From the regulation of muscle contractions and blood pressure, to energy production, blood sugar balance and even weight management and mood disorders, magnesium’s role in the body is plentiful. With such a long list of uses, it is no surprise it’s the fourth-most abundant mineral in the body, and involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions.
Found naturally in rocks and seawater, there are a number of forms of magnesium, including carbonate, chloride, hydroxide, oxide and sulphate, as well as glycinate, lactate, malate, citrate and orotate.
1. May strengthen bones and protect against osteoporosis
A number of population studies have reported positive associations between magnesium intake and bone mineral density in both men and women. This is because magnesium is involved in bone formation through its influence on bone turnover, as well as its role in potentiating vitamin D. Adequate magnesium may also play a part in keeping our muscles strong and healthy; this is an important strategy for preventing falls and fractures in the older population.
2. May help with depression and anxiety
Magnesium has been shown to have a mood-improving effect with benefits achieved both with or without the use of antidepressant medication.
3. May lower blood pressure
For those with hypertension, magnesium may help regulate blood pressure. There are also wider cardiovascular benefits, with higher magnesium intakes linked with reducing the risk of strokes.
4. May alleviate headaches/migraines
Magnesium deficiency appears to play a part in the development of migraines and headaches. However, evidence supporting the use of supplementation to prevent or reduce symptoms is, currently, limited.
5. May improve sleep
As we age, we experience changes in our sleep patterns. A study looking at the effect of magnesium on a group of 60-80 year olds suggests the mineral may help reverse these changes. For the rest of us, magnesium may also be a useful sleep aid, because it helps quieten the nervous system, creating a calm and relaxed disposition.
6. May alleviate pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS)
For many women of reproductive age, the strains of cyclical anxiety, stress, mood swings and bloating as well as menstrual migraine have a significant impact on quality of life. Interesting studies suggest magnesium alone and in combination with vitamin B6 may help alleviate some of these symptoms.
What are some food sources of magnesium?
Beans and lentils
Nuts and seeds
Quinoa and other unrefined grains
Dark chocolate (min 70% cocoa)
Try consuming more of these foods to help reduce symptoms of magnesium deficiency. You may be surprised to find out that it’s all you needed to feel better!
Other aspects of our diet can affect how efficiently we absorb magnesium. These include high intakes of caffeine and zinc supplementation.
What about magnesium supplements?
If you’ve been advised to take a supplement, it’s important to select a high-quality product that supplies the form of magnesium that is most likely to benefit the condition you want to address. The product you choose may also be influenced by the dose you’ll need, and how many capsules you’re willing to take. Common forms of magnesium that you’re likely to see on a supplement label include magnesium citrate, oxide, glycinate and malate. See the quick guide below on magnesium forms and suggested applications:
Used in topical applications to ease muscle soreness
Gentler on the digestive system, so useful option if you need to take high doses
Gentler on the digestive system and is less likely to cause laxative effects
Magnesium sulfate (epsom salts)
Although magnesium supplements are well-tolerated by most people, some people experience symptoms such as nausea and diarrhoea. In order to minimise the risk of side effects, take the supplement with food and away from medication. High doses (more than 400mg) are more likely to cause digestive upset and currently there is insufficient evidence to support what the effects of high doses may have over time. Always keep to the directions on the label and refer to your GP or health professional if you are unsure.
Certain groups are more likely to be at risk of low levels of this important mineral – these include older adults, type 2 diabetics and those with gut issues, such as Crohn’s disease. However, before you supplement you should be aware that certain medications may interact with magnesium or affect magnesium status so it is vital you speak with your GP before taking a supplement.
Always speak to your GP or healthcare provider before taking a new supplement or if you are concerned about nutritional deficiencies.
All the best Jan