Medically reviewed by Dr. Soyona Rafatjah, MD, board-certified Family Physician
Magnesium (Mg) plays a critical role in anxiety, depression, bone health, energy production, migraines, sleep, heart function, blood pressure, blood sugar control, and just about everything else that goes on inside of us.
It is an essential nutrient that's found inside of every one of our cells and involved in almost all processes that occur in the human body. In fact, over 600 different cellular reactions require magnesium to take place.
Despite magnesium's role in sustaining life critical functions such as maintaining heart rhythm and cellular energy production, research suggests that some 75% of Americans are not consuming enough of it .
Magnesium deficiency is common because it is difficult to get the recommended daily intake of 310-320 mg of magnesium for adult women and 400-420 mg for adult men from diet alone. Low levels of magnesium are linked to various negative health outcomes and diseases.
Magnesium supplements can help breach the gap between what you consume in your daily diet and the recommended daily intake.
Magnesium is intricately involved in the stress response and deficiency is associated with increased anxiety and stress symptomatology. Research suggests that magnesium can have anti-anxiety effects and may be helpful for individuals who suffer from this condition.
A 2017 research review of 18 studies on magnesium and anxiety showed that magnesium can act as an anxiolytic or have anti-anxiety effects in doses of 75 mg to 300 mg .
Studies have also 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 .
Magnesium has also been found to increase levels of the neurotransmitter GABA, which quiets down nerve activity to promote calm and relaxation .
Studies show magnesium is involved in the pathophysiology of depression and many have observed a significant relationship between depression and magnesium deficiency.
Although its mechanisms of action on depression are not yet fully understood, researchers believe magnesium influences several systems related to depression development.
One randomized human trial of depressed patients suffering from magnesium deficiency found that daily supplementation with 500 mg of magnesium led to improvements in depression status among participants.
Another randomized clinical trial examining magnesium as a treatment for mild to moderate depression found that symptoms of depression improved significantly following 6 weeks of magnesium supplementation . The majority of study participants indicated that they would use magnesium for depression in the future.
3. Bone Health
Although it can be found in every human cell, magnesium is actually most prevalent in the skeletal system, with over 60% of the body’s magnesium concentration found in our bones.
One of the most important, yet under appreciated bone-building nutrients in the human body, magnesium is important for reducing our bone fracture risk as we age and research shows that higher intakes are associated with lower bone fracture rates.
An 8-year study in people 60 years and up showed that only 27% of participants met the recommended daily magnesium values at baseline. After 8 years women in the study who had the highest magnesium intake had 62% less occurrence of fracture compared to their counterparts . 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 
Another study of 2,248 men from Finland between the ages of 42 and 61 found that after 25 years men with the lowest blood levels of magnesium had more than a 200% increased risk of bone fractures compared those with higher blood magnesium levels. Interestingly, men in the highest 4th segment of blood magnesium had no fractures at all .
4. Energy Production
Without adequate levels of magnesium, nutrients taken in through food and supplements cannot not be metabolized and turned into usable energy.
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 storage molecule for chemical energy produced by the mitochondria. In order to be biologically active, ATP must be bound to a magnesium ion.
ATP captures energy from the breakdown of food molecules and releases it to fuel other cellular processes. Magnesium is integral to this and dysregulation of mitochondrial magnesium ions has been shown to disrupt ATP production .
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 deficiency is associated with insomnia, restless sleep, and frequent nighttime waking. Research suggests that magnesium can be a good natural sleep remedy and that supplementation may improve sleep quality as well as aid with 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 production of the hormone melatonin, which is produced in response to darkness and helps with circadian rhythm timing and sleep .
7. Heart Health
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 in cardiac health .
8. Blood Pressure
One study found that 368 mg 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 including 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.
9. 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 of diabetes. 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.
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, recommend that individuals consume about 600 mg 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 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 negatively affect the absorption and excretion of magnesium.
Stress has also 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 .
Magnesium dietary sources include animals, plants, the sea, and in soil. However, due to food processing and soil depleting agricultural practices that have left little magnesium to be absorbed by the plants we eat it is difficult to consume enough in our diet.
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