Did you know that magnesium is involved in over 300 chemical reactions in the body!
It has so many different roles in the body that include regulating muscle, brain and nerve health, maintaining blood sugar and blood pressure levels, maintaining bone health, and assisting in the production of proteins and DNA!
Despite magnesium’s importance in the body, it’s estimated that about a third of Australians do not get enough magnesium! (1)
Why is magnesium important?
Magnesium has many important functions in the body that include:
- Muscle health: competes with calcium to help contract and relax muscles
- Heart health: can help to dilate blood vessels
- Energy production: helps convert food into energy
- Brain and nerve health: helps regulate neurotransmitters, that play a role in mood and sleep.
- Bone Health: plays a structural role in bone health
- Gene maintenance: helps to repair DNA
- Antioxidant support: helps synthesise an important antioxidant called glutathione
What are the health benefits of magnesium?
Magnesium may have many health benefits that include:
1. Exercise performance and reduced fatigue
When you’re exercising you use 10-20% more magnesium. Furthermore, magnesium helps to move sugar in the blood into your muscles and remove lactate (a waste product from muscles that can cause fatigue) (2)
2. Depression & Anxiety
Magnesium helps to support our mood and brain function through regulating neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain). Studies have demonstrated that people who are low in magnesium are at an increased risk of depression and anxiety (6, 7).
3. Regulate blood sugar
Magnesium has a role in blood sugar regulation, furthermore it can help to reduce insulin resistance (when the body doesn’t use insulin well) that can lead to diabetes and other complications. People who are low in magnesium are more at risk of developing diabetes (11).
4. Lower blood pressure
Magnesium may be able to lower blood pressure. Magnesium and potassium can help reduce sodium and calcium in cells that has a blood pressure lowering effect (15).
Multiple studies have shown that magnesium supplements can help to lower blood pressure. One study found a significant decrease in blood pressure when supplementing with 450mg of magnesium (16, 17, 18, 19).
5. Anti-inflammatory benefits
Magnesium may even have anti-inflammatory benefits! Studies have found that low magnesium intake in linked to chronic inflammation that is associated with ageing, obesity and chronic disease (20).
Magnesium may even help with migraines. There is evidence to suggest that migraine sufferers are more likely to be magnesium deficient (24).
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a disorder that can cause pain before and during a woman’s menstrual cycle. Other symptoms of PMS include bloating, cramps, fatigue and irritability. Magnesium may be able to reduce symptoms of PMS by improving mood and reducing bloating (27, 28).
8. Pain management
Magnesium may even be able to assist in pain management. The reason why is that magnesium can exert an analgesic (pain relief) effect by blocking NMDA receptors, located in the brain and spinal cord that have a role in pain signalling (29).
9. Muscle cramps
Calcium helps to contract your muscles. Magnesium is a natural calcium blocker; this mechanism can help your muscles relax after contracting. When your magnesium levels are low your body may not have enough magnesium to compete with calcium in the muscles that can cause cramping or spasms (30).
One study found that magnesium supplementation helped to manage leg cramps in pregnant women (31).
Magnesium helps to regulate melatonin, a hormone involved in your sleep-wake cycle. Magnesium also helps to regulate gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain that are known as a ‘calming’ neurotransmitter that can help to induce a relaxed state that is beneficial for sleep.
Studies have confirmed magnesium’s role in improving sleep and reducing insomnia through magnesium supplementation (32).
What foods contain magnesium?
The best sources of magnesium include green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole-grains, and of course hemp seeds!
How much magnesium do we need a day?
The recommended daily intakes (RDI) of magnesium differ based on age and gender.
What are signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency?
Signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency include hyperexcitability, fatigue, confusion, insomnia, irritability, poor memory, learning difficulties, mood changes, muscle cramps/spasms, headaches, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, weakness and insomnia.
There are many risk factors for magnesium that include poor diet, alcohol abuse, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, diabetes, hormone and metabolic disorders. As we age it’s harder to absorb magnesium in the gut and this can also be a concern for older adults (33, 34).
How do I get tested for magnesium deficiency?
About 99% of total body magnesium is located in bone, muscles and non-muscular soft tissue and only 1% of total body magnesium is found in the blood (35).
Testing for magnesium deficiency is difficult because most of our magnesium is stored inside our cells or bones. If you experience any of the symptoms above it’s best to discuss further with your health professional.
If you have any questions or need support with your health, feel free to email our head nutritionist Ben at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article does not constitute medical advice and does not take into consideration your personal circumstances. Please see your medical professional before implementing the above.