Some supplements are flashy; you hear about them all the time and about how they can be extremely helpful to your overall health. Magnesium usually isn’t one of these supplements, though. Instead, most people don’t even know the role of magnesium plays in their bodies (and trust us, it has more than one!). However, magnesium supplements can be helpful to take, especially if your body isn’t already getting enough of it.
Magnesium is a mineral that the body needs in order to be able to thrive and grow. It is actually involved in over 300 different biochemical reactions that occur naturally in the body, and it helps us with a number of essential functions, including those of our nerves, muscles, immune systems, bones and heart. Magnesium makes sure our heart rhythm remains steady, our bones develop normally and we’re able to produce the energy we need to get through the day suggests the Office of Dietary Supplements.
In addition, magnesium helps us control and break down glucose and synthesize DNA and RNA. It also helps to transport potassium and calcium across the membranes of our cells. Magnesium does so much for our bodies, but we hardly ever talk about it.
Magnesium Is Also Known As …
Magnesium is a chemical element that goes by the abbreviation Mg. Its atomic number is 12, and its mass in 23.305. It is the eighth most abundant element in the world, and it can actually be found inside the earth’s crust. When we discuss magnesium as a supplement, we mostly will be focused on how it affects the body, but magnesium is a mineral that can be found almost anywhere.
It’s important to always talk to a medical professional before taking a supplement, but many individuals are advised by their doctors to take a daily dose of magnesium in order to benefit their overall health. In fact, magnesium can reduce the risk of developing a number of serious and incredibly common conditions1. If you are at risk of any of the conditions below — or if you already have them and are looking for a possible supplemental treatment option — magnesium could be exactly what you need.
Heart Problems and High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is one of the possible factors associated with other, more severe health problems. It is also one of the earliest warning signs of these issues. Fortunately, magnesium can help lower blood pressure in some individuals but usually only by a little bit (ODS). However, Harvard Medical School suggests that magnesium’s effect on the heart is has more to do with maintaining its electrical properties, which can still help prevent cardiac problems — like sudden heart attacks — and death associated with them.
Between men and women, women are more likely to develop osteoporosis, a condition that affects bone density and strength, usually later in life. Taking magnesium supplements could be a possible way to stave off issues with osteoporosis2.
Magnesium helps the body to better process glucose, which is part of the reason why those who have higher levels of magnesium in their bodies are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
Other Benefits of Magnesium
Not only can magnesium possibly prevent and treat these serious and common health conditions, but increasing magnesium intakes may also help treat migraines3, insomnia4, depression5 and anxiety6. It can also help those who have chronic inflammation issues (as a sign of magnesium deficiency is chronic inflammation), and it can be a possible treatment for PMS7. Finally, those who are looking for a sports performance supplement may also benefit from increasing magnesium intakes, as the mineral has been found to be effective for helping even the healthiest individuals improve their energy metabolism and performance8.
Daily Recommended Allowance of Magnesium
Different people have different daily recommended amounts of magnesium. For men, 400 mg is the main amount, although they can be advised to allow up to 420 mg (ODS). Women are recommended to have between 310 and 360 mg per day, and children’s daily recommended amount increases as they grow older, from about 30 mg per day at infancy to 360 mg for girls and 410 for boys during their teen years. Pregnant and breastfeeding individuals may often see an increased daily recommended amount as well.
- Men: 400 mg daily
- Women: 310-360 mg daily
- Teen boys: 410 mg
- Teen girls: 360 mg
Magnesium is often present in a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement, and many people use this as an option for covering all their bases. Still, those who want to take magnesium on its own may do so by taking a pill that contains magnesium, magnesium aspartate, magnesium chloride, magnesium citrate or magnesium lactate (ODS 3).
Magnesium, like any supplement, should not be taken without a healthcare professional’s formal approval. If used incorrectly, it could potentially affect the use of other medications or cause health problems, which is why it’s always important to check with your doctor before you start using magnesium and to get their express medical advice on the subject.
Magnesium deficiency on its own is not a common occurrence, but many people deal with low magnesium levels (also known as hypomagnesemia). Sometimes, this is because they are not getting their necessary dietary magnesium intakes while other times it could be the product of a behavior or condition (but more on that later).
- Nystagmus (or strange, rapid eye movements)
- Numbness in the body
- Loss of appetite
- Weak muscles
- Facial tics or spasms
- Arrhythmic heartbeat
- Changes in personality
Some of these are associated with more severe magnesium deficiency than others. For example, seizures, numbness, heart rhythm changes and personality changes are all associated with a severe case of hypomagnesemia.
Who Is at Risk of a Magnesium Deficiency?
Many individuals, especially in the United States, aren’t getting the amount of magnesium they should be getting in their diets. Usually, the signs of magnesium deficiency are not as pronounced when this occurs, however, because the body is able to store the mineral for long periods of time without replenishment (University of Florida).
Still, there are some behaviors and conditions that can make an individual more likely to experience losses of magnesium. These include
- Frequent alcohol abuse
- Kidney disease
- Vomiting or diarrhea that lasts for long periods of time
- Diuretic drug use
- Hypercalcemia (or having a high level of blood calcium)
- IBS or celiac disease
- Metabolic syndrome
- Old age
Foods that Contain Magnesium
Magnesium can be found naturally in a number of healthy foods. Most people know that green, leafy vegetables are a source for magnesium, but did you also know that the mineral can also be found in foods like legumes, seeds, nuts, whole grains and soy milk? Cedars-Sinai Medical Center lists a large number of magnesium rich foods, which surprisingly include raw shrimp, cooked, egg-enriched noodles, bananas and — at a whopping 128 grams ¼ cup — sunflower seeds.
Magnesium and You
Magnesium is extremely necessary for the body’s daily functions, and it is also lacking in many people’s diets. Talk to your doctor about whether or not it could be a helpful option for you to start taking magnesium supplements.