Last Updated on July 23, 2020 by Michael Joseph
Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in our overall health.
In fact, magnesium is so important that it is the fourth most abundant mineral in our body.
Adult humans store around 25 grams of magnesium at all times, and the mineral has a significant impact on our health.
However, just what does this mineral do and what health benefits does it have?
This article examines 11 science-backed health benefits of magnesium.
What Is Magnesium?
As previously mentioned, magnesium is a vital mineral for human health.
Magnesium has the chemical symbol of ‘Mg’ and it is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body after calcium, phosphorus, and potassium (1).
Unlike most (trace) minerals in the body, we require a large amount (more than 100 mg) of magnesium per day to stay healthy.
For this reason, magnesium is sometimes known as a ‘macromineral.’
However, it can be difficult to meet the nutrient requirements for magnesium since it is not as prevalent in our diet as other nutrients.
Unfortunately, magnesium deficiency can cause a wide range of symptoms.
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)
How much magnesium do we need per day?
The answer to this question depends on personal circumstances.
In the table below, you can see the dietary requirements for magnesium by age, gender, and other special considerations (6).
|Age / Situation||Male||Female|
|<6 months||30 mg||30 mg|
|7-12 months||75 mg||75 mg|
|1-3 years||80 mg||80 mg|
|4-8 years||130 mg||130 mg|
|9-13 years||240 mg||240 mg|
|14-18 years||410 mg||360 mg|
|19-30 years||400 mg||310 mg|
|31-50 years||420 mg||320 mg|
|51+ years||420 mg||320 mg|
Additionally, the recommended allowances increase for women who are either pregnant or lactating;
|14-18 years||400 mg||360 mg|
|19-30 years||350 mg||310 mg|
|31-50 years||360 mg||320 mg|
Health Benefits of Magnesium
Research has demonstrated that magnesium can have many beneficial impacts on our body.
Here is an overview of the benefits that have research backing.
1) Can Lower Blood Pressure
It appears that higher magnesium levels can lower blood pressure.
As a result, sufficient intake of the mineral could be one way to help manage hypertension.
Furthermore, a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials—featuring 34 trials and 2028 participants—found a positive link between the mineral and blood pressure.
Notably, there was a consistent link showing that when blood levels of magnesium rise, blood pressure readings drop (9).
Additionally, a second meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials confirmed these findings.
This particular study showed that among 543 individuals participating in controlled trials, magnesium supplementation “significantly lowered” blood pressure (10).
2) May Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke
There are various mechanisms through which magnesium may exert cardiac-protective properties. As mentioned, a higher blood status of the mineral reduces blood pressure.
- An improved cholesterol profile
- Reduced rate of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
- Inhibition of the calcification of tissues
All three of these factors are strongly associated with cardiovascular risk, and may partly explain the beneficial impact magnesium has on overall risk.
3) Plays An Important Role In Cellular Signaling
Cellular signaling is an important process through which cells communicate and respond to biological events and threats to the body (16).
To illustrate how important cell signaling is; a breakdown in the process can result in cancer cells not self-destructing (via apoptosis) as they should (17).
Notably, magnesium can significantly affect numerous signaling pathways, and it can be responsible for “turning on” beneficial processes and blocking harmful ones.
For instance, a magnesium deficiency can lead to the activation of signaling pathways that trigger the release of inflammatory cytokines, which can cause oxidative damage (18).
Magnesium plays such an important role in the body, and it is a cofactor in more than 300 metabolic processes (19).
4) Helps To Protect Against Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a chronic, progressive disease that leads to declines in bone mineral density and weaker bones.
As a result, it accelerates the rate at which bones become fragile and liable to break, and it can lead to increasing frailty.
Worse still, estimates state that the disease affects 1 in 5 men and 1 in 3 women over the age of 50 (20).
Although we can never prevent chronic disease, we can significantly reduce our risk through healthy diet and lifestyle practices.
Additionally, people of older age with higher intakes of magnesium appear to have a greater bone-mass density (23).
5) May Help To Prevent Migraine Headaches
Another benefit of consuming greater amounts of magnesium is that the mineral appears to help prevent migraine headaches.
Migraines are a particularly severe form of a headache, and the pain they cause can be debilitating.
Firstly, clinical trials show that the majority of individuals who suffer from migraines have lower levels of plasma magnesium (24).
Although there is no research to confirm this, a higher dietary intake of magnesium may, therefore, help to reduce the incidence of migraine headaches.
6) May Reduce the Risk of Metabolic Syndrome
The metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that occur at the same time, and it can greatly increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke (27).
Firstly, these five conditions are as follows (28);
- High blood pressure
- Abnormal blood-sugar levels
- High levels of triglycerides
- A waist circumference over 40 inches (men) or 35 inches (women)
- Very low levels of HDL cholesterol
As we have discussed, magnesium is capable of reducing blood pressure and improving the cholesterol profile.
However, several studies have specifically looked into the interaction between magnesium and the metabolic syndrome.
Among this research, a systematic review of controlled clinical trials demonstrated that increasing magnesium intake “can be effective in the treatment of metabolic syndrome” (29).
A further study—that looked at 6311 cases of metabolic syndrome—found that for every 100-mg increase in daily magnesium intake, the overall risk of metabolic syndrome fell by 17% (30).
7) Higher Intake May Help Manage or Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Studies show that higher blood levels of magnesium may decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Additionally, ensuring sufficient magnesium intake may also play a role in managing the condition.
For example, one randomized controlled trial examined the effects of magnesium supplementation on 63 people with type 2 diabetes and low plasma magnesium levels.
The results of this study showed that magnesium supplementation improved insulin sensitivity and fasting blood glucose levels compared to the control group (34).
8) Fights Insulin Resistance, Enhances Insulin Sensitivity
Insulin resistance occurs when our body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin, leading to a continuous struggle to control blood sugar levels.
Several studies show that magnesium helps to fight insulin resistance, and it has strong associations with greater insulin sensitivity.
For example, in a study of 38 participants, there was a strong relationship between their blood magnesium level and insulin sensitivity (37).
9) Reduces Inflammatory Markers
Inflammatory markers refer to certain blood readings that can signify raised levels of inflammation.
Two of the most significant inflammatory markers are C reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin 6 (IL-6).
Once again, magnesium shows benefit here because higher blood levels of the mineral correlate with lower markers of inflammation.
One large study followed 3,713 middle-aged women and monitored their magnesium intake. The results showed that the women with a higher magnesium intake had lower markers of systematic inflammation (40).
However, it is worth noting that this study was observational, and correlation does not equal causation.
That said, there is also a high-quality systematic review that supports the observational findings. Importantly, this systematic review focused on only randomized controlled trials that evaluated magnesium’s effect on CRP levels.
Across eight eligible studies, the data demonstrated that greater magnesium intake “significantly reduces” inflammatory markers (41).
10) Improves Symptoms of Insomnia, Encourages Better Sleep
Magnesium is an important mineral for sleep quality.
In a controlled clinical trial, insomnia patients experienced improved sleep quality after taking a combination of magnesium, zinc, and melatonin before bed (42).
All three of these compounds have a synergistic effect on improved sleep. However, magnesium alone can hold benefits for improving symptoms of insomnia.
In a randomized clinical trial, increasing daily magnesium intake improved sleep efficiency, sleeping time, and other measures of insomnia in older adults (43).
11) May Enhance Physical Performance
As a mineral involved in muscle contraction and energy production, magnesium has some important benefits for physical performance.
A recent randomized, controlled study released in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that magnesium supplementation had a positive impact on strength and exercise performance (44).
These potential sporting benefits may be from magnesium increasing glucose availability in the blood during exercise (45).
However, a review of the current evidence confirms potential exercise benefits with the caveat that larger-scale studies are necessary to confirm a causal relationship (46).
What Foods Contain Magnesium?
If you are looking to increase magnesium intake, then there are many rich food sources of the mineral.
Some of these include;
- Dark chocolate
- Pumpkin seeds
Overall, magnesium is one of the most essential nutrients in the human diet.
The mineral plays a crucial role in a significant number of processes within the body, and low stores of the mineral have links with adverse health effects.
Science confirms that maintaining sufficient magnesium intake has lots of benefits for our health, and it truly is an essential mineral.
Lastly, magnesium supplementation can be an option for those with inadequate intake.