Magnesium is an essential mineral, involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body, from nerve and muscle function to protein synthesis and blood sugar regulation–we can’t live without it. (4)(13) Not only is magnesium essential to optimal health, but it has also been researched for its ability to prevent chronic inflammatory diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, hypertension, and heart disease. (8)
Despite its essential nature, 48% of Americans consume inadequate amounts of magnesium in their diets. This trend has been attributed to a decrease in the consumption of nutrient-rich foods, such as pumpkin seeds, cashews, and spinach in the diet, as well as an increase in industrial farming and food processing, which reduces the amount of magnesium present in whole foods. (8)(17)
Top 7 magnesium health benefits
Interested in learning more about how magnesium can support optimal health? Read on to discover seven important reasons to optimize your magnesium intake.
1. Boosts mood
Magnesium is closely associated with improved mental health outcomes due to its role in supporting brain biochemistry and neurotransmitter regulation. (18) Notability, magnesium has been shown to benefit certain individuals struggling with clinical depression. (18) Research shows that low levels of magnesium can increase the risk of depressive behavior in adults, specifically under the age of 65. (20) Oral supplementation of magnesium has been shown to be just as effective as 50 mg daily of imipramine, a common pharmaceutical medication used to treat depression, in magnesium-deficient elderly patients with type 2 diabetes. These results suggest that magnesium may benefit certain individuals experiencing depressive symptoms. (2)
2. Protects against inflammation
Did you know that consuming foods high in magnesium, such as dark chocolate and pumpkin seeds, can help minimize inflammation? Many chronic inflammatory conditions such as hypertension, breast and colon cancer, obesity, and heart disease have been associated with magnesium insufficiency. (14) Oxidative stress and inflammation associated with age-related conditions are also correlated with low intake of magnesium-rich foods. (1) This correlation is thought to be primarily attributed to the mineral’s role in mitochondrial energy production, which in return, negatively impacts a cell’s resilience to oxidative damage. (1) Magnesium also acts as an antioxidant by protecting the mitochondria from the oxidative stress that can contribute to the development of these inflammatory conditions. (1)
3. Reduces insulin resistance
Insulin resistance is a condition that occurs when both muscle and liver cells lose their ability to effectively absorb glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream. Insulin resistance plays a significant role in the development of chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. (24) Low levels of magnesium have been associated with type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, and research suggests that high dietary magnesium intake may be protective against insulin resistance. (17)(23) In patients with diabetes, low levels of magnesium may be a result of increased excretion from greater urination rates in these individuals. (6)
4. Helps to manage blood pressure
Magnesium also plays a role in managing blood pressure in patients with hypertension (high blood pressure). Research suggests that oral magnesium supplementation reduces ambulatory blood pressure in patients with mild hypertension. (9)(10) Research has also demonstrated that low levels of dietary magnesium can negatively affect blood pressure regulation, highlighting the vital role magnesium plays in maintaining optimal blood pressure. (11) Additionally, both supplementation and dietary intake of magnesium appear to have a positive effect on resting and post-exercise blood pressure measurements. (11)
5. Improves athletic performance
Improving your athletic performance could be as simple as increasing your magnesium intake if you are deficient. This mineral is necessary for many essential functions during exercise, such as electrolyte balance, blood oxygenation, and energy production. (15) Magnesium is also lost through perspiration that occurs during strenuous exercise, as well as living in a warmer climate, making it even more important to replenish magnesium stores. (15)
Knowing these key functions, it comes as no surprise that studies have shown that increasing magnesium consumption through diet or supplementation can increase athletic performance if you are deficient. (15) Magnesium also increases glucose levels in the brain, muscles, and bloodstream, which contributes to its exercise-enhancing benefits. (3)
6. Reduces migraines
Perhaps magnesium’s strongest area of evidence is for migraine headaches. Evidence suggests that magnesium deficiency is likely linked to migraine pathology. This deficiency can be due to several factors, including low dietary intake, and excessive excretion due to chronic stress. (12) In clinical research, magnesium sulfate has been shown to be more effective than commonly prescribed pharmaceutical medications, such as dexamethasone and metoclopramide, in patients struggling with acute migraines. (19) Magnesium supplementation has also been shown to be effective in reducing the frequency of migraines in children who regularly suffer from them. (22)
7. Improves PMS
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a common disorder affecting females of childbearing years during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. This syndrome can present with a number of symptoms, such as abdominal pain, headaches, fatigue, and depression. (5) Daily oral supplementation of magnesium has been shown to reduce mild PMS-related symptoms, such as fluid retention and mood changes. (7)(21)
Normal magnesium levels
The recommendations for daily magnesium intake is based on a variety of factors from age, sex, life stage, to activity level. Included below are the recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) for magnesium, which can be used as a benchmark when evaluating daily magnesium intake. (8) It is important to work with your practitioner if you are experiencing any health issue or have signs of deficiency, for specific dosing recommendations.
Signs of magnesium deficiency
Common signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency include:
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Fatigue and weakness
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle cramps and contractions
- Nausea and vomiting
- Numbness (13)
Foods high in magnesium
Increase your daily consumption of magnesium by regularly consuming a variety of the foods outlined below.
Supplementing with magnesium
Why take magnesium supplements? If you’re having a hard time incorporating magnesium-rich foods into your diet or you require it in greater amounts, it is recommended that you consult with your integrative healthcare practitioner about adding a magnesium supplement to your protocol.
The bottom line
Essential to supporting the body with over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body, there is no denying that magnesium is essential to our health and well-being. From boosting mood to regulating blood pressure, it’s important to focus on getting the required amounts of magnesium through your diet and supplementation when needed.
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