The Health Benefits of Magnesium

The Health Benefits of Magnesium


Introduction & Biological Role

Magnesium is an abundant and essential mineral present in every cell in our body.

It has many important functions including helping heart muscles, skeletal muscle and kidney function. It’s found in bones and teeth. It is a key component of many enzymes including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose and blood pressure regulation. It also helps regulate production of cellular energy known as ATP, and DNA and RNA synthesis. It helps regulate other minerals including calcium, copper, zinc, potassium and vitamin D.

Health Benefits/ Uses


Intravenous or IV magnesium is used to treat asthma exacerbations, although oral mag is not known to help treat or prevent asthma or control asthma symptoms. However, in individuals with low magnesium, supplementation with oral mag was found to help reduce the risk of developing an asthma exacerbation.


Low magnesium levels are associated with low serotonin, and antidepressant medications have been shown to improve magnesium levels. One small study suggested that magnesium may be an effective treatment for depression when compared to another class of antidepressant medications called tricyclic antidepressants. More research is needed to better evaluate the efficacy of this medication compared to other more commonly used medications.


Folks with diabetes are often found to have low magnesium . Clinical studies have suggested that folks with diabetes who supplement magnesium may have better blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity. Folks who do not have diabetes may also reduce their risk by supplementing magnesium.


Magnesium, when combined with either malic acid or calcium, may improve pain and tenderness in individuals diagnosed with fibromyalgia. This was shown when supplemented daily over the course of several months. More studies are needed.

Noise related Hearing Loss

According to one study, supplementation of magnesium may help prevent temporary or permanent hearing loss associated with noise exposure.

Heart Disease (Arrhythmia, Heart Failure)

Magnesium is important to heart health.

Various studies looking at different aspects of heart health have found that magnesium supplementation may be helpful. It may lower your risk of coronary heart disease, sudden cardiac death and improve symptoms of congestive heart failure. Sometimes IV magnesium is given for a very rare, unusual type of heart arrhythmia called torsades de pointe. There are a few studies that suggest magnesium supplementation can increase your risk of heart disease after a heart attack. You are strong encouraged to talk to your primary care doctor or cardiologist about supplementation if you are concerned.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

A large study of 8,500 women supplementing magnesium found that it may mildly lower blood pressure. Other studies have found similar results while a few have found no differences. More research is needed.

Migraine Headache

Some studies suggest that magnesium supplementation may help prevent migraines or shorten the duration of migraines. People who get migraines tend to have lower levels of magnesium than those without migraine headaches. As an aside, I find that magnesium supplementation does help treat acute migraines in the Emergency Department and often use it as part of a migraine cocktail.


Low magnesium levels are associated with increased risk of osteoporosis. It is unknown whether supplementation definitively helps prevent the development of osteoporosis.

Preeclampsia and eclampsia

Preeclampsia is a condition during pregnancy associated with high blood pressure and several other symptoms which can progress to seizures. The treatment of this condition is high dose magnesium.  Supplementation may help prevent preeclampsia but you should talk to your OBGYN if you have any concerns.

Restless Leg Syndrome

A small study found that magnesium supplementation improved sleep disturbances and insomnia associated with restless leg syndrome.

Colorectal cancer

Some preliminary studies have suggested that magnesium supplementation may lower the risk of developing colorectal tumors. This is early data and more research is needed as a cancer prevention strategy.

Metabolic Syndrome

Low magnesium levels are associated with metabolic syndrome, which includes several related metabolic disorders, including high cholesterol (dyslipidemia), high blood pressure (hypertension), insulin resistance (pre-diabetes) and obesity.


You may have low magnesium but true magnesium deficiency is rare in western society.

Common causes of low magnesium include gastrointestinal disorders where you may not absorb enough and kidney disorders where you do not regulate metabolism well and urinate it out. Certain drugs such as diuretics can also increase excretion.

Signs and symptoms of low magnesium include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and weakness.


Magnesium toxicity is rare but possible with excessive magnesium supplementation or severe illness.

Symptoms include low blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, facial flushing, urinary retention, ileus, depression and lethargy.


Generally, the best dietary sources include soy based products, legumes, whole grains, green leafy vegetables and various nuts.

The top 10 sources of dietary magnesium:

  1. Almonds (80 mg, 20% DV)
  2. Spinach (78 mg, 20% DV)
  3. Cashews (74 mg, 19% DV)
  4. Peanuts (63 mg, 16% DV)
  5. Cereal (61 mg, 15% DV)
  6. Soy Milk (61 mg, 15% DV)
  7. Black Beans (60 mg, 15% DV)
  8. Edamame (50 mg, 13% DV)
  9. Peanut Butter (49 mg, 12% DV)
  10. Bread (46 mg, 12% DV)

Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)

It is not recommended that you supplement without first talking to your physician. Below is the official RDA based on age in adults.

However, the recommended daily allowance is 400-420 mg/day in men and 310-320 mg/day in women which varies slightly depending on age, gender and pregnancy status.

  • Males, 19 to 30 years of age: 400 mg daily
  • Females, 19 to 30 years of age: 310 mg daily
  • Males, 31 years of age and over: 420 mg daily
  • Females, 31 years of age and over: 320 mg daily
  • Pregnant females, 19 to 30 years of age: 350 mg daily
  • Pregnant females, 31 and over: 360 mg daily
  • Breastfeeding females, 19 to 30 years of age: 310 mg daily
  • Breastfeeding females, 31 years of age and over: 320 mg daily

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