Magnesium Supplements: When and why should you take them?

Published 24 Jun 2024 • By Sahar Haidar

Magnesium is a vital component of many biological processes in the human body. It plays a key role in maintaining healthy muscles and nerves.

But even though magnesium deficiency isn't that common, should we use supplements? What are the benefits and risks of magnesium supplements? 

We'll tell you everything in our article!

Magnesium Supplements: When and why should you take them?

What are magnesium supplements?  

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body. It is crucial for more than 300 vital metabolic processes, such as energy production, blood pressure regulation, nerve signaling, and muscle contraction. Some of the first signs of magnesium deficiency can be fatigue, loss of appetite and muscle spasms

Magnesium supplements come in various types and forms, each with different absorption rates and uses. Here are some common types: 

  1. Magnesium Citrate: One of the most popular types of magnesium supplements, it is highly absorbable and often used to treat constipation.  
  2. Magnesium Oxide: This type has lower bioavailability. Often used for relief from indigestion and constipation. 
  3. Magnesium Glycinate: Often used for its calming effects to treat anxiety, depression, and insomnia. 
  4. Magnesium Chloride: Easily absorbed orally, often used for magnesium deficiency and heartburn. 
  5. Magnesium Lactate: Utilized as a food additive to regulate acidity and fortify foods and beverages. 
  6. Magnesium Malate: Recommended for chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. 
  7. Magnesium L-Threonate: Notable for its ability to penetrate the blood-brain barrier, potentially benefiting cognitive function and brain health. 
  8. Magnesium Sulfate: Commonly known as Epsom salt, often dissolved in water to soothe muscles and reduce inflammation. 
  9. Magnesium Taurate: Often used for managing high blood sugar and high blood pressure. 

What are magnesium supplements benefits? 

Bone health 

Magnesium plays a key role in bone health and may, therefore, represent a valuable nutrient for the prevention of bone loss and osteoporosis. It is a crucial cofactor for enzymes necessary for the synthesis of bone matrix and thus for bone formation. Several studies have shown that higher magnesium intake may support an increase of bone mineral density in the hip and femoral neck

Mental health 

Among other micronutrients, magnesium plays a critical role in brain function and mood since it is essential for optimal nerve transmission, and it is involved in the formation of membrane phospholipids. For this reason, it plays a fundamental role in the correct functioning of the central nervous system. It can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression by regulating neurotransmitters. 

Heart health 

Magnesium helps maintain a normal heart rhythm and is essential for cardiovascular health, because it's involved in transporting other electrolytes, such as calcium and potassium, into cells. Taking magnesium supplements can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. 

Muscle function 

Magnesium is vital for muscle contraction and relaxation. It helps prevent muscle cramps and spasms. Magnesium helps move blood sugar into your muscles and dispose of lactate, which can build up during exercise and cause fatigue. Athletes often use magnesium to enhance performance and recovery. 

Energy Production 

Our bodies need energy to operate, and this energy is generated through a complex cellular process. Magnesium is involved in adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production, the main source of energy in cells. This is why magnesium helps combat fatigue and boosts energy levels

Sleep regulation 

Researchers believe that magnesium may promote better sleep by reducing the stress hormone cortisol, increasing a sleep-promoting hormone called melatonin, and helping to regulate neurotransmitters for the central nervous system (CNS). It can also enhance the quality of sleep by regulating neurotransmitters involved in sleep regulation, like Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). 

What is the recommended daily intake of magnesium? 

The recommended magnesium dosage and intake changes depending on your age and sex. This includes magnesium from the food and any supplements you may be taking. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults 18-51+ years is 400-420 mg daily for men and 310-320 mg for women. Pregnancy requires about 350-360 mg daily and lactation, 310-320 mg

What are the food sources of magnesium? 

The best food sources of magnesium are generally food rich in fiber. Here are 10 foods sources that are high in magnesium: 

Leafy green vegetables: Spinach, kale, and collard greens. 

  • 1-cup serving of cooked spinach has 158 mg of magnesium. 

Nut and seeds: Almonds, cashews, flax, pumpkin, and chia seeds. 

  • 1 oz (28 g) of pumpkin seeds contains 168 mg of magnesium.  

Whole grains: Quinoa, wheat, oats, and barley. 

  • 1-cup serving of cooked buckwheat contains 86 mg of magnesium. 

Legumes: Black beans, lentils, and Chickpeas 

  • ½ cup of black beans contains 60 mg of magnesium. 

Fish: Especially fatty fish are high in magnesium. These include salmon, mackerel, and halibut. 

  • 100 g of cooked salmon packs 30 mg of magnesium. 

Dark chocolate:

  • Loaded with beneficial antioxidants, it contains 65 mg of magnesium in a 1 oz serving.  

What are the side effects and risks of magnesium supplementation? 

Magnesium supplements are commonly used to address deficiencies and support overall health. However, like any supplement, they can have side effects and risks, if taken inappropriately or in excessive amounts.  

Magnesium supplements can cause intestinal disorders such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, especially when used in high doses. Excessive intake can cause hypermagnesemia. This severe toxicity can lead to muscle weakness, breathing difficulties, irregular heartbeat, and cardiac arrest

Key Takeaways 

Magnesium is essential for a healthy body functioning. Adequate intake has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and depression. Magnesium can be provided by dietary sources such as nuts, leafy greens, and seeds. However, taking a supplement can help meet daily needs. A healthcare professional will prescribe the best form for you, depending on your symptoms. 

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