Magnesium is a nutrient that is essential for hundreds of metabolic processes and many other important bodily functions starting from producing energy to building important proteins like DNA (Genetic material)(1).
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral and the second most abundant intracellular element and has been recognized as a cofactor for >300 metabolic reactions in the body.
Magnesium is required for the proper growth and maintenance of bones. Magnesium is also required for the proper function of nerves and muscles.
Magnesium is most commonly used for constipation, as an antacid for heartburn, for pregnancy complications called pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, and for certain types of irregular heartbeat (torsades de pointes)(3).
What are the Signs of Low Magnesium in the Body?
- Low levels of magnesium are linked to a number of health conditions, such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s(2).
- Low magnesium levels in the body have been linked to diseases such as osteoporosis, high blood pressure, clogged arteries, hereditary heart disease, diabetes, and stroke(4).
- Low Magnesium levels also have been linked to chronic diseases, including migraine headaches and hypertension.
Best Dietary Sources of Magnesium
Our body can’t produce magnesium, so we need to obtain it from our diet. This can be achieved by eating magnesium-rich foods or by taking supplements.
An easy way to remember foods with good amounts of magnesium is to think of fiber.
Magnesium is present in legumes, whole grains, vegetables (especially broccoli, squash, and green leafy vegetables), seeds, and nuts (especially almonds)(5).
Other sources include dairy products, meats, chocolate, and coffee. Water with high mineral content, or “hard” water, is also a source of magnesium.
Magnesium in Our Body
Approximately 45-50% of magnesium in our body is present in bones, 45-50% is in the tissues and organs, and the rest is in the blood(6,7).
Some of the processes in which magnesium is a cofactor include, but are not limited to, protein synthesis, cellular energy production and storage, reproduction, DNA and RNA synthesis, and stabilizing mitochondrial membranes(6,7).
Magnesium also plays a critical role in maintaining normal nerve and muscle function, cardiac excitability (normal heart rhythm), neuromuscular conduction, muscular contraction, vasomotor tone, normal blood pressure, bone integrity, and glucose and insulin metabolism(8).
The Dietary Reference Intake for magnesium for adults is 310-420 mg/d; magnesium intake is often below these recommendations, particularly as people age(9).
Health Benefits of Magnesium
- Can Reduce Blood Pressure(10-12)
- May Improve Mood(13-15)
- May Benefit Blood Sugar Control(16,17)
- May Reduce Heart Disease Risk(18-21)
- May Improve Migraine(2,22,23)
- Testosterone Support(24-26)
Symptoms of Low Magnesium
Hypomagnesemia is a relatively common occurrence in clinical medicine. Magnesium deficiency has been found in 84% of postmenopausal women with osteoporosis, diagnosed with low magnesium trabecular bone content.
Magnesium is essential for the normal metabolism of potassium and calcium also. The occurrence in clinical situations of otherwise unexplained hypokalemia (potassium depletion) and hypocalcemia (calcium depletion from bone) should suggest the possibility of significant magnesium deficiency.
Other clinical features of magnesium deficiency include mental disturbances such as depression, confusion, agitation, hallucinations, weakness, neuromuscular irritability (tremor), athetoid movements, and convulsive seizures(27).
What Are the Side Effects of Magnesium?
Magnesium is relatively safe when taken in prescribed amounts.
Does Magnesium Interact with Other Drugs?
There may be mild to moderate interaction with the following classes of medicines.
- Antibiotics (Aminoglycoside antibiotics)
- Antibiotics (Quinolone antibiotics)
- Antibiotics (Tetracycline antibiotics)
- Medications for high blood pressure
- Muscle relaxants
- Potassium-sparing diuretics)
- De Baaij JHF, Hoenderop JGJ, Bindels RJM. Magnesium in Man: Implications for Health and Disease. Physiological Reviews. 2015 Jan;95(1):1-46.
- Gröber U, Schmidt J, Kisters K. Magnesium in Prevention and Therapy. Nutrients. 2015 Sep 23;7(9):8199-226.
- Kinnunen O, Salokannel J. Constipation in elderly long-stay patients: its treatment by magnesium hydroxide and bulk-laxative. Ann Clin Res. 1987;19(5):321-3.
- Swaminathan R. Magnesium metabolism and its disorders. Clin Biochem Rev. 2003 May;24(2):47-66.
- Van Dam RM, Hu FB, Rosenberg L, Krishnan S, Palmer JR. Dietary Calcium and Magnesium, Major Food Sources, and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in U.S. Black Women. Diabetes Care. 2006 Oct 1;29(10):2238-43.
- Elin RJ. Magnesium: The Fifth but Forgotten Electrolyte. Am J Clin Pathol. 1994 Nov 1;102(5):616-22.
- Takaya J, Higashino H, Kobayashi Y. Intracellular magnesium and insulin resistance. Magnes Res. 2004 Jun;17(2):126-36.
- Newhouse IJ, Finstad EW. The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Exercise Performance: Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine. 2000 Jul;10(3):195-200.
- Volpe SL. Magnesium in Disease Prevention and Overall Health. Advances in Nutrition. 2013 May 1;4(3):378S-383S.
- Guerrero-Romero F, Rodríguez-Morán M. The effect of lowering blood pressure by magnesium supplementation in diabetic hypertensive adults with low serum magnesium levels: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Hum Hypertens. 2009 Apr;23(4):245-51.
- Kass L, Weekes J, Carpenter L. Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2012 Apr;66(4):411-8.
- Zhang X, Li Y, Del Gobbo LC, Rosanoff A, Wang J, Zhang W, et al. Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Blood Pressure: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trials. Hypertension. 2016 Aug;68(2):324-33.
- Serefko A, Szopa A, Poleszak E. Magnesium and depression. Magnes Res. 2016 Mar 1;29(3):112-9.
- Barragán-Rodríguez L, Rodríguez-Morán M, Guerrero-Romero F. Efficacy and safety of oral magnesium supplementation in the treatment of depression in the elderly with type 2 diabetes: a randomized, equivalent trial. Magnes Res. 2008 Dec;21(4):218-23.
- 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.
- Solati M, Ouspid E, Hosseini S, Soltani N, Keshavarz M, Dehghani M. Oral magnesium supplementation in type II diabetic patients. Med J Islam Repub Iran. 2014;28:67.
- Simental-Mendía LE, Sahebkar A, Rodríguez-Morán M, Guerrero-Romero F. A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials on the effects of magnesium supplementation on insulin sensitivity and glucose control. Pharmacological Research. 2016 Sep;111:272-82.
- Wu J, Xun P, Tang Q, Cai W, He K. Circulating magnesium levels and incidence of coronary heart diseases, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes mellitus: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Nutr J. 2017 Dec;16(1):60.
- 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 Feb 1;10(2):168.
- Verma H, Garg R. Effect of magnesium supplementation on type 2 diabetes associated cardiovascular risk factors: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2017 Oct;30(5):621-33.
- Mathers TW, Beckstrand RL. Oral magnesium supplementation in adults with coronary heart disease or coronary heart disease risk. Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. 2009 Dec;21(12):651-7.
- On behalf of the Migravent® Study Group, Gaul C, Diener H-C, Danesch U. Improvement of migraine symptoms with a proprietary supplement containing riboflavin, magnesium and Q10: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, multicenter trial. J Headache Pain. 2015 Dec;16(1):32.
- Von Luckner A, Riederer F. Magnesium in Migraine Prophylaxis-Is There an Evidence-Based Rationale? A Systematic Review. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain. 2018 Feb;58(2):199-209.
- Rosanoff A, Weaver CM, Rude RK. Suboptimal magnesium status in the United States: are the health consequences underestimated? Nutrition Reviews. 2012 Mar;70(3):153-64.
- Maggio M, De Vita F, Lauretani F, Nouvenne A, Meschi T, Ticinesi A, et al. The Interplay between Magnesium and Testosterone in Modulating Physical Function in Men. International Journal of Endocrinology. 2014;2014:1-9.
- Cinar V, Polat Y, Baltaci AK, Mogulkoc R. Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Testosterone Levels of Athletes and Sedentary Subjects at Rest and after Exhaustion. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2011 Apr;140(1):18-23.
- DiNicolantonio JJ, O’Keefe JH, Wilson W. Subclinical magnesium deficiency: a principal driver of cardiovascular disease and a public health crisis. Open Heart. 2018 Jan;5(1):e000668.
Disclaimer: The information provided on this page is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, please talk to a healthcare provider.