In recent times, the issue of hypertension and blood sugar has dominated media education. Diverse alternative remedies have also been propagated in the management of hypertension and blood sugar.  One such mineral is magnesium.

Some of the many benefits of magnesium are:  supporting the heart, blood sugar levels, and mood. It’s found in a variety of foods ranging from leafy greens to nuts, seeds, and beans. Magnesium also plays an important role in boosting athletic performance.

Magnesium, supporting literature

Biochemical Reactions

According to studies,  every cell in the body contains magnesium and needs it to work.  This means magnesium is found throughout our bodies.  One study by Grober et al.(2015) notes that the bone has about 60% of the magnesium in your body, while the rest is in the muscles, soft tissues, and fluids, including blood.

Baaij et al. (2015) study found that one of magnesium’s key roles is to act as a cofactor — an aid molecule — in the biochemical reactions continuously performed by enzymes.  Magnesium is involved in more than 600 reactions in our body. Some includes:

  • Energy creation: converting food into energy
  • Protein formation: creating new proteins from amino acids
  • Gene maintenance: helping create and repair DNA and RNA
  • Muscle movements: aiding in muscle contraction and relaxation
  • Nervous system regulation: regulating neurotransmitters, which send messages throughout your brain and nervous system

Magnesium, Enhance Exercise Performance

It has been established that one needs more magnesium when exercising as compared to rest, depending on the activity(  Ismail et al. 2018). Nielsen and Lukaski, (2006) suggest that because of its role in muscle function and energy production, this electrolyte is believed to have an impact on exercise performance. During strenuous exercise, it’s estimated that requirements increase by 10 percent to 20 percent.

It is therefore prudent for chronic gym goers and those who engage in intense exercise to take more magnesium.  This is because one earlier study (Zhang et al. 2017) found that magnesium helps move blood sugar into our muscles and dispose of lactate, which can build up during exercise and cause fatigue. Due to this, Wang et al.(2017) found that magnesium supplements could help in improving exercise performance in older adults and others lacking this nutrient. For instance, with regards to women, one earlier study by Welch et al, (2016) involving 2,570  linked more intake of magnesium to increased muscle mass and power.

In an older study, Setaro et al(2014) used volleyball players who took 250 mg of magnesium per day and found improvements in jumping and arm movements. Additionally, one recent study (Córdova et al. 2019) recommended that magnesium supplements protect against certain markers of muscle damage in professional cyclists.  Though more studies confirmed the benefits of magnesium supplements, one study found otherwise and held that supplementing doesn’t help athletes or active people with normal magnesium levels (Wang et al. 2017). This notwithstanding, an older study (Golf et al. 1998) found that triathletes who were given magnesium supplements for four weeks had improvements in their swimming, cycling, and running times. Veronese et al.(2014) examined the effects of magnesium on performance in 124 elderly women. After 12 weeks, daily supplementation with magnesium oxide was found to improve physical performance compared to a control group.

Magnesium, Depression, and Anxiety

Tarleton and Littenberg( 2015) found that Magnesium plays a critical role in brain function and mood, and low levels are linked to an increased risk of depression.  What is more, the same study analyzed data from over  8,800 people and found that those under age 65 with the lowest magnesium intake had a 22% greater risk of depression.  Additionally, two studies(Tarleton et al. 2017; Rajizadeh et al. 2016) found that taking magnesium supplements could support reducing symptoms of depression.

For instance, the case of Rajizadeh et al. (2016) which was done in  8-week, found that taking 500 mg of magnesium daily led to drastic enhancements in symptoms of depression in people with a deficiency in this mineral. On the other hand, Tarleton et al.  (2017) which involved a 6-week study of 126 people found that taking 248 mg of magnesium per day decreased symptoms of depression and anxiety, regardless of magnesium level.

Due to its effect on mood-boosting,  Barragán-Rodríguez et al. (2008) found that it could be as effective as antidepressants in treating depression. This studycompared the effects of magnesium supplementation with antidepressant medication and found that magnesium supplements were equally effective in the treatment of depression. Additionally, one review by Boyle et al.(2017) found that among 18 studies, “existing evidence is suggestive of a beneficial effect of Mg on subjective anxiety in anxiety-vulnerable samples.”

Magnesium, Blood sugar Protect Against Metabolic Syndrome

Two studies (Grober et al. 2015; Barbagallo and Dominguez, 2015) found that low levels of magnesium have been detected in 48% of people with type 2 diabetes, and this is likely to affect the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels effectively.

Due to this, three more studies( Hruby et al. 2017; Fang et al. 2016; Zhao et al. 2020) found that people who consume more magnesium have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

Simental-Mendía et al.(2016) review suggests that taking magnesium supplements could support insulin sensitivity, a  major mineral in blood sugar control.  Additionally, Veronese et al.( 2016) also found that magnesium supplements enhanced blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity in people at risk for type 2 diabetes.

This notwithstanding, one earlier study believes that the effect of magnesium is dependent on how much magnesium one eats in food. Since supplements were found to have no impact on blood sugar or insulin levels in people who weren’t deficient (Navarrete-Cortes et al. 2014).  But Alawi et al.(2018) found that a higher magnesium intake can benefit blood sugar levels and may help prevent insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

An earlier study by Rodríguez-Morán et al,(2003) found that oral magnesium supplementation improved insulin sensitivity and reduced blood sugar levels in diabetic patients with low magnesium levels. Finally, Kim et al.( 2010 )  found that the mineral could protect against diabetes. The study monitored 4,497 participants for 20 years and found that those with the highest intake were 47 percent less likely to develop diabetes.

Magnesium, Healthy Blood Pressure and Heart Health

DiNicolantonio et al.(2018) found that Subclinical magnesium deficiency increases the risk of diverse types of cardiovascular disease,” including coronary artery disease and hypertension.

Hence, our diet should be filled with magnesium-rich foods, and those foods high in potassium, to promote better heart health and normal blood pressure levels. Potassium is another electrolyte that supports heart and healthy blood pressure which should be combined with magnesium-rich foods. Potassium helps in circulation because it increases the excretion of sodium through the urine.

Hence, Guerrero-Romero and Rodríguez-Morán, (2008) found that supplementing with magnesium reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in adults with hypertension. Another study, by Zhang et al.( 2016) demonstrates that magnesium supplements can help lower high blood pressure levels, which may be a risk factor for heart disease. A subsequent review by Rosique-Esteban et al.( 2018)  linked high magnesium intake to a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. An earlier study by Verma and Garg,  (2017) linked magnesium supplements to enhanced multiple risk factors for heart disease, including triglyceride, LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, and systolic blood pressure levels, especially in people with magnesium deficiency. Though, other studies did not find any effect (Simental-Mendía et al. 2017).

Controls Inflammation

Several studies have found low levels of magnesium to higher inflammation levels. For instance, two studies (Nielsen, FH, 2014; Furman et al. 2020)  found that both low magnesium consumption and low levels in the blood were linked with higher levels of markers of low-grade chronic inflammation, which is believed to be due to increased release of cytokines and free radicals. In a similar study, Simental-Mendía et al.(2014) found that taking magnesium chloride was linked to decrease levels of inflammation in 62 adults with prediabetes.  Another review, by Simental-Mendía et al.(2017) of 11 studies concluded that magnesium supplements decreased levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation, in people with chronic inflammation. Two other studies(Mazidi et al. 2018; Steward et al. 2019) report the same results demonstrating that magnesium supplements may reduce CRP and other markers of inflammation, such as interleukin-6.  Finally, Zheltova et al.(2016)linked magnesium deficiency to increased oxidative stress, which is related to inflammation.

Magnesium Prevent Migraine

Recent studies have linked low magnesium levels to migraine( Dolati et al. 2020).  Two studies( Chiu et al. 2016; Luckner et al. 2018) recommend that magnesium supplements could prevent and treat migraine headaches.  For instance, Shahrami et al.( 2015) study found that giving 1 gram of magnesium gave relief from acute migraine attacks faster and more successfully than a common medication. An earlier study for instance by Wang et al.(2003) examined the effects of magnesium supplementation in 86 children with frequent migraines. Children received either a magnesium oxide supplement or a placebo for 16 weeks.

At the end of the study, those who took the supplement had significantly less headache frequency and lower headache severity compared to the placebo group. Alternatively, it is best to eat magnesium-rich diets to decrease migraine symptoms (Teigen and  Boes, 2014).

Magnesium, Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

Parazzini et al.( 2017) recommendthat magnesium supplements could improve  PMS symptoms and others, such as menstrual cramps and migraine attacks.  How it does this was examined by Tonick et al.(2016). They explained that magnesium levels fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle, which may worsen PMS symptoms in those who have a deficiency. As such, supplements may help reduce the severity of symptoms, including menstrual migraine attacks.  An earlier study(Ebrahimi et al. 2012)found that taking 250 mg of magnesium per day decreased bloating, depression and anxiety in 126 women with PMS compared with a control group.  Another older study(Fathizadeh et al. 2010) found that a magnesium and vitamin B6 combination was found to significantly decrease PMS symptoms compared to a control group. Finally, one study( Walker et al.1998) found that 200 milligrams of magnesium daily could decrease the severity of several PMS symptoms, including weight gain, swelling, bloating, and breast tenderness.

Magnesium, Bone Health

National Institutes of Health notes that Magnesium is vital for preserving bone health and protecting against bone loss. The report found that 50–60% of the body’s magnesium is found in our bones.

A recent study(Rondanelli et al. 2021) linked lower levels of this mineral with a higher risk of osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become hard and weak.  Another (Hori et al. 2021), a 3-year study in 358 people undergoing hemodialysis — a treatment to help remove waste and water from the blood — found that those who consumed the least magnesium had 3 times more fractures than those with the highest intake.  Furthermore, a more recent study (Groenendijk et al. 2022) review 12 studies and associated high magnesium intake with increased bone mineral density in the hip and femoral neck, both areas that are susceptible to fracture.  In an older study, Paunier( 1992) found that magnesium plays a vital role in the body’s metabolism of vitamin D.  Vitamin D plays a role in calcium absorption into the bones and has an effect on other important vitamins and minerals that contribute to both health, including vitamin K and phosphorus.

Magnesium, Better sleep

Magnesium supplements are used in Naturopathic practices as a natural remedy for sleep issues such as insomnia. This is because they regulate numerous neurotransmitters involved in sleep, such as gamma-aminobutyric acid( Boyle et al. 2017).  An old study( Abbasi et al. 2012) found that participants who took magnesium supplements experienced reduced insomnia severity, increased sleep time, and decreased amount of time needed to fall asleep. Also, an earlier study (Rondanelli et al. 2011) found that a supplement containing a mix of magnesium, melatonin, and zinc improved sleep quality in residents at a long-term care facility.

A recent review(Mah and Pitre, 2021) of older adults with insomnia found that magnesium supplements decreased the amount of time it took people to fall asleep by an average of 17 minutes. A more large recent study( Zhang et al. 2022) in almost 4,000 adults associate more intake of this mineral with enhanced sleep quality and duration.   It has been suggested to add valerian root (Price, Annie, 2022)  and other natural insomnia-busters and natural sleep aids like calcium, and essential oils to maximize results. Finally, one earlier study ( Cao et al. 2018) found higher magnesium intake in women with a reduced likelihood of falling asleep during the daytime.

Magnesium, Depression, and Anxiety

Studies have linked Magnesium as a potent mood-boosting mineral and could avert depression and anxiety.  Due to this, some studies have linked a low intake could be associated with an increased risk of depression. For instance, Arleton and Littenberg( 2015) linked young adults with the lowest intake of magnesium to have an estimated 22 percent greater risk of developing depression.

An earlier study(Barragán-Rodríguez et al. 2008) found that magnesium supplements could be as effective as antidepressants in treating depression.  The study compared the effects of magnesium supplementation with antidepressant medication and found that magnesium supplements were equally effective in the treatment of depression. Tarleton et al.(2017) study of 3,172 adults linked magnesium intake with a lower risk of depression and anxiety. Additionally, Boyle et al. 2017) used a small 6-week study and found that taking 248 mg of magnesium per day significantly reduced could decrease the body’s susceptibility to stress, which may amplify the symptoms of anxiety.  Another recent review( Andersen et al. 2021)found that magnesium supplements could reduce mild to moderate anxiety, but admitted that studies are mixed.

Magnesium, Asthma

Schwalfenberg and Genuis, (2017) found emerging evidence that magnesium could be adopted in managing asthma symptoms in both children and adults through its dual effects as an anti-inflammatory and broncho-dilating agent. An earlier study( Bichara and Goldman, 2009) found that some mainstream doctors recommend it as an adjunct treatment due to its low cost and low risk.

Magnesium, Cognitive Health

As an electrolyte, magnesium has been found to play an essential role in nerve transmission and neuromuscular conduction, this gives it a protective role against excessive excitation that can lead to neuronal cell death(Kirkland et al. 2018). A recent review(Allen et al. 2022) found that low levels have been linked to neurological disorders due to dysfunctions within the nervous system.

New studies are emerging on its role in the treatment of chronic pain, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and stroke, but what we know is that it seems to act as a low-risk adjunct treatment among those with mood issues and cognitive diseases(Ethan, B, 2022).

Dosage and Recommendations

For men, the recommended daily intake of magnesium is about 310–320 milligrams per day for women and about 400–420 milligrams daily.

The National Institutes of Health,  state that the  current recommended daily allowances for magnesium are:

  • Infants–6 months: 30 milligrams
  • 7–12 months: 75 milligrams
  • 1–3 years: 80 milligrams
  • 4–8 years: 130 milligrams
  • 9–13 years: 240 milligrams
  • 14–18 years: 410 milligrams for men; 360 milligrams for women
  • 19–30 years: 400 milligrams for men; 310 milligrams for women
  • Adults 31 years and older: 420 milligrams for men; 320 milligrams for women
  • Pregnant women: 350–360 milligrams
  • Women who are breastfeeding: 310–320 milligrams

These foods are high in magnesium (greens, nuts, seeds, beans, etc.), and/or take a daily supplement.

Food sources

The following foods are rich in magnesium,  according to the National Institutes of Health:

  • Pumpkin seeds: 37% of the DV per ounce (28 grams)
  • Chia seeds: 26% of the DV per ounce (28 grams)
  • Spinach boiled: 19% of the DV per 1/2 cup (90 grams)
  • Almonds: 19% of the DV per ounce (28 grams)
  • Cashews: 18% of the DV per ounce (28 grams)
  • Black beans, cooked: 14% of the DV per 1/2 cup (86 grams)
  • Edamame, cooked: 12% of the DV per 1/2 cup (78 grams)
  • Peanut butter: 12% of the DV per 2 tablespoons (32 grams)
  • Brown rice, cooked: 10% of the DV per 1/2 cup (100 grams)
  • Salmon, cooked: 6% of the DV per 3 ounces (85 grams)
  • Halibut, cooked: 6% of the DV per 3 ounces (85 grams)
  • Avocado: 5% of the DV per 1/2 cup (75 grams)

 Ethan, B, ( 2022) writes that there are several different types of magnesium supplements available, including magnesium glycinatemagnesium citrate, magnesium chloride, magnesium oxide, magnesium lactate, magnesium L-threonate, magnesium malate, magnesium sulfate, and magnesium orotate. These can benefit many people but are especially helpful for those who have a known severe deficiency.

Transdermal magnesium supplementation is another way to utilize the mineral, though research is limited on its effectiveness. This involves applying the magnesium oil (which is magnesium chloride mixed with water) topically to help it absorb into the skin.

Yet another potential way to boost levels is by using Epsom salt (a magnesium sulfate compound), such as by adding some to your baths. Again, though, more research is needed on the effectiveness of absorption through these methods.

Warnings

Though studies have confirmed the numerous health benefits of magnesium. Overdose can also have some negative effects on you.  Excess magnesium from food is simply filtered by the kidneys and excreted through the urine.   Ethan, B, ( 2022) notes that high doses of magnesium supplements can cause adverse side effects like diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal cramping. Extremely high doses can lead to a magnesium overdose and symptoms of toxicity. The tolerable upper intake level from supplements is 350 milligrams per day for those above the age of nine.

Stick to the recommended dosage to sidestep negative effects on health.

Supplements can also have some interactions with certain types of medications. It can attach to tetracyclines, a type of antibiotic, and decrease their effectiveness. Take these antibiotics at least two hours before or four to six hours after supplementing.

Another concern is that supplements may lower blood pressure. If you take a medication for high blood pressure or a muscle relaxant, talk to your doctor before taking any supplement as it may alter the effects of these medications.

Conclusion                                              

Numerous studies have found that magnesium is an important mineral involved in many aspects of our health, as low levels can cause all kinds of health problems — from hypertension and liver damage to insomnia and impotence. Hence, it is prudent to have enough of this electrolyte, preferably through foods high in magnesium, which offers several health benefits, from relieving symptoms of PMS and migraines to improving performance and sleep. Alternatively, take the recommended supplements as highlighted in this article based on scientific studies.

NB:

Prof. Nyarkotey has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations to justify his write-ups.  My articles are for educational purposes and do not serve as Medical advice for Treatment. I aim to educate the public about evidence-based scientific Naturopathic Therapies.

The author is a Professor of Naturopathic Healthcare and President of Nyarkotey College of Holistic Medicine & Technology (NUCHMT)/African Naturopathic Foundation.  E-mail: collegeofholisticmedicine@gmail.com.

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