There are many reasons why magnesium supplementation is essential for optimal health.
It assists over 300 enzymatic reactions, or chemical processes, in the human body.1 Some of these processes include blood pressure control, protein synthesis, glycolysis (the transformation of glucose to energy), nerve function, oxidative phosphorylation (the main source of energy production in the body), DNA synthesis and muscle repair 1-3.
Magnesium also aids in absorbing calcium, is involved with vitamin D synthesis and helps to maintain bone mass. As you can probably tell, these are all pretty important to the body.
Our Daily Diets Just Don’t Contain Enough Magnesium
Why do we have to supplement with magnesium? We are supposed to get our magnesium from plants and plants get their magnesium from the soil they are grown in. While plants are getting some magnesium, today’s farm lands no longer have nutrient rich soils. It’s simple logic: the source of magnesium is deficient, making our food deficient, and ultimately our bodies deficient. And let’s be honest, are you consuming the recommended daily amounts of healthy food to get enough magnesium?
Let’s have a look at some of the highest magnesium containing foods:
- Almonds, dry roasted, 1 ounce 80mg 20% Daily Value
- Spinach, boiled, ½ cup 78mg 20% Daily Value
- Cashews, dry roasted, 1 ounce 74mg 19% Daily Value
- Peanuts, oil roasted, ¼ cup 63mg 16% Daily Value
- Black beans, cooked, ½ cup 60mg 15% Daily Value
- Edamame, shelled, cooked, ½ cup 50mg 13% Daily Value
- Avocado, cubed, 1 cup 44mg 11% Daily Value
- Potato, baked with skin, 3.5 ounces 43mg 11% Daily Value
- Rice, brown, cooked, ½ cup 42mg 11% Daily Value
*Data taken from the National Institutes of Health
To achieve even the Recommended Daily Allowance of 400mg for adults, one would need to consume the following each and every day:
- One ounce of almonds
- A half-cup of boiled spinach
- One cup of avocado
- A half-cup of black beans
- A half-cup of brown rice
- A half-cup of edamame
- An entire baked potato with the skin
Are you eating that many magnesium-rich foods each and every day? This is also assuming those foods you are eating have as much mineral content as the foods tested in the research.
More importantly, surveys indicate that our typical diet contains far lower amounts of magnesium than the RDA. The Institute of Medicine has said that “educating consumers to change their food consumption behavior, fortifying foodstuffs with the nutrient, providing dietary supplements, or a combination of the three methods” is the way to achieve the RDA.
According to the 2009 U.S. Department of Agriculture’s review of calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and phosphorus intakes, 48% of all U.S. citizens consume less than the estimated average requirement of magnesium.
Those numbers don’t even quite tell the whole story. Those are the percent of people who don’t meet the “Estimated Average Requirement” (EAR), which is the “Average daily level of intake estimated to meet the requirements of 50% of healthy individuals.” What that boils down to is that half of the few people who met those needs are still not getting enough magnesium!
The 2011 U.S. Institute of Medicine’s Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) of magnesium are the current recommended intakes to meet the requirements of 97.5% of the population21.
- Ages 19-30: 400 mg per day
- Over 31: 420 mg per day
- Ages 19-30: 310 mg per day, 350 mg per day for pregnant females
- Over 31: 320 mg per day, 360 mg per day for pregnant females
As always, the best source of minerals and vitamins is food. However, many people don’t eat broccoli and edamame every day, and supplementation becomes the easiest way for many of us to meet our needs.
Magnesium Supplementation Offers Cardiovascular Support and Increases Sexual Performance
Magnesium plays a very important role in the balancing of calcium in the body, especially in the cardiovascular system. Magnesium has been called “nature’s physiological calcium channel blocker”. 4 As magnesium is depleted, calcium levels inside the cells rise. Because calcium initiates muscle contraction, low magnesium can cause muscle cramps, hypertension (high blood pressure), as well as coronary and cerebral spasms.4,5
Pharmaceutical calcium channel blockers are used to treat symptoms including high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, angina, irregular heartbeats, and even some circulatory conditions such as Raynaud’s disease6 but often have unpleasant side effects including constipation, headache, palpitations, edema, vertigo, rash, nausea, etc. Magnesium supplementation (nature’s physiological calcium channel blocker) gives you the same benefits of pharmaceutical calcium channel blockers but without the nasty side effects.
In 2013, a meta-analysis of 19 studies including over a half-million participants concluded that the risk of all cardiovascular events, including stroke, congestive heart disease, etc., was 15% lower in individuals with higher intakes of magnesium with the best results seen from increasing magnesium from 150mg to 400mg per day.18
Magnesium also affects the cardiovascular system in other ways. For example, it’s an essential substance (cofactor) for several enzymes that regulate prostaglandins which are potent vasodilators7 that relax blood vessels and allow for improved blood flow throughout the body.
You may be thinking, “I don’t have cardiovascular disease and I don’t take a calcium channel blocker. So why do I need a magnesium supplement?”
It might be more relevant than you imagine. Many drugs work on that same biological pathway to increase vasodilation, including erectile treatment drugs such as Viagra and Cialis.8 Who wouldn’t love an increase in sexual performance? Magnesium supplementation offers an easy, non-prescription way to improve that function.
Magnesium Supplementation Offers Cancer Protection
Cancer growth is not completely understood, most likely because it arises from such a wide number of factors, many of which we’re not even aware. On a very basic level, something influences our cells and they sometimes react by developing cancer.
We know that several types of energy such as electromagnetic radiation cause cancer including X-rays, Gamma-rays and possibly even microwaves. We also know that many substances cause cancer including cigarette smoke and asbestos. We even know that some types of foods can lead to cancer including processed meats and salty foods (by irritating the gastric lining and allow species such as H. pylori to infiltrate).
There are even research studies showing that a lack of minerals are factors in cancer development. Specifically, higher intakes of dietary magnesium have been associated with lower risk of colorectal tumors.9 One study showed that for every 100mg-a-day increase in magnesium, there was a 13% lower risk of colorectal adenomas and a 12% lower risk of colorectal cancer” 7 Magnesium is a powerful supplement!
Most of us know that pancreatic cancer is one of the most devastating cancers around and has one of the shortest life expectancies of all cancers. It attacks 1.5% of Americans and has just a 7.7% survival rate.11 According to a research study published in the British Journal of Cancer, “every 100 mg per day decrement in magnesium intake was associated with a 24% increase in the incidence of pancreatic cancer”10 In other words, for every decrease of 100mg of magnesium per day the incident of pancreatic cancer rises 24%!
Cancer is so difficult to eliminate once it has started growing, and magnesium is an incredibly easy addition to your daily routine. Since magnesium has been shown to decrease one of the most life-threatening illnesses we currently face, adding a supplement to your diet only makes sense.
It has long been known that migraine and other types of headaches respond to magnesium supplementation. In the clinical setting, patients experiencing migraine headaches show rapid and significant relief upon administration of IV magnesium. However, for home settings, daily oral supplementation has also been shown to reduce the frequency of migraines.13
Also, when the levels of magnesium were tested inside red and white blood cells (intracellular) in people who suffer from regular migraine headaches, researchers found lower levels than people who do not experience regular migraine headaches.14
The most common type of kidney stones are calcium oxalate stones. In fact, current estimates state that 1 in 10 Americans will develop kidney stones at one point in their lifetime, typically between 30-45 years of age. Calcium oxalate stones are the result of too much calcium in the body, often as a complication of a disease, but can even be seen in patients that consume too much calcium-based antacids or diuretics (water pills). When levels of calcium are too high, the body excretes it through the urine, but some deposits remain in the kidneys and other soft tissue throughout the body. Low magnesium levels are commonly seen in patients that easily develop kidney stones. Many studies have shown that magnesium supplementation reduces the calcium oxalate levels in kidney stone patients in just a short period of time.15
Metabolic Syndrome, Insulin Resistance and Diabetes Mellitus
Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions (symptoms) such as obesity, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, and high fasting blood sugar, that increase your risk for more serious events such as diabetes, heart attack and stroke. Research shows that low magnesium intakes are associated with metabolic syndrome. This is not to say that taking magnesium supplements will cancel out the effects of eating fast food, but rather that low magnesium levels allow the body to more easily be affected by such lifestyle choices.
An analysis of data from 11,686 women, aged 45 years or older, who participated in the Women’s Health Study showed that women with the highest magnesium intake (422 mg/day) had 12% lower serum C-reactive protein levels (markers for inflammation in the blood) than those with the lowest magnesium intakes. Since inflammation is a major factor in the development of the symptoms of metabolic syndrome, this is good news. The analysis also showed that these same women had a 27% lower risk for developing metabolic syndrome.16
Going one step farther than metabolic syndrome is insulin resistance. This is where the various cells of the body, which use sugar for energy, are not reacting to insulin optimally. Insulin is a hormone released from the pancreas when eating food. Its job is to help the cells in the body use the sugar the digestive system just broke down from the food you ate. When insulin resistance develops, the cells start to become immune to insulin. Then, the pancreas must release more insulin to do the same job it used to do. Eventually the cells that produce insulin in the pancreas begin to tire and wear out. When this occurs, you now have type II diabetes.
A meta-analysis of the CHARGE (Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology) Consortium, which provided data from up to 52,684 diabetes-free participants of European descent, showed that higher magnesium intakes were associated with lower fasting glucose levels and fasting insulin levels.17 This means that magnesium allows the cells of the body to both utilize sugar more effectively and to do so with less insulin.
And certain groups are at especially high risk, including PPI (proton pump inhibitors) patients, bowel disease patients, diabetics, diuretics, osteoporosis, cardiovascular and hypertension patients, elderly and alcoholics.
Magnesium comprises about 1% of human bone with about 60% of all the magnesium in the body residing in the bone.19 Although the research on magnesium supplementation’s effects on osteoporosis is incomplete, most physicians and researchers agree that a balanced magnesium level is very important to maintaining bone health. We do know that osteoporosis causes 2 million fractures per year in the United States at a cost of over $17 billion dollars! The popular quote by Benjamin Franklin comes to mind here, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Obviously, we need to take steps to improve our nutrient intake.
There are various types of magnesium supplements available on the market, including magnesium threonate, oxide, malate, citrate, glycinate and more. Each one has it’s benefits and drawbacks.
Oxide is pretty much useless unless your goal is a nice case of diarrhea. The malate form is for people who want more cardiovascular and energy support. The threonate offers brain benefits. Magnesium citrate and glycinate are the two forms quality supplements use for all purpose magnesium supplementation, with glycinate being a bit more absorbable than the citrate form, especially from the manufacturer Albion Minerals22. Most high-end magnesium supplements will contain the “Magnesium Bisglycinate Chelate Buffered” form from this company.
Popular Forms of Magnesium
- Oxide- laxative
- Malate- cardio and energy
- Threonate- brain
- Citrate- good all purpose
- Glycinate- best absorbed, all purpose
The typical dose of magnesium is 300-500 mg per day and is available in capsules, tablets and powders.
With the cost of a high-quality magnesium supplement at less than $0.50 a day, and magnesium supplementation’s ability to prevent, and even reverse, so many symptoms and diseases, we believe everyone who is able should be taking a daily magnesium supplement if they are not consuming the equivalent of the earlier-mentioned example of health foods.
Certainly, this was not an exhaustive paper on the benefits of magnesium, but from cardiovascular benefits to sexual performance and cancer support, magnesium supplementation is a very inexpensive and effective way to improve the quality of your life.
Note: Excessive intake of supplemental magnesium can result in adverse effects, especially in individuals with impaired kidney functions, and can interfere with certain medications such as dolutegravir, sodium polystyrene sulfonate, nitrofurantoin and digoxin. Always speak to your physician before starting any supplement regimen.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
- Office of Dietary Supplements – Magnesium. (2016). Ods.od.nih.gov. Retrieved 9 November 2016, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/FactSheets/magnesium/#en1
- Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Fluoride. (1997). doi:10.17226/5776
- Ma E, e. (2016). High dietary intake of magnesium may decrease risk of colorectal cancer in Japanese men. – PubMed – NCBI . Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 9 November 2016, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20164369
- (2016). Ahjonline.com. Retrieved 2 December 2016, from http://www.ahjonline.com/article/0002-8703(84)90572-6/pdf
- Szent-Györgyi, A. (1975). Calcium regulation of muscle contraction.Biophysical Journal, 15(7), 707-723. doi:10.1016/s0006-3495(75)85849-8
- Annette (Gbemudu) Ogbru, M. (2016).For what conditions are calcium channel blockers used? – RxList. RxList. Retrieved 17 November 2016, from http://www.rxlist.com/calcium_channel_blockers_ccbs-page2/drugs-condition.htm
- ClinicalKey. (2016). Clinicalkey.com. Retrieved 29 November 2016, from https://www.clinicalkey.com/#!/content/playContent/1-s2.0-S0899900714004006?returnurl=http:%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0899900714004006%3Fshowall%3Dtrue&referrer=http:%2F%2Fwww.nutritionjrnl.com%2Farticle%2FS0899-9007(14)00400-6%2Fpdf
- Nitric Oxide Therapeutics in Pulmonary Vascular Disease | Advances in PH Journal | PHA. (2016). Phaonlineuniv.org. Retrieved 29 November 2016, from http://www.phaonlineuniv.org/Journal/Article.cfm?ItemNumber=4623
- Wark PA, e. (2016). Magnesium intake and colorectal tumor risk: a case-control study and meta-analysis. – PubMed – NCBI . Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 9 November 2016, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22854408
- Dibaba, D., Xun, P., Yokota, K., White, E., & He, K. (2015). Magnesium intake and incidence of pancreatic cancer: the VITamins and Lifestyle study. Br J Cancer, 113(11), 1615-1621. doi:10.1038/bjc.2015.382
- Cancer of the Pancreas – SEER Stat Fact Sheets. (2016). Seer.cancer.gov. Retrieved 9 November 2016, from http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/pancreas.html
- Office of Dietary Supplements – Nutrient Recommendations: Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI). (2016). Ods.od.nih.gov. Retrieved 17 November 2016, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/Health_Information/Dietary_Reference_Intakes.aspx
- BM, M. (2017). Role of magnesium in the pathogenesis and treatment of migraines. – PubMed – NCBI . Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 7 March 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9523054
- Mauskop, A., Altura, B., & Altura, B. (2002). Serum Ionized Magnesium Levels and Serum Ionized Calcium/Ionized Magnesium Ratios in Women With Menstrual Migraine. Headache: The Journal Of Head And Face Pain, 42(4), 242-248. doi:10.1046/j.1526-4610.2002.02075.x
- Rattan, V., Sidhu, H., Vaidyanathan, S., Thind, S., & Nath, R. (1994). Effect of combined supplementation of magnesium oxide and pyridoxine in calcium-oxalate stone formers. Urological Research, 22(3), 161-165. doi:10.1007/bf00571844
- Song Y, e. (2017). Magnesium intake, C-reactive protein, and the prevalence of metabolic syndrome in middle-aged and older U.S. women. – PubMed – NCBI . Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 28 March 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15920065
- Hruby, A., Ngwa, J., Renstrom, F., Wojczynski, M., Ganna, A., & Hallmans, G. et al. (2013). Higher Magnesium Intake Is Associated with Lower Fasting Glucose and Insulin, with No Evidence of Interaction with Select Genetic Loci, in a Meta-Analysis of 15 CHARGE Consortium Studies. Journal Of Nutrition, 143(3), 345-353. doi:10.3945/jn.112.172049
- Qu, X., Jin, F., Hao, Y., Li, H., Tang, T., & Wang, H. et al. (2013). Magnesium and the Risk of Cardiovascular Events: A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies. Plos ONE, 8(3), e57720. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057720
- Castiglioni, S., Cazzaniga, A., Albisetti, W., & Maier, J. (2013). Magnesium and Osteoporosis: Current State of Knowledge and Future Research Directions. Nutrients, 5(8), 3022-3033. doi:10.3390/nu5083022
- Rude RK, e. (2017). Skeletal and hormonal effects of magnesium deficiency. – PubMed – NCBI . Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 28 March 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19828898
- Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. (2011). doi:10.17226/13050 https://www.nap.edu/catalog/13050/dietary-reference-intakes-for-calcium-and-vitamin-d
- User, S. (2019). Albion Human Nutrition – Magnesium White Paper. Albionminerals.com. Retrieved 25 July 2019, from https://www.albionminerals.com/human-nutrition/magnesium-white-paper