnesium decreased the frequency and intensity of migraines.

A study published in The Journal of Headache and Face Pain examined the treatment of acute headaches with intravenous magnesium in emergency room visits. They concluded that it was effective in pain management. 

4. Osteoporosis

Magnesium plays a critical role in the maintenance of bones and increasing bone density. As a result, people who are low in magnesium often have weak and brittle bones (7).

For this reason, low magnesium can play a role in the development of osteoporosis. In addition, this mineral is high in anti-inflammatory properties. Therefore, lower levels can increase pain and inflammation, and higher levels can decrease the condition’s chances of developing (7).

Low magnesium levels impact both the parathyroid hormone and Vitamin D, which are important in regulating the homeostasis of bone and calcium. This affects bone development and may cause osteoporosis (7).

What the Science Says

A review of the research in Current Osteoporosis Reports concluded that magnesium intake is positively associated with bone mineral density in men and women.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that people with low magnesium intake had low bone mineral density in the entire body, particularly in the hip. However, this was not linked to a higher chance of having a fracture.

5. Depression and Anxiety

Magnesium is a part of some of the key enzymes, neurotransmitters, and hormones important in mood, especially in preventing depression. Lower levels of magnesium can disrupt these pathways and lead to a low emotional state (8).

In addition, magnesium can balance cortisol levels in the body, which lowers stress levels by relaxing the central nervous system (9). It also decreases neurotransmitters like glutamate, which have an excitatory effect and raises levels of the calming brain chemical GABA (9). 

What the Science Says

The research has found a connection between magnesium levels and the likelihood of developing depression. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine looked at almost 9000 adults over a three-year period and found a strong connection between low magnesium levels and depression, particularly in young adults.

The Australia and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry analyzed 11 studies related to magnesium and depression. They concluded that participants with the lowest magnesium scores were 81% more likely to be diagnosed with depression than those with high levels.

6. PMS Symptoms

Magnesium regulates many different biochemical reactions in the body, many of them related to the hormones and neurotransmitters which affect premenstrual symptoms. This includes mood swings, cramps, fatigue, bloating, and breast tenderness.

It’s common for women with PMS to have lower than normal levels of magnesium, and in fact, levels of this mineral decrease during the menstrual cycle (10). For this reason, supplementation with magnesium is recommended during menstruation. 

What the Science Says

There is a connection between low levels of magnesium and the severity of PMS symptoms. A 4-month study carried out by the Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research concluded that supplementing with magnesium plus Vitamin B6 caused PMS symptoms to decrease significantly.

A literature review in Magnesium Research showed that magnesium could prevent premenstrual symptoms and be an effective treatment.

Magnesium sources

Magnesium Side Effects

There are some potential side effects of taking magnesium, although they are all rare and require high amounts of taking it. These symptoms include (4):

  • Flushing
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea
  • Trouble breathing
  • Muscle paralysis

Usage and Dosing Considerations

These are the official recommended daily intake for magnesium. This refers to the average level which meets the daily requirements you need to take in for good health (11)

Birth to 6 months30 mg30 mg
7–12 months75 mg75 mg
1–3 years80 mg80 mg
4–8 years130 mg130 mg
9–13 years240 mg240 mg
14–18 years410 mg360 mg400 mg360 mg
19–30 years400 mg310 mg350 mg310 mg
31–50 years420 mg320 mg360 mg320 mg
51+ years420 mg320 mg

Risks and Precautions 

People with normal kidney functioning rarely have levels of magnesium that are too high because the kidneys dispose of the extra. However, if you do have an overdose, the symptoms may include (12): 

  • Slow heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coma
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Increased or decreased urination
  • Severe drowsiness
  • Dizziness or fainting

Similarly, people with healthy kidneys take time to really develop a magnesium deficiency. Again, this is because the kidneys retain as much magnesium as possible. 

This problem is most common in men above the age of 70 and teenage girls (2). If you become magnesium deficient, you may experience symptoms such as (2):

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

If the problem becomes severe, it can lead to:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Seizures
  • Numbness
  • Personality changes
  • Tingling
  • Abnormal heart beat


Does Coffee Deplete Magnesium?

Caffeine is mostly fine in moderation, but if you drink too much, it can deplete important vitamins and minerals levels. This includes magnesium. It can also prevent the body from absorbing magnesium correctly (13).

How Can I Get Magnesium Naturally?

You can either take a natural supplement or acquire it from any number of healthy foods. It’s found in abundance in seeds, green leafy vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, milk, yogurt, apples, carrots, raisins, bananas, and numerous others (2).

Does Magnesium Make You Gain Weight?

On the contrary, magnesium has been associated with weight loss. Low levels of magnesium are linked to insulin resistance and can cause weight gain.

A study published in PLOS ONE found that high dietary magnesium is associated with low insulin resistance. They concluded that it was helpful for people who are overweight or premenopausal women. 

Who Shouldn’t Take Magnesium?

You should avoid supplementing with magnesium if you have heart or kidney disease. In addition, this mineral interacts with some different medications, so you must go to your doctor before you begin supplementing with magnesium (14).

Are Magnesium Tablets Good for Anxiety?

Research shows that magnesium does have a positive effect on stress and anxiety. It interacts with neurotransmitters related to mood, in particular GABA. This brain chemical has a relaxing, anti-anxiety effect on the brain (9).

Magnesium also ensures that the neurotransmitter glutamate stays within a normal range. In addition, this substance tends to have an excitatory effect on the brain (9).

A study published in Nutrients found that supplementation with magnesium improved all measures of anxiety.

The Bottom Line

Magnesium is such a crucial mineral in the human body that it’s really worth including it in your diet and possibly also supplementing. It’s important for so many different bodily processes that you should make sure your levels are more than adequate.

This key mineral plays an important role in both mental and physical health. It can benefit several health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, PMS. Osteoporosis, migraines, depression, and anxiety. 

There are different dietary requirements for different ages and genders, and each person has their own health history. That’s why it’s important to see your physician before deciding to supplement with extra magnesium. 

Supplementing with vitamins and minerals should accompany a healthy lifestyle involving a nutritious diet and plenty of physical activity.