Magnesium Health Benefits Explained - Ned -

9 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Magnesium

By Dagmara Mach

Medically reviewed by Dr. Soyona Rafatjah, MD, board-certified Family Physician

Magnesium for anxiety | Magnesium for depression | Magnesium for bone health | Magnesium for energy | Magnesium for migraines | DNA | Magnesium for sleep | Magnesium for heart health | Magnesium for blood pressure | DNA | Magnesium for blood sugar | Magnesium deficiency

- 75% of Americans do not get the recommended daily value of magnesium.

- It is extremely difficult to consume enough magnesium in our diet and magnesium supplements are recommended.

- Magnesium is needed for more than 600 cellular reactions in the body and it is involved in everything from bone formation and mood regulation to energy production and muscle performance.

- Studies show magnesium may provide health benefits for bone health, energy, depression, migraines, sleep, blood pressure, heart function, sugar control, and anxiety.

Magnesium plays a crucial role in many bodily functions and cellular processes. Magnesium deficiency is involved in a variety of diseases and studies suggest that magnesium supplementation may help with such ailments as depression, migraines, poor sleep, blood pressure, heart disease, sugar control, anxiety, pain, chronic stress and a variety of other conditions.

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.

Involved in over 600 enzymatic reactions, magnesium is critical to human health [1]. Magnesium’s potential benefits far outnumber what we cover in this article, but we've selected our favorite effects on anxiety, depression, bone health, energy production, migraine headaches, sleep quality, heart disease risk, blood pressure, and blood sugar control.

Magnesium for anxiety

Magnesium plays a crucial role in the stress response and magnesium deficiency is associated with increased anxiety and stress symptomatology.

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 [2].

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 [2].

magnesium benefits for stress and anxiety

Magnesium for 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 [3].

They found that over a 6 week period 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 for 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 8-year US study in people 60 years and up 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 had 62% less occurrence of fracture compared to their counterparts [4].

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 [4].

Another study of 2,248 men from Finland between the ages of 42 to 61 found that after 25 years the men with the lowest blood levels of magnesium had over a 200% increased risk of bone fractures compared to men with higher magnesium. Interestingly, men in the highest 4th segment of blood magnesium had no fractures at all [5].

Magnesium for energy

Cellular energy production processes are made up of many magnesium ion dependent enzymatic reactions [6]. Essentially, magnesium helps convert food into energy. Without adequate levels of magnesium, nutrients taken in through food and supplements cannot 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 [6]

Magnesium for 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 [7]. Other research has shown that daily magnesium supplementation can help prevent menstrual-related migraines.

Magnesium for sleep

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 [8].

Studies have shown that magnesium increases GABA, a neurotransmitter that helps promote relaxation and sleep by quieting down nerve activity [9].

Magnesium also regulates the hormone melatonin, which is produced in response to darkness and helps with circadian rhythm timing and sleep [9].

Magnesium for 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 possibly helping reduce cardiac problems [10]. 

Magnesium for 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 including more than 2,000 patients, their findings supported a causal anti-hypertensive effect of magnesium supplementation in adults [11].

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.

Magnesium for blood sugar control

Research shows that magnesium helps to regulate blood sugar [12]. 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 [12].

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.

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 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 [13][14]. Studies also suggest that individuals may need 10-20% more magnesium during exercise than when they are resting [15].

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.

Poor farming 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.


[1] de Baaij, J. H., Hoenderop, J. G., & Bindels, R. J. (2015). Magnesium in man: implications for health and disease. Physiological reviews, 95(1), 1–46.

[2] Boyle NB, Lawton C, Dye L. The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress—A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2017; 9(5):429.

[3] Tarleton EK, Littenberg B, MacLean CD, Kennedy AG, Daley C. Role of magnesium supplementation in the treatment of depression: A randomized clinical trial. PLoS One. 2017;12(6):e0180067. Published 2017 Jun 27. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0180067

[4] Veronese N, Stubbs B, Koyanagi A, et al. Pro-inflammatory dietary pattern is associated with fractures in women: an eight-year longitudinal cohort study. Osteoporos Int. 2018;29(1):143-151. doi:10.1007/s00198-017-4251-5

[5] Kunutsor, S.K., Whitehouse, M.R., Blom, A.W. et al. Low serum magnesium levels are associated with increased risk of fractures: a long-term prospective cohort study. Eur J Epidemiol 32, 593–603 (2017).

[6] Yamanaka R, Tabata S, Shindo Y, et al. Mitochondrial Mg(2+) homeostasis decides cellular energy metabolism and vulnerability to stress. Sci Rep. 2016;6:30027. Published 2016 Jul 26. doi:10.1038/srep30027

[7] Yablon LA, Mauskop A. Magnesium in headache. In: Vink R, Nechifor M, editors. Magnesium in the Central Nervous System [Internet]. Adelaide (AU): University of Adelaide Press; 2011.

[8] Wienecke E, Nolden C. Langzeit-HRV-Analyse zeigt Stressreduktion durch Magnesiumzufuhr [Long-term HRV analysis shows stress reduction by magnesium intake]. MMW Fortschr Med. 2016;158(Suppl 6):12-16. doi:10.1007/s15006-016-9054-7

[9] Durlach J, Pagès N, Bac P, Bara M, Guiet-Bara A. Biorhythms and possible central regulation of magnesium status, phototherapy, darkness therapy and chronopathological forms of magnesium depletion. Magnes Res. 2002 Mar;15(1-2):49-66. PMID: 12030424.

[10] Rosique-Esteban N, Guasch-Ferré M, Hernández-Alonso P, Salas-Salvadó J. Dietary Magnesium and Cardiovascular Disease: A Review with Emphasis in Epidemiological Studies. Nutrients. 2018;10(2):168. Published 2018 Feb 1. doi:10.3390/nu10020168

[11] Zhang, X., Li, Y., Del Gobbo, L. C., Rosanoff, A., Wang, J., Zhang, W., & Song, Y. (2016). Effects of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trials. Hypertension, 68(2), 324-333.

[12] Mishra, S., Padmanaban, P., Deepti, G. N., Sarkar, G., Sumathi, S., & Toora, B. D. (2012). Serum magnesium and dyslipidemia in type-2 diabetes mellitus.

[13] Cuciureanu MD, Vink R. Magnesium and stress. In: Vink R, Nechifor M, editors. Magnesium in the Central Nervous System [Internet]. Adelaide (AU): University of Adelaide Press; 2011.

[14] Boyle NB, Lawton C, Dye L. The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress-A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2017;9(5):429. Published 2017 Apr 26. doi:10.3390/nu9050429

[15] Nielsen FH, Lukaski HC. Update on the relationship between magnesium and exercise. Magnes Res. 2006 Sep;19(3):180-9. PMID: 17172008.


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