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One of the most prevalent minerals in the human body, magnesium is involved in energy creation, signal relay, heart function, pain, sleep, mood, muscle contraction, protein formation, RNA and DNA synthesis, bone health, and more. Magnesium can be found inside of every cell in the human body, but it is most prevalent in the skeletal system, with over 60% of the body’s magnesium concentration found in our bones.

Magnesium Deficiency

Studies estimate that over 75% of Americans do not get the recommended daily value of magnesium. The recommended dietary allowance for magnesium is 400-420mg per day for adult men, and 310-320 mg for adult women. However, these numbers do not take into account factors such as increased magnesium use as a result of stress or exercise or differences in our bodies’ abilities to absorb magnesium. 

Bone experts like Dr. Susan Brown, Ph.D, for example, recommend that individuals consume about 600mg of magnesium each day. This is because, in addition to nutritional intake, the amount of magnesium your body actually needs to function at an optimal level depends on a variety of factors. These include things such as how much you exercise, how much stress you experience, your genetic ability (or lack thereof) to absorb magnesium, having a condition like inherited renal magnesium wasting, and numerous other reasons. Alcohol consumption, smoking, medications, and several chronic diseases can also negatively affect the absorption and excretion of magnesium.

Stress has been linked to excreting excessive amounts of magnesium. Several studies have shown that acute stress and anxiety are associated with increased plasma Mg levels and increased urinary Mg excretion.Studies also suggest that individuals may need 10-20% more magnesium during exercise than when they are resting.

Although magnesium is also found in other animals, plants, the sea, and in soil, it is difficult to consume enough magnesium in our diet. One reason is due to the degradation of agricultural practices throughout the past century. These practices have led to soil depletion and resulted in lower levels of magnesium available to be absorbed by the plants and vegetables we eat. Processed foods have even less magnesium than their original counterparts, making it increasingly difficult to get enough.

Magnesium may Help Alleviate Anxiety

Magnesium plays a crucial role in the stress response and magnesium deficiency is associated with increased anxiety and stress symptomatology. In addition, studies have shown that acute stress and anxiety are associated with increased plasma levels of magnesium and increased urinary excretion of magnesium, suggesting that stressful experiences use up more of the body’s magnesium than states of calm.

A 2017 research review that looked at 18 studies examining the effects of magnesium on anxiety showed that magnesium can act as an anxiolytic or have anti-anxiety effects in doses of 75 to 300mg.

Magnesium may Help Reduce Symptoms of Depression

A randomized clinical trial examining magnesium as a treatment for mild to moderate depression at the University of Vermont identified a link between depression and magnesium intake. They found that over a 6 week period of time symptoms of depression and anxiety improved significantly with supplemental magnesium intake, and the majority of study participants indicated that they would use magnesium in the future.

Magnesium and Bone Health

Magnesium is perhaps one of the most important, yet underappreciated bone-building nutrients in the human body and studies suggest that higher levels of magnesium result in lower bone fracture rates. One US study observing individuals 60 years and older over 8 years showed that only 27% of participants met the recommended daily magnesium values at baseline. After 8 years the women in the study who had the highest magnesium intake also had 62% less occurrence of fracture. The men with the highest magnesium intake had 53% fewer fractures than their low magnesium counterparts. The women who experienced fewer fractures consumed 380 mg/day of magnesium from diet and supplements which is just a little above the recommended daily allowance of 310 to 320 mg for women.

In another study of 2,248 men from Finland between the ages of 42 to 61 researchers found that at follow-up after 25 years the men with the lowest blood levels of magnesium had over a 200% increased risk of bone fractures compared to those men with higher magnesium. Interestingly, the men in the highest 4th segment of blood magnesium had no fractures at all.

Magnesium for Energy

Cellular energy production processes are made up of many magnesium ion dependent enzymatic reactions. Essentially, magnesium helps convert food into energy. Without adequate levels of magnesium, nutrients taken in through food and supplements would not be metabolized. One study examining dietary magnesium restriction in postmenopausal women between the ages of 41 and 75 showed that when magnesium was restricted, the women experienced increased energy needs and adverse effects on cardiovascular function during exercise.

ATP or adenosine triphosphate is the energy source in cells and it must be bound to a magnesium ion in order to be biologically active. ATP captures energy from the breakdown of food molecules and releases it to fuel other cellular processes. Adequate levels of magnesium are integral to this process and dysregulation of mitochondrial magnesium ions has been shown to disrupt ATP production.

Magnesium and Migraines

Low magnesium levels have been linked to headaches and migraines, and according to the American Migraine Foundation, magnesium is frequently used to help prevent migraines at doses of 400-500mg per day. One study examining magnesium’s effects found that supplementing magnesium reduced the frequency of migraine attacks by 41.6 percent.  Other research has shown that daily magnesium supplementation can help prevent menstrual-related migraines.

Magnesium to Improve Sleep Quality

Magnesium deficiency is associated with insomnia, restless sleep, and frequent nighttime waking, and research suggests that magnesium supplementation can improve sleep quality and help alleviate insomnia. By activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the rest and digestion response, magnesium can aid the process of nighttime relaxation.  Studies have shown that magnesium increases GABA, a neurotransmitter that helps promote relaxation and sleep by quieting down nerve activity. Magnesium also regulates the hormone melatonin, which is produced in response to darkness and helps with circadian rhythm timing and sleep.

Magnesium and Heart Disease

A review of studies on magnesium and cardiovascular disease concluded that high magnesium intake is associated with a lower risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease, and major cardiovascular risk factors including metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and hypertension. Higher levels of circulating magnesium are also associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, especially coronary heart disease and ischemic heart disease, suggesting magnesium’s role possibly helping reduce cardiac problems. 

May Lower Blood Pressure

One study found that 368mg of daily magnesium supplementation for three months reduced people’s systolic blood pressure by an average of 2 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), and reduced their diastolic blood pressure by 1.8 mm Hg on average. According to researchers who performed a meta-analysis of 34 studies totaling more than 2,000 patients, their findings supported a causal anti-hypertensive effect of magnesium supplementation in adults. If you have low blood pressure, talk to your healthcare provider about your daily magnesium intake as unsafe low blood pressure can be a side effect of too much magnesium.

May Improve Blood Sugar Control

Research shows that magnesium helps to regulate blood sugar.  Low levels of magnesium have been associated with insulin resistance and magnesium deficiency has been observed with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, though it appears to be more prevalent with type 2. It is unclear whether magnesium deficiency is a cause or a consequence. However, studies suggest that magnesium supplementation can help improve diabetes control by increasing magnesium blood levels. According to the National Institute of Health, when people with poorly controlled diabetes supplemented their dietary magnesium intake with 1,000 mg of magnesium per day, they showed improvements in glycemic control after 30 days.