According to Kelly Brogan MD (New York Times bestselling author of ‘A Mind of Your Own’) magnesium is considered one of the most beneficial supplements available, providing relief from ailments such as PMS, poor thyroid function, and depression.
Interestingly, magnesium is an essential mineral used in over 350 biochemical processes and binds with 3,751 human proteins.
It’s integral for a variety of important processes such as the conversion of energy from carbohydrates, fats and protein, not to mention healthy DNA synthesis, blood sugar balance, bone health and a calm nervous system.1
That said, human blood can only store 1% of magnesium which is why it generally doesn’t show up in blood tests This makes magnesium deficiency difficult to diagnose.
What we do know however, is that magnesium is a mineral that our bodies rely on to feel fit, healthy and full of vitality.
Brogan discusses how magnesium may be a rapidly effective intervention for depression, due to its role in regulating neuronal and thyroid function. 2
Additionally the author outlines how magnesium may offer critical help for those struggling with PMS, including premenstrual migraines, irritability, low mood, and cramps.
With studies demonstrating that women supplemented with a conservative dose of 250mg of magnesium daily for three months, 34% experienced relief of PMS. Similarly, by the second month of treatment with magnesium, women with PMS experienced improvement in mood and pain in a randomized, controlled trial. While positive results weren’t seen across the board, it makes for an interesting preliminary study. 3
It is suggested that low intakes of magnesium in the short term won’t result in any noticeable symptoms as our kidneys conserve magnesium when intakes are low however, low intakes over extended periods can lead you to become deficient. When this occurs, we can experience an array of negative symptoms, mostly to do with energy levels because magnesium is involved in helping to regulate calcium, vitamin D, blood sugar and hormonal balance.
Low magnesium levels can lead to chronic fatigue-type symptoms, low mood, anxiety, eye tics, insomnia, high blood pressure, muscle cramps (which can be due to low calcium too) and a poor tolerance to dealing with stress.
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency4
- Decreased tolerance for exercise
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle tension, pain, cramps, spasms, or twitches
- Nighttime leg cramps
- Menstrual cramps
- Headaches and migraines
- Restless legs syndrome
- High blood pressure
- Chronic bacterial or fungal infections
- High C-reactive protein levels (a marker of chronic inflammation)
- Heart arrhythmias
- Chest pain (angina)
7 Suggested Benefits of Adding Magnesium-Rich Foods to Your Diet:
Here’s a brief summary of just some of the research available on magnesium and how deficiencies may impact our health.
1. May Result in Less Migraines
In a study of 133 migraine patients supplemented with 500 mg of magnesium oxide for 12 weeks, patients showed significant improvement with decreased frequency and severity of migraines. This study demonstrated that magnesium supplementation had a significant effect on all migraine indicators.5
And a double blind, placebo controlled study showed that supplementing with magnesium significantly cut the number of days children suffered with a migraine.6
2. Potential Decrease in Heart Disease and other Ailments
A study in the journal Atherosclerosis showed that people with low magnesium levels increased their likelihood of dying of heart disease. Worse, they were also seven times more likely to die from all other causes.7
3. May Improve Blood Sugar Levels
Magnesium deficiency is commonly found among patients with type 2 diabetics.8 A Harvard study found that patients taking 320 mg of magnesium for up to 16 weeks significantly improved their fasting blood sugar levels and HDL (good) cholesterol.9
4. May Ease Pain Symptoms
A double blind, placebo controlled study from the University of Texas showed that magnesium malate helped to reduce pain and tenderness in fibromyalgia patients.10
5. Associated with Lower Risk of Colon Cancer
Epidemiologic studies by Chinese researchers show that there is a potential link between low intake of magnesium and increased risk of colorectal and colon cancer.
Their results, taken from analyzing eight prospective studies and having a total of 338,979 participants, were published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It showed those taking the most magnesium had a decreased risk of colorectal cancer by 11%.11
They also observed that an increase of 50 mg per day was associated with a 7% decrease in colon cancer risk. Earlier meta-analysis by the Imperial College of London and Wageningen University affirmed the same by showing a decrease of 13% colon cancer risk for every 100mg increase of magnesium.12
6. Appears to strengthen bones
One study found a significant association between bone density and magnesium levels.13 Magnesium contributes to bone strength14 and even stimulates the hormone calcitonin which helps restore calcium from the blood and other tissues back into the bones. Excess calcium outside bones increase the risk of arthritis, heart attack, kidney stones, and osteoporosis.15
Magnesium found in bones decreases as we age and sugar and alcohol increase the unwanted excretion of magnesium.
7. May Reduce Signs of Metabolic Syndrome
Mexican researchers published a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial in the Archives of Medical Research showing that the MONW trial group receiving 382mg of oral magnesium daily showed a significant decrease in the signs of metabolic syndrome after only 4 months.16
How much Magnesium is Recommended?
The recommended daily intake of magnesium is 420 mg for men and 320 mg for women. One US study showed that 20% of women don’t even get to half the recommended amount.17
According to Kelly Brogan MD many women benefit from doses of magnesium in the 5-800mg range.
What are Good Food sources for Magnesium?
Magnesium deficiency can be treated with food. One great source of magnesium is dark chocolate. (YEH!!! Such good news) A high quality 100 gm bar of dark chocolate would contain around 170 mg of magnesium. Craving for chocolate? Your body may be telling you that you need more magnesium.
Foods High in Magnesium include:
- Dried seaweed
- Leafy greens -cabbage, asparagus, brussels sprouts
- Raw cacao
- Nuts (Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts and sesame seeds) and seeds
- Beans, Lentils, and whole grains (millet, brown rice, and quinoa)
Other Food Sources of Magnesium:
- Fruit (figs, avocado, banana and raspberries)
- Legumes (black beans, chickpeas and kidney beans)
- Vegetables (peas, green beans, artichokes)
- Seafood (salmon, mackerel, tuna)
- Dark Chocolate
- Baked beans
What Might Also Contribute to Lower Magnesium Levels?
- A high fiber diet lessens magnesium absorption
- Oral contraceptives
- Proton pump inhibitors for acid reflux.
When food sources aren’t available, you can take Magnesium supplements. They are available in: oxide, citrate, carbonate, aspartate, and lactate but the cheapest and most difficult to absorb is Magnesium oxide.
Note that Magnesium citrate has laxative properties while Magnesium glycinate does not.
Speak to a registered health practitioner for a magnesium supplement that is right for you
2 Joffe, RT, Levitt AJ, & Young LT (1996).“The thyroid, magnesium and calcium in major depression”. Biol Psychiatry. 1996 Sep 1;40(5):428-9.
Eby, GA, & Eby, KL (2006). “Rapid recovery from major depression using magnesium treatment”. Med Hypotheses. 2006;67(2):362-70. Epub 2006 Mar 20.
3 Quaranta, S, Buscaglia, MA, Meroni, MG, Colombo, E, & Cella, S (2007). “Pilot study of the efficacy and safety of a modified-release magnesium 250 mg tablet (Sincromag) for the treatment of premenstrual syndrome”. Clin Drug Investig. 2007;27(1):51-8.
4 (2010). EFSA Journal 2010;8(10):1807.
5 Esfanjani, AT, Mahdavi, R, et al. (December 2012) “The effects of magnesium, L-carnitine, and concurrent magnesium-L-carnitine supplementation in migraine prophylaxis”. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2012 Dec ;150(1-3):42-8. Epub 2012 Aug 17. PMID: 22895810
6 Wang, F., Van Den Eeden, S.K., et al. (April 2009) Oral magnesium oxide prophylaxis of frequent migrainous headache in children: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Eur J Endocrinol. 2009 Apr;160(4):611-7. Epub 2009 Jan 29. PMID: 12786918
7 Reffelmann, T., Ittermann, T., et al. (June 12, 2011) “Low serum magnesium concentrations predict cardiovascular and all-cause mortality”. Atherosclerosis. 2011 Jun 12. Epub 2011 Jun 12. PMID: 21703623
8 De Lordes Lima, M., Cruz, T., et al. (May 1998). “The effect of magnesium supplementation in increasing doses on the control of type 2 diabetes”. Diabetes Care. 1998 May;21(5):682-6. PMID: 9589224
9 Song, Y, et al. (2008). “Effects of oral magnesium supplementation on glycaemic control in Type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis of randomized double-blind controlled trials”. Cardiovasc Toxicol. 2008;8(3):115-25. Epub 2008 Jul 8. PMID: 16978367
10 Russell, I.J. et al.(May 1995). “Treatment of fibromyalgia syndrome with Super Malic: a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled, crossover pilot study”. J Rheumatol. 1995 May;22(5):953-8. PMID: 8587088
11 hen, GC, Pang, Z, & Liu, QF (2012).”Magnesium intake and risk of colorectal cancer: a meta-analysis of prospective studies”. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition volume 66, pages 1182–1186 (2012)
doi:10.1038/ejcn.2012.135 . https://www.nature.com/articles/ejcn2012135
12 Wark, PA, Lau, R, et al. (September 1, 2012). “Magnesium intake and colorectal tumor risk: a case-control study and meta-analysis”. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 96, Issue 3, 1 September 2012, Pages 622–631, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.111.030924
13 Ryder, K.M. et al. (Nov 2005). “Magnesium intake from food and supplements is associated with bone mineral density in healthy older white subjects”. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2005 Nov;53(11):1875-80. Pubmed 16274367
14 Jones, G., Riley, M., & Dwyer, T. (2000). “Maternal Diet during pregnancy is associated with bone mineral density in children: a longitudinal study”. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2000. 54: p. 749-756
15 Zofková, I., & Kancheva, R.L. (1995). “The relationship between magnesium and calciotropic hormones”. Magnes Res. 1995 Mar; 8 (1): 77-84. Pubmed 7669510
16 Rodriguez-Moran, M & Guerrero-Romero, F. (2014).”Oral magnesium supplementation improves the metabolic profile of metabolically obese, normal-weight individuals: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial.”. Arch Med Res. 2014 Jul;45(5):388-93. doi: 10.1016/j.arcmed.2014.05.003. Epub 2014 May 13.
17 King, DE, et Al. “Dietary magnesium and C-reactive protein levels.” J Am Coll Nutr. 2005 Jun 24(3):166-71.