What Is Magnesium?

Magnesium is a mineral that’s crucial to the body’s function. Magnesium helps keep blood pressure normal, bones strong, and the heart rhythm steady.

Magnesium Benefits

Experts say that many people in the U.S. aren’t eating enough foods with magnesium. Adults who get less than the recommended amount of magnesium are more likely to have elevated inflammation markers. Inflammation, in turn, has been associated with major health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. Also, low magnesium appears to be a risk factor for osteoporosis.

There’s some evidence that eating foods high in magnesium and other minerals can help prevent high blood pressure in people with prehypertension.

Intravenous or injected magnesium is used to treat other conditions, such as eclampsia during pregnancy and severe asthma attacks. Magnesium is also the main ingredient in many antacids and laxatives.

Serious magnesium deficiencies are rare. They’re more likely in people who:

  • Have kidney disease
  • Have Crohn’s disease or other conditions that affect digestion
  • Have parathyroid problems
  • Take certain drugs for diabetes and cancer
  • Are older adults
  • Abuse alcohol
  • Health care providers sometimes suggest that people with these conditions take magnesium supplements.

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), a common type of medicine used to treat acid reflux, have also been tied to low magnesium levels. Examples of PPIs include dexlansoprazole (Dexilant), esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid), omeprazole (Prilosec, Zegerid), pantoprazole (Protonix), and rabeprazole (Aciphex). If you take any of these medicines on a long-term basis, your health care provider may check your magnesium level with a blood test.

Magnesium Recommended Daily Allowance

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) includes the magnesium you get from both the food you eat and any supplements you take.

Category

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)

CHILDREN

  • 1-3 years
  • 80 mg/day
  • 4-8 years
  • 130 mg/day
  • 9-13 years
  • 240 mg/day

FEMALES

  • 14-18 years
  • 360 mg/day
  • 19-30 years
  • 310 mg/day
  • 31 years and over
  • 320 mg/day

Pregnant

  • Under 19 years: 400 mg/day
  • 19 to 30 years: 350 mg/day
  • 31 years and up: 360 mg/day

Breastfeeding

  • Under 19 years: 360 mg/day
  • 19 to 30 years: 310 mg/day
  • 31 years and up: 320 mg/day

MALES

  • 14-18 years
  • 410 mg/day
  • 19-30 years
  • 400 mg/day
  • 31 years and up
  • 420 mg/day

Most people get more than enough magnesium from foods and do not need to take magnesium supplements. Excessive use of magnesium supplements can be toxic. In addition to what you get from food, the highest dose you should take of magnesium supplements is:

65 mg/day for children ages 1-3

110 mg/day for children ages 4-8

350 mg/day for adults and children ages 9 and up

These doses are the highest anyone should add to their diet. Many people ingest significant quantities of magnesium through the foods they eat. It’s safe to get high levels of magnesium naturally from food, but adding large amounts of supplements to your diet can prove dangerous. Do not exceed these maximum advised levels.

Natural Sources of Magnesium

  • Natural food sources of magnesium include:
  • Green, leafy vegetables, like spinach
  • Nuts
  • Beans, peas, and soybeans
  • Whole-grain cereals

Eating whole foods is always best. Magnesium can be lost during refinement and processing.

Magnesium Risks

Side effects. Magnesium supplements can cause nausea, cramps, and diarrhea. Magnesium supplements often cause softening of stool.

Interactions. Magnesium supplements may interact with certain medicines, including diuretics, heart medicines, or antibiotics. Check with your health care provider if you are taking any medicine before taking magnesium.

Risks. People with diabetes, intestinal disease, heart disease or kidney disease should not take magnesium before speaking with their health care provider.

Overdose. Signs of a magnesium overdose can include nausea, diarrhea, low blood pressure, muscle weakness, and fatigue. At very high doses, magnesium can be fatal.

Health Benefits of Magnesium

Magnesium is crucial for your brain and body. It has many benefits, including for your heart, blood sugar levels, and mood. It’s found in a variety of foods ranging from leafy greens to nuts, seeds, and beans.

From regulating blood sugar levels to boosting athletic performance, magnesium is crucial for your brain and body.

Yet, although it’s found in a variety of foods ranging from leafy greens to nuts, seeds, and beans, many people don’t get enough in their diet.

Involved in hundreds of biochemical reactions in your body

Magnesium is found throughout your body. In fact, every cell in your body contains this mineral and needs it to function.

About 60% of the magnesium in your body occurs in bone, while the rest is in muscles, soft tissues, and fluids, including blood (1Trusted Source).

One of its main roles is to act as a cofactor — a helper molecule — in the biochemical reactions continuously performed by enzymes. It’s involved in more than 600 reactions in your body, including:

  • Energy creation: converting food into energy
  • Protein formation: creating new proteins from amino acids
  • Gene maintenance: helping create and repair DNA and RNA
  • Muscle movements: aiding in muscle contraction and relaxation
  • Nervous system regulation: regulating neurotransmitters, which send messages throughout your brain and nervous system

May boost exercise performance

During exercise, you need more magnesium than when you’re resting, depending on the activity (4).

Magnesium helps move blood sugar into your muscles and dispose of lactate, which can build up during exercise and cause fatigue (5Trusted Source).

Studies show that magnesium supplements may be particularly beneficial for improving exercise performance in older adults and those with a deficiency in this nutrient (6Trusted Source).

One study in 2,570 women associated higher magnesium intake with increased muscle mass and power (7Trusted Source).

In an older study, volleyball players who took 250 mg of magnesium per day experienced improvements in jumping and arm movements (8Trusted Source).

What’s more, one study suggested that magnesium supplements protect against certain markers of muscle damage in professional cyclists (9Trusted Source).

However, more studies are needed, as some research suggests that supplementing doesn’t help athletes or active people with normal magnesium levels (6Trusted Source).

May combat depression

Magnesium plays a critical role in brain function and mood, and low levels are linked to an increased risk of depression (10Trusted Source).

In fact, an analysis of data from more than 8,800 people found that those under age 65 with the lowest magnesium intake had a 22% greater risk of depression (10Trusted Source).

What’s more, supplementing with this mineral may help reduce symptoms of depression (11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source).

In one small 8-week study, taking 500 mg of magnesium daily led to significant improvements in symptoms of depression in people with a deficiency in this mineral (12Trusted Source).

Plus, a 6-week study in 126 people showed that taking 248 mg of magnesium per day decreased symptoms of depression and anxiety, regardless of magnesium status (11Trusted Source).

May support healthy blood sugar levels

Studies suggest that about 48% of people with type 2 diabetes have low blood levels of magnesium, which may impair the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels effectively (1Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).

Additionally, research indicates that people who consume more magnesium have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes (14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source).

According to one review, magnesium supplements help enhance insulin sensitivity, a key factor involved in blood sugar control (17Trusted Source).

Another review reported that magnesium supplements improved blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity in people at risk for type 2 diabetes (18Trusted Source).

However, these effects may depend on how much magnesium you’re getting from food. For example, one older study found that supplements didn’t improve blood sugar or insulin levels in people who weren’t deficient (19Trusted Source).

May promote heart health

Magnesium plays an important role in keeping your heart healthy and strong.

In fact, studies show that magnesium supplements can help lower high blood pressure levels, which may be a risk factor for heart disease (20Trusted Source).

Another review linked high magnesium intake to a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure (21Trusted Source).

What’s more, one review found that magnesium supplements improved multiple risk factors for heart disease, including triglyceride, LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, and systolic blood pressure levels, especially in people with a magnesium deficiency (22Trusted Source).

However, more research is needed, as other research has found no effect of magnesium on cholesterol or triglyceride levels (23Trusted Source).