Magnesium is involved in over 300 biochemical reactions, which influence various functions such as muscle contractions, protein synthesis, bone development, and glucose metabolism.
As the fourth most abundant mineral in the body, magnesium is a well-known sleep aid, but magnesium can also help to reduce depression, prevent cramps, and improve athletic performance.
8 Potential Benefits of Magnesium
- Improves Sleep
- Lifts Mood
- Prevents Cramps
- Fights Off Insomnia
- Improves Bone Strength
- Reduces Stress and Migraines
- Reduces Depression and Anxiety
- Boosts Athletic Performance
Magnesium deficiency is quite common. Approximately 50% of American and European adults do not meet the recommended daily intake for magnesium.
A magnesium deficiency can cause depression, high blood pressure, and heart disease, among other serious side effects; this is why it’s essential to get enough magnesium in your diet.
Although the body doesn’t produce magnesium, many foods such as leafy greens, broccoli, and spinach contain magnesium. Other good sources of magnesium include:
- Whole grains (brown rice, millet, oatmeal, shredded wheat cereal)
- Nuts and seeds (sunflower seeds and peanut butter)
- Legumes (black beans)
- Fruits (avocados, bananas, and dried apricots)
- Milk and soy products (tofu and soy flour)
Magnesium is absorbed in the small intestine and has a medium level of bioavailability, which indicates how much magnesium can be absorbed by the body.
The rate of magnesium absorption depends on the amount of magnesium in your diet, the health of your gastrointestinal tract, and the amount of magnesium currently stored in your body.
Magnesium and Athletic Performance
According to the journal Magnesium Research, magnesium plays a vital role in exercise performance, as the body requires 10-20% more magnesium during exercise. Besides preventing muscle cramps, magnesium moves blood sugar into the muscles, which eliminates lactate buildup during a workout.
Although evidence is mixed regarding the benefits of magnesium, a study reported in Cardiovascular Drugs and Therapy found that triathletes posted faster times and showed a reduction in insulin and stress hormone levels when supplementing with magnesium.
Magnesium deficiency can also hinder endurance due to a lack of cellular energy in the muscles. Magnesium helps produce cellular energy by binding with enzymes that convert organic compounds such as glucose into ATP (which is the primary unit of cellular energy).
Magnesium and Sleep
Magnesium helps improve sleep by relaxing the mind and body. Research shows that insomnia is a common problem around the world. Furthermore, insomnia is one symptom of magnesium deficiency, as muscle tension caused by magnesium deficiency prevents good sleep.
Additional research notes that magnesium supplements decrease symptoms of insomnia and improve a person’s quality of sleep. Magnesium does this by binding to GABA (gamma-aminobutyric) receptors, which calm nerve activity and help you fall asleep faster.
Researchers at the University of Helsinki claim that magnesium regulates melatonin production, a hormone that affects the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Magnesium also reduces symptoms of insomnia linked to restless leg syndrome (another form of sleep disorder).
Magnesium for Stress and Migraines
Research has found that magnesium increases our GABA hormone levels, which relaxes the mind and helps induce restful sleep. Furthermore, magnesium helps to regulate the body’s stress-response system, calming the nervous system by stabilizing the membranes of nerve cells.
Magnesium deficiency affects the transportation of sodium and potassium ions in cells, which often translates into increased irritability, migraines, anxiety, and stress.
Researchers in Germany found that individuals with migraines who took 600 mg of magnesium per day experienced 42% fewer migraines after taking magnesium supplements.
Magnesium for Depression and Anxiety
Anxiety is one of the most common neuropsychiatric disorders in the Western world, affecting 18% of the US population every year. Research has discovered that low levels of magnesium lead to an increase in anxiety and depression-related behavior.
Adults aged 65 and under, with low levels of magnesium, were found to have a 22% greater risk of depression compared to adults with healthy magnesium levels. Since magnesium helps regulate brain function and mood, some studies have found magnesium to be an effective antidepressant drug.
Magnesium and Bone Strength
Magnesium plays a vital role in bone formation by helping calcium assimilate into the bones. Magnesium also activates Vitamin D in the kidneys, which is one of the major regulators of bone homeostasis.
Additional research published in the journal Nutrients reports that optimum magnesium intake improves bone mineral density and lowers the risk of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.
Safety and Side Effects
Magnesium is safe within recommended doses. There are, however, occasions when side effects such as gastric discomfort and nausea can occur. If you take magnesium in large quantities, the side effects can be severe. These side effects can include a drop in blood pressure, foggy thinking, coma, and even death in extreme cases.
Magnesium supplements can interact with certain medications, such as oral bisphosphonates, antibiotics, diuretics, and proton pump inhibitors. As a result, you should consult your doctor first before taking magnesium.
Your body absorbs 30-40% of the dietary magnesium you consume. According to the Food and Nutrition Board, the recommended daily intake of magnesium depends on your age and gender.
The recommended magnesium doses for different age groups are as follows:
- Individuals aged 19-30: 400 mg for men; 320 mg for women
- Individuals aged 31-50: 420 mg for men; 320 mg for women
Few people meet the recommended daily intake of magnesium through food alone. If you struggle to get enough magnesium in your diet, it’s a good idea to consider taking a magnesium supplement.
Magnesium supplements vary in their rate of absorption. The best magnesium supplements for absorption include magnesium citrate, magnesium glycinate, and magnesium gluconate.
Effectiveness of Magnesium
High concentrations of magnesium exist in our nerve networks, which allows our body to keep heart rhythms steady, create cellular energy, and synthesize the basic building blocks of life such as DNA, RNA, and proteins.
Magnesium deficiency can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, and depression. You can increase your magnesium levels through foods such as pumpkin seeds, spinach, and cashew nuts.
If you don’t meet the recommended daily intake of 420 mg for men and 320 mg for women, you can increase your magnesium levels by taking a good quality magnesium supplement. Magnesium plays a vital role in the body, and it’s essential to have sufficient magnesium levels to function properly and stay healthy.