Magnesium is an essential mineral for optimal health. Without magnesium our body would not be able to do so many key functions that we rely on it doing such as producing energy, controlling our blood sugar and cholesterol levels and having muscles in a permanent state of contraction. Magnesium is a macro-mineral which is required by our bodies in large amounts much like calcium, potassium, and sodium. It is needed in every cell of our body and plays a critical role in over 600 chemical reactions that keep us alive and functioning. 1 It is so important that the average body holds around 25 grams of magnesium in bones and muscles, making it the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body. 2
Magnesium is commonly tied up within mineral deposits in rock formations near salt water. The most plentiful source is the sea however humans generally get most of their magnesium through fruit, vegetables and nuts that draw magnesium from the soil.
Benefits of Magnesium
As a key element in over 600 biochemical reactions in the body, adequate levels of magnesium can result in numerous health benefits. Primarily acting as a supporting mineral, the availability of magnesium is essential for optimal health.
One of the most important roles magnesium plays is that of helping to create energy for our cells. The mitochondria inside our cells need it to create energy for in the form of ATP to keep us alive and functioning. Without magnesium, the nutrients we absorb could not be metabolised into usable forms of energy. Our cells then use ATP to as their fuel source or energy to carry out other function such as 3
- Cell reproduction – create new cells and support cell division
- Protein synthesis – create new proteins from amino acid
- Muscle fibre contractions – contract and relax muscles properly
- Gene maintenance – create and repair DNA and RNA
- Nervous system regulation – regulate messages between the brain and nervous system
Our understanding of how the body uses magnesium and how important it is, has developed largely over the last few decades, turning magnesium into a mainstream supplement. Researchers suggest current daily recommendations should be doubled as magnesium is now considered to be a key to overall wellness.
Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms
As magnesium is constantly being used by over 600 enzymatic processes, helping us functioning as we should, even a slight deficiency can significantly impact our health and day to day performance. Unfortunately, a magnesium deficiency is difficult to test for as blood levels only reflect a small amount of total body magnesium. Blood levels may appear to be completely normal, despite extreme deficiencies at the cellular level 4.
Low levels of magnesium have been associated with insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, asthma, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, migraines, ADHD and kidney disease. 5
A leading driver of deficiency may be stress, as our bodies use up magnesium in stressful times to help our bodies cope. Lower levels of magnesium tend to make stressful situations harder to deal with, creating a difficult stressful cycle.
The World Health Organisation have published reports that estimate around 75% of Americans do not meet the recommended daily intake of magnesium which sits at 320-420mg per day. However, according to experts this currently recommended daily intake is inadequate to prevent magnesium deficiency and is nowhere near the optimal daily intake which sits around 500mg for females and 750mg for males. This realisation would push true deficiency rates in the US towards 90%.6
In the year 1900 the average magnesium intake was 500mg per day and now it is around 200mg per day.7 This huge reduction in magnesium levels is largely due to the modern day diet of processed foods, the slow depletion of minerals from our soil, and the stressful lives we live.
What the medical studies are saying
Magnesium may benefit blood pressure in hypertensives
Supplemental magnesium may reduce blood pressure people with high blood pressure. The findings suggest that magnesium supplementation may help prevent the progression of hypertension in people with high blood pressure. Published in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases.
Study highlights vital role of magnesium in type 2 diabetes
The study found that long term hyperglycaemia in patients with type 2 diabetes increases the risk of chronic complications such as nephropathy and may aggravate other clinical conditions associated with diabetes. The authors said adequate magnesium is essential for people with diabetes and was published in Clinical Nutrition
Dietary magnesium may reduce the risk of colon cancer: Meta-analysis
According to a meta analysis from the Imperial College London and Wageningen University increased intakes of magnesium in the diet may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. For every 100mg increase in intake of magnesium, the risk of colorectal cancer decreased by 12% and was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Magnesium supplements show potential anti-inflammatory effects: Meta-analysis
Researchers focused on C-reactive protein, an established marker of inflammation and found that magnesium supplementation was associated with significant reductions in CRP. The findings suggest magnesium supplements may have a beneficial role as management of low-grade chronic inflammation according to the Current Pharmaceutical Design
Magnesium deficiency may contribute to osteoporosis rise
A study has found prolonged magnesium deficiency leads to osteoporosis in rats which could present a warning to certain populations not getting enough magnesium in their diets. The researchers found the bone density in the magnesium group to be significantly higher than the control and found indicators of osteoporosis in the control group according to the report in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.
Magnesium’s potential to lower blood pressure
Data from 34 randomised, double blind placebo- controlled trials involving 2028 participants, indicated that there is a casual effect of magnesium supplementation lowering blood pressure in adults. The meta analysis published in the Journal Hypertension, supports the cardiovascular benefits of magnesium.
Magnesium may reduce stroke risk: Meta-analysis
Collecting data from seven studies showed that for every 100mg per day increase in magnesium intake, the risk of stroke was reduced about 9%. Published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Low magnesium levels may increase stroke risk
Increasing levels of magnesium could decrease the risk of ischemic stroke with the effects related to magnesium’s benefits on blood pressure and for diabetics, According to research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology
More magnesium-rich food for less diabetes – meta-analysis
Eating more magnesium rich foods like green leafy vegetables and nuts may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes according to a meta-analysis, published in the Journal of Internal Medicine.
Magnesium linked to lower metabolic syndrome risk: Meta-analysis
Increased dietary intakes of magnesium may reduce the risk of developing metabolic syndrome by about 30% according to meta-analysis of six studies. The risk of having metabolic syndrome decreased by 17% for every 100mg per day increase in magnesium published in Diabetic Medicine.
Dietary magnesium may lower risk of death from heart disease
Increased intakes of magnesium in the diet may reduce the risk of cardiovascular mortality by about 50%, suggest study from Japan. With data collected over 14.7 years from 58,615 healthy japanease aged between 40-79 indicated reductions in the risk of cardiovascular events according to a paper published in Atherosclerosis.
Magnesium supplements may boost physical performance for older women: RCT
A study run by scientists from the University of Padova included a magnesium group and placebo group. The magnesium group had a significantly better short physical performance score as well as improvements in chair stand times and walking speeds compared to the placebo. The findings published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggest a role for magnesium supplementation in preventing or delaying age-related decline in physical performance.
Magnesium supplements could help asthmatics, says study
Children with asthma taking magnesium supplements experienced a decrease in the severity of their asthma and used less medication according to a clinical trial from Brazil. The group that received the magnesium experienced a significant improvement in bronchial responsiveness and reduced the use of salbutamol, an asthma medication by almost 40%. Published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Magnesium shows insulin benefits in non-diabetics: Study
Study finds increased intakes of magnesium are associated with decreased metabolic biomarkers of insulin resistance in non-diabetics. Those subjects with the highest magnesium in takes exhibited significantly less insulin resistance according to findings published in Nutrients.
Magnesium Rich Foods
10 Great Sources of Natural Magnesium
Magnesium is found in many vegetables, especially leafy greens, as well as in nuts, seeds and legumes. Foods with plenty of fibre are usually high in magnesium.8
Always try get as many vitamins and minerals from a healthy balanced diet. The magnesium in food is often absorbed far better than supplements so a small amount may go a long way. Unfortunately with the lowering levels of magnesium in our food, even a diet filled with these foods might not be enough for a stressed person, which is where a supplement would be necessary.
One must also be aware that when we cook our food, the chemical structure changes, and more often than note there is a decrease in vitamins and minerals. For example, when kale and spinach are boiled for 2 minutes, there is a reduction in magnesium of around 25%.
The optimal daily dose of magnesium is between 500 – 750mg per day depending on size and gender.
Other notable magnesium-rich foods include:
- Sunflower seeds
- Brazil Nuts
- Flax seeds
- Wild Salmon
- Black Beans
- Kidney Beans
Which form of Magnesium is best and how much should I take?
There are many popular forms of magnesium supplements out there. However, some are much better than others.
Absorption rates between different types of magnesium vary between 4% and 60% which is why it is always important to check which form is being used.
The recommended daily intake of magnesium for adult males is 420mg, but the optimal daily intake for adult males is around 750mg.9
Most people will not be getting anywhere these levels in their diet that is where a quality magnesium supplement can be beneficial.
Types of Magnesium you may find in supplements include:
Magnesium Chelates – These are forms of magnesium that are chemically bound to another molecule that make the magnesium more likely to survive the trip from the stomach to the small intestine. Magnesium chelates have the potential to offer far greater absorption rates with the right molecules. With so many forms of magnesium supplements out there it can be hard to know which one is best for you.10
Magnesium citrate offers one of the best absorption rates and is reasonably priced. It consists of magnesium bound with citric acid making it water soluble and very well absorbed. It is one of the most popular forms of magnesium for supplementation in top quality products, however it can cause an upset stomach at high for some people.
Magnesium Glycinate is magnesium bound with the amino acid glycine, an exceptionally bioavailable form of magnesium. This type of magnesium is popular as it is less likely to cause a laxative effect while still being well absorbed.11
Avoid the poorly absorbed magnesium supplements such as oxide, gluconate, sulphate and carbonate.
Magnesium oxide tends to have high levels of elemental magnesium, but its absorption or bioavailability is extremely low around 4%.12
Magnesium aspartate should also be avoided as its bioavailability is low and it breaks down into a neurotoxin.13
Q: What does a magnesium supplement do?
Magnesium is a key mineral used in over 300 bodily processes such as muscle regulation, nerve function, blood sugar levels, bone growth, stress control and energy production. A good, well-absorbed magnesium supplement will ensure your body is not suffering from a deficiency and allow it to optimise over 300 functions.
Q: What are the symptoms of low magnesium?
If you’re low in magnesium you might experience: muscle twitches and cramps, weak bones, fatigue and muscle weakness, high blood pressure, asthma, irregular heartbeat.
Q: What are the side effects of magnesium?
The side effects of magnesium vary largely depending on the type of magnesium and how much is taken. Other than feeling the benefits of magnesium, an overdose may cause loose stool and nausea if it’s too much at one time for your body to process. An overdose is unlikely to cause harm to anyone with normal kidney function.
Q: Which foods contain magnesium?
Magnesium is present in many foods but higher levels can be found in kelp, pumpkin seeds, almonds, dark chocolate, mackerel, soybeans and dark leafy greens. You can find more in our magnesium in food section.
Q: What is the best magnesium dosage?
The optimal magnesium dose depends largely on the individual person’s requirements. Daily intake for an average female should be at least 420mg per day and males 750mg per day. Adjust accordingly based on how your size varies from average and consider your magnesium usage. If you exercise and sweet a lot you may lose more minerals than most. If you’re constantly stressed you might also need more than the average person.
Q: Which type of magnesium should I take?
Magnesium is definitely not all the same. All the different types of magnesium usually vary in what they’re chemically bound too. Some are more bioavailable than others and offer a second benefit in the bound chemical.
Magnesium citrate a well absorbed affordable form of magnesium but at high doses is not well tolerated by the gut. Magnesium malate is a great form due to its slow release property. Being bound to malic acid which also has it’s own health benefits, it’s absorbed well, but slower than most. Chelated forms like magnesium glycinate are generally well absorbed and easy on the gut because they’re bound to amino acids our body recognises and can use. Check out our magnesium supplement section for more recommendations.
Q: Can I overdose on magnesium?
A magnesium overdose would be very rare with the conservative recommendations on products. Most people that consume an excess of magnesium will excrete it without any issues and might know about it with some diarrhea. People who have impaired kidney function are the ones at risk for a magnesium overdose if they exceed recommendations and cannot process the magnesium.
We’ve created a magnesium supplement with a combination of thee types of highly absorbable magnesium at a therapeutic dose. Our magnesium comes as an easy to mix, great tasting powder to ensure optimal absorption. To learn more about our magnesium, check out the product page here.
To check out the reviews for our Biosphere Magnesium and to find out what people are saying about Magnesium, visit the product page here.
Ron Goedeke MD, BSc Hons MBChB, FNZCAM
Dr Ron Goedeke, specialises in alternative and functional medicine. He is a foundation member of the New Zealand college of Appearance medicine and has been a member of the American Academy of Anti-aging medicine since 1999. With over 20 years of experience in the anti-aging field, Dr Ron Goedeke is recognized as one of New Zealand’s leaders in this new and growing field of medicine.
 Lieberman, S., & Bruning, N. (2007). The real vitamin and mineral book: The definitive guide to designing your personal supplement program (4th ed.). New York: Avery, a member of Penguin Group (USA).
Disclaimer: The information provided is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified healthcare provider with any questions or concerns about your health. Never disregard or delay seeking medical advice because of something you have heard or read on this website.
Last updated on the 25th of October 2018