5 Key Health Benefits of Magnesium
Magnesium has been known to be an important nutrient for human health for many years. Now, emerging research suggests that this essential mineral goes beyond fulfilling basic metabolic needs of the body. In fact, magnesium is involved in over 300 functions necessary for optimal health and biochemical balance .
This mineral is found widely in leafy dark green vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, dairy products and animal proteins like chicken and fish. Although available in many accessible and relatively affordable foods, it is estimated that nearly 60% of adults do not meet their recommended daily intake of magnesium .
Science shows that consistent low intakes of magnesium through diet can begin to change certain metabolic pathways in our body. These changes can increase the risk of certain diseases and conditions over time.
On the other hand, consuming enough magnesium per day has the opposite effect, where regular intake of magnesium each day can actually decrease the risk of developing certain diseases and conditions.
Let’s jump into the 5 key health benefits of getting enough magnesium each day, backed by science.
5 Key Health Benefits of Magnesium
1. Magnesium helps build healthy bones
Bone fractures in older adults are often related to a health condition known as osteoporosis. Osteoporosis most commonly affects women over the age of 50 years old but can also affect men. One risk factor for osteoporosis in both men and women is low magnesium levels .
One third of our body’s magnesium is stored in our bones . A recent study conducted in 2020 suggests that magnesium can help produce new bone mineral deposits, helping to strengthen bones . Researchers also found a link between higher magnesium consumption and decreased hip and wrist fractures.
The researchers of the same study also highlight that magnesium is essential for healthy muscles, where there is a relationship between strong muscles and strong bones.
2. Magnesium helps reduce blood pressure and heart disease
According to the World Health Organization, heart disease is the number one cause of death globally . One of the main risk factors for heart disease is high blood pressure, as it puts stress on the heart.
A 2021 systematic review of randomized controlled trials found that magnesium supplementation can help reduce blood pressure . The results of this study are similar to the blood pressure lowering effects of a diet rich in magnesium, potassium and calcium .
Magnesium can help decrease blood pressure thanks to its effect on the tiny, smooth muscles that line the blood vessels in the heart.
When these muscles are contracted, your blood pressure will become too high. Magnesium helps relax the muscles, letting your blood vessels dilate and deliver more oxygen and nutrients to the heart .
3. Magnesium reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a disease where the body cannot process nutrients from food properly due to a lack of the hormone insulin. Without insulin, sugar will build up in the bloodstream, increasing the risk of heart disease, kidney disease and nerve damage.
Magnesium can help reduce the risk of diabetes in the first place as the mineral can help your body process sugar from foods more easily. Some studies suggest that this is because magnesium can slightly increase the secretion of insulin .
On the other hand, those living with type 2 diabetes can also see improvements with sufficient magnesium intake. This is more closely linked to magnesium-rich healthy dietary patterns with plenty of vegetables and fruits that can promote weight-loss and improve blood sugar control.
4. Magnesium can reduce migraine headaches
Migraine headaches can be triggered by many different factors, including stress, temperature, light and even certain foods. Studies show that migraines are caused by the contraction of muscles in your brain, leading to the headache .
During migraines, levels of magnesium in the brain and body can decrease . Similar to how magnesium helps relax the blood vessels around your heart, magnesium can also relax the blood vessels found in your brain  and can reduce the intensity of a migraine.
5. Magnesium can help improve symptoms of muscle cramping
Muscle cramps are the sudden, involuntary cramping that commonly occurs in the legs, feet and hands. These cramps are usually harmless, but can be inconvenient, painful and interrupt day to day activities like walking, sleeping and socializing.
Older adults are more likely to experience muscle cramping . Sometimes, these muscle cramps are due to an underlying condition but are usually present in healthy older adults with no conditions.
At the same time, older adults are at higher risk of magnesium deficiency as they usually consume less magnesium from their diet, absorb less magnesium and lose more magnesium in their urine . In fact, it is estimated that 60% of adults do not meet their magnesium needs each day .
This means that an association has been made between low magnesium and muscle cramping. On the other hand, clinical trials have shown that magnesium supplementation improved leg cramps in 54-78% of individuals .
Scientists think the reason why magnesium benefits muscle cramping is due to the mineral’s effects on the nerves within the muscles. Similar to how magnesium helps relax blood vessels around the heart and in the brain to decrease blood pressure and migraines, magnesium helps relax the nerves around the muscle during a cramp, decreasing the severity and length of a cramp .
How to get enough magnesium each day
Clearly, the health benefits of getting enough magnesium each day are undeniable. Most healthy male adults should aim to get 320 mg of magnesium per day and healthy female adults should aim to get 270 mg per day .
Magnesium is found in a variety of healthy foods, including dark leafy greens, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, dairy products and animal proteins like chickens and fish. However, as mentioned above it can sometimes be challenging for older adults to get their magnesium needs each day as they absorb and lose more magnesium each day.
If you think you may not be getting enough magnesium, speak with your doctor or dietitian about taking a magnesium supplement.
These supplements can help you meet your needs each day as they are more bioavailable than magnesium found in foods. This means that your body is able to absorb and use more magnesium in supplements than in foods, helping you reap the rewards behind magnesium each day.
- National Institutes of Health. (2020, September 25). Magnesium. Dietary Supplement Factsheet. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/
- Volpe, S. L. (2013). Magnesium in disease prevention and overall health. Advances in nutrition, 4(3), 378S-383S.
- Capozzi, A., Scambia, G., & Lello, S. (2020). Calcium, vitamin D, vitamin K2, and magnesium supplementation and skeletal health. Maturitas, 140, 55-63.
- World Health Organization. (2017, May 17). Cardiovascular Disease. Fact sheets. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cardiovascular-diseases-(cvds)
- Asbaghi, O., Hosseini, R., Boozari, B., Ghaedi, E., Kashkooli, S., & Moradi, S. (2020). The effects of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure and obesity measure among type 2 diabetes patient: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Biological trace element research, 1-12.
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- Sun-Edelstein, C., & Mauskop, A. (2009). Role of magnesium in the pathogenesis and treatment of migraine. Expert review of neurotherapeutics, 9(3), 369-379.
- Maisonneuve, H., Chambe, J., Delacour, C., Muller, J., Rougerie, F., Haller, D. M., & Leveque, M. (2016). Prevalence of cramps in patients over the age of 60 in primary care: a cross sectional study. BMC family practice, 17(1), 1-7.