Essential for hundreds of chemical reactions that occur in the body every second, the Mineral magnesium has received surprisingly little attention over the years. Recent findings, however, suggest that it also has important health-promoting benefits, from an ability to prevent heart disease to a role in treating such chronic conditions as fibromylagia and diabetes.
Unfortunately, most people don't get enough magnesium in their daily diets, mainly because they eat great quantities of processed foods, which provide scant amounts of this important mineral. The effects of stress, intense physical activity, or the use of certain medications can also cause magnesium deficiency. Some diseases, such as diabetes and alcoholism, can cause low magnesium levels too.
Supplements are one way to ensure that you get enough magnesium. You'll find several forms available: magnesium citrate, magnesium aspartate, magnesium carbonate, magnesium gluconate, magnesium oxide, and magnesium sulfate.
Magnesium plays a variety of roles in the body. Not only is it critical for energy production and proper nerve function, it also promotes muscle relaxation and helps the body produce and use insulin. Like calcium, another mineral it's commonly paired with in supplement products, magnesium is involved in the formation of bones and teeth, the clotting of blood, and the regulation of heart rhythm. Magnesium, sometimes taken in combination with calcium, is often used to treat such ailments as back pain, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety and panic, muscle cramps, and migraine headache.
Specifically, magnesium may help to:
Prevent and treat heart disease, including Angina and irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).Without adequate levels of magnesium, your heart will suffer; The mineral helps coordinate the activity of the heart muscle as well as the functioning of the nerves that initiate the heartbeat. It also helps keep coronary arteries from spasming, an action that can cause the intense chest pain known as angina. If you have a deficiency of magnesium--often true of those with angina and abnormal heart rhythms--supplements may help. (1, 2) One study of more than 230 people with frequent arrhythmias showed the likelihood of these abnormal rhythms dropped significantly within three weeks after the participants increased the amount of magnesium and potassium in their diets. Several studies have shown administering magnesium intravenously seems to improve arrhythmias. (3-7) In addition, when given by injection in a hospital setting, magnesium has been found to aid recovery from a heart attack by stabilizing heart rhythm, inhibiting blood clots, and expanding coronary arteries. (8) Some studies even indicate that drinking "hard" water, which is high in magnesium, lowers the risk of death from heart attack. (9, 10)
Control high blood pressure.Even a slight decline in blood pressure can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Magnesium plays a part in reducing elevated blood pressure by relaxing the muscles that control blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more freely. Its beneficial effect on blood pressure is further enhanced because of its ability to help equalize the levels of potassium and sodium in the blood. A meta-analysis of 14 clinical trials that tested the effects of magnesium supplementation on Hypertension showed taking 600-1,000 mg magnesium daily can modestly reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure. (11) Magnesium is typically taken along with potassium to treat high blood pressure.
Limit complications of congestive heart failure.Because magnesium can help lower blood pressure and inhibit dangerous arrhythmias, two common complications in those with congestive heart failure, a weakened heart may benefit from extra doses of this mineral. (8).
Reduce risk of diabetes and prevent diabetes complications.A recent prospective study and meta-analysis of the associations between fiber and magnesium intake and risk of non-insulin-dependent (type 2) diabetes found higher intakes of cereal fiber and magnesium may decrease the risk of diabetes. (12) Additional research also suggests that magnesium supplementation may help treat Insulin resistance and help prevent developing diabetes. (13, 14) Preliminary findings also indicate that having sufficient amounts of magnesium may protect against type 2 diabetes and its complications, such as eye disease. (15-17) More research on this potentially important role for magnesium in diabetes prevention is needed, however.
Reduce the symptoms of fibromyalgia.Magnesium's role in relaxing contracted or stiff muscles makes it helpful for relieving the aching associated with fibromyalgia, a chronic rheumatic disorder. Taking the mineral with malic acid is often recommended for this purpose because the acid is believed to enhance the absorption and fatigue-fighting actions of magnesium. Fibromylagia sufferers involved in a study on the effectiveness of high doses of magnesium and malic acid reported reduced pain and muscle tenderness after two months on the treatment regimen. (18) Interestingly, people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome--another disorder that can cause muscle aches and fatigue--may similarly benefit from magnesium, according to a Placebo controlled study in which they reported an improvement in well-being after being injected with the mineral. (19) (Whether the same benefits are available to those who take the mineral by mouth has yet to be determined.)
Ease muscle cramps, aches and pains.It has been shown that for proper muscle contraction and relaxation, magnesium and calcium need to be present in balanced amounts. A supplement containing these minerals, taken regularly, may lessen the pain from sports injuries or excessive physical activity. Supplements with a ratio of two parts calcium to one part magnesium are recommended for otherwise healthy individuals treating muscle cramps and aches. Increasing magnesium levels can even improve a workout: A study of women over age 50 found that when magnesium levels were low, the participants had higher heart rates and needed more oxygen during their workouts.
Protect against migraines.Many migraine sufferers are found to have low magnesium levels in their systems. To maintain healthy blood flow to brain vessels--and thus possibly protect against debilitating migraine headaches--it's smart to correct any magnesium deficiency. Some studies indicate taking high-dose magnesium citrate or trimagnesium dicitrate may reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. (20, 21) In a study of 81 patients who received 600 mg trimagnesium dicitrate or placebo daily for 12 weeks, those taking magnesium supplementation reported a 41 percent reduction in frequency of migraines and significant improvement in the severity of migraines. (20).
Relieve PMS (premenstrual syndrome) discomforts.Because deficiencies in magnesium have been found in many women suffering from PMS, taking magnesium supplements may help this problem. Menstrual cramping, which is caused by hormonelike substances called Prostaglandins made by the endometrial cells, may subside with supplemental doses of magnesium and calcium. Both minerals help to lower the production of prostaglandins. Magnesium's muscle-relaxing properties probably have a beneficial effect on cramping of the uterine muscle as well. Taking magnesium also seems to improve symptoms such as mood changes and fluid retention. (22-24).
Minimize the severity of asthma attacks.By helping the bronchial muscles to relax and encouraging the lung's airways to expand, magnesium may ease an asthmatic's breathing problems. (25) Anyone suffering from severe or recurrent asthma attacks should consider using magnesium supplements along with their usual anti-inflammatory medications. A single dose of magnesium may improve pulmonary function in asthma exacerbation. (26, 27) When taken for preventive purposes in oral form, the mineral's effects are gradual; it may take up to six weeks for any benefit to become apparent. (Studies have shown that intravenous injections of magnesium--but not necessarily oral doses--can stop some severe asthma attacks.)
Prevent osteoporosis.Magnesium helps the body convert Vitamin D--which the body needs to take advantage of bone-strengthening calcium--into a form that it can use efficiently. By contributing to increased bone density, the mineral may help stall the onset of the debilitating, bone-thinning disease known as osteoporosis, particularly in postmenopausal women (28).
Reduce emotional irritability in chronic depression, anxiety, and panic disorder.Magnesium and vitamin B6 are needed for the body to produce Serotonin, an important mood-enhancing brain chemical. When depression or a panic disorder is persistent--and especially when the usual drugs have limited effect--supplementing with magnesium and vitamin B 6 may provide significant relief. It may take six weeks or more of treatment for effects to be felt. Taking calcium along with magnesium may also lessen an overreaction to stress that some research has linked to anxiety and panic attacks. (29, 30)
Note: Magnesium has also been found to be useful for a number of other disorders. For information on these additional ailments, see our Dosage Recommendations Chart for Magnesium.
The government recently established new goals for the Recommended Daily Intake of magnesium for men and women. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is now just one component of the new calculations, but is still the figure most important in trying to establish how much you need. The new RDAs are as follows for magnesium:
--For men ages 19 to 30: 400 mg a day.
--For women ages 19 to 30: 310 mg a day.
--For men ages 31 to 50: 420 mg a day.
--For women ages 31 to 50: 320 mg a day.
--For men ages 51 to 70: 420 mg a day.
--For women ages 51 to 70: 320 mg a day.
For more information on RDAs and other dietary guidelines, see Government Dietary Guidelines.
Special tip: When selecting a magnesium product, try magnesium citrate first; it's the form that the body absorbs best. Magnesium oxide is often the cheapest form available, but it's also the most poorly absorbed.
For heart disease prevention: Take 400 mg of magnesium a day.
For angina prevention: Take 200 mg twice a day.
For arrythmias, congestive heart failure, and asthma: Take 400 mg twice a day.
Be sure to check out our Dosage Recommendations Chart for Magnesium, which lists therapeutic dosages for specific ailments at a glance.
To enhance absorption, take magnesium supplements with food. If you happen to consume a high-fiber diet and also don't get much magnesium, however, take the supplements between meals--and not with soda or wheat bran. These contain substances (phosphoric acid and phytates, respectively) that can interfere with the absorption of the magnesium.
If diarrhea develops with magnesium supplements, either reduce the dose or take magnesium in the form of magnesium gluconate or magnesium sulfate. Both of these forms are easy to digest.
When calculating your daily dose, keep in mind that some prescription and over-the-counter medicines--certain antacid products, for example--contain magnesium as well.
When taking magnesium to control asthma, fibromyalgia, heart disease, or other chronic conditions in particular, be patient. It may take six weeks or more to absorb adequate amounts of magnesium to benefit stressed body parts and notice a difference in your condition.
Muscle cramps, aches, and pains related to sports injuries are best treated with a regimen that supplies two parts calcium to one part magnesium.
When taking magnesium to protect against migraines, first correct any magnesium deficiency and then take a 2-to-1 calcium-magnesium combination to maintain a healthy balance of these two minerals and protect against future headaches.
To most effectively relieve PMS pain, it's usually a good idea to take magnesium along with vitamin B6.
Magnesium and calcium have competing effects on many of the body's chemical pathways. For this reason, combination magnesium and calcium products--or multimineral supplements--are often recommended for maintaining a proper balance of these minerals.
Magnesium can reduce the effectiveness of tetracycline antibiotics. Take magnesium supplements one to three hours before or after using this type of medication.
If you have any type of kidney or heart disease, consult your doctor before taking magnesium.
1. Lasserre B, Spoerri M, Moullet V, et al. Should magnesium therapy be considered for the treatment of coronary heart disease? II. Epidemiological evidence in outpatients with and without coronary heart disease. Magnes Res. 1994;7:145-53.
2.Teragawa H, Kato M, Yamagata T, et al. The preventive effect of magnesium on coronary spasm in patients with vasospastic angina. Chest. 2000;118:1690-5.
3.Ceremuzynski L, Gebalska J, Wolk R, Mkowska E. Hypomagnesemia in heart failure with ventricular arrhythmias. Beneficial effects of magnesium supplementation. J Intern Med. 2000;247:78-86.
4.Christiansen EH, Frost L, Andreasen F, et al. Dose-related cardiac electrophysiological effects of intravenous magnesium. A double-blind placebo-controlled dose-response study in patients with paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia. Europace. 2000;2:320-6.
5.McCord JK, Borzak S, Davis T, Gheorghiade M. Usefulness of intravevnous magnesium for multifocal atrial tachycardia in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Am J Cardiol. 1998;81:91-3.
6.Iseri LT, Fairshter RD, Hardemann JL, Brodsky MA. Magnesium and potassium therapy in multifocal atrial tachycardia. Am Heart J. 1985;110:789-94.
7.Davey MJ, Teubner D. A randomized controlled trial of magnesium sulfate, in addition to usual care, for rate control in atrial fibrillation. Ann Emerg Med. 2005;45:347-53.
8.Douban S, Brodsky MA, Whang DD, Whang R. Significance of magnesium in congestive heart failure. Am Heart J. 1996;132:664-71.
9.Chipperfield B, Chipperfield JR, Behr G, Burton P. Magnesium and potassium content of normal heart muscle in areas of hard and soft water. Lancet. 1976. Jan 17;1(7951):121-2.
10. Singh RB, Singh VP, Cameron EA. Magnesium in atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and sudden death. Acta Cardiol. 1981;36(6):411-29.
11.Jee SH, Miller ER, Guallar E, et al. The effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Am J Hypertens. 2002. Aug;15(8):691-6.
12.SchulzeMB, Schulz M, Heidemann C, et al. Fiber and magnesium intake and incidence of type 2 diabetes: a prospective study and meta-analysis. Arch Intern Med. 2007 May 14;167(9):956-65.
13.Sjogren A, Floren CH, Nilsson A. Magnesium, potassium and zinc deficiency in subjects with type II diabetes mellitus. Acta Med Scand. 1988;224:461-465.
14.Rodriguez-Moran M, Guerrero-Romero F. Oral Magnesium Supplementation Improves Insulin Sensitivity and Metabolic Control in Type 2 Diabetic Subjects: A randomized double-blind controlled trial. Diabetes Care. 2003;26:1147-1152.
15.Barbagallo M, Dominguez LJ, Galioto A, et al. Role of magnesium in insulin action, diabetes and cardio-metabolic syndrome X. Mol Aspects Med. 2003;24:39-52.
16.Lima Mde L, Cruz T, Pousada JC, et al. The effect of magnesium supplementation in increasing doses on the control of type II diabetes. Diabetes Care. 1998;21:682-686.
17. Schmidt LE, Arfken CL, Heins JM. Evaluation of nutrient intake in subjects with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. J Am Diet Assoc. 1994;94:773-4.
18.Russell IJ, Michalek JE, Flechas JD, Abraham GE. Treatment of fibromyalgia syndrome with Super Malic: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover pilot study. J Rheumatol. 1995 May;22(5):953-8.
19.Cox IM, Campbell MJ, Dowson D. Red blood cell magnesium and chronic fatigue syndrome. Lancet. 1991 Mar 30;337(8744):757-60.
20.Pelkert A, Wilimzig C, Kohne-Volland R. Prophylaxis of migraine with oral magnesium: results from a prospective, multi-center, placebo-controlled and double-blind randomized study. Cephalalgia. 1996;16:257-63.
21.Demirkaya S, Dora B, Topcuoglu MA, et al. A comparative study of magnesium, flunarizine and amitriptyline in the prophylaxis of migraine. J Headache Pain. 2000;1:179-86.
23.Walker AF, De Souza MC, Vickers MF, et al. Magnesium supplementation alleviates premenstrual symptoms of fluid retention. J Womens Health. 1998;7:1157-65.
24.Bendich A. The potential for dietary supplements to reduce premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms. J Am Coll Nutrition. 2000;19:3-12.
25.Rylander R, Dahlberg C, Rubenowitz E. Magnesium supplementation decreases airway responsiveness among hyperactive subjects. Magnesium-Bulletin. 1997;19:4-6.
26. Schenk P, Vonbank K, Schnack B, et al. Intravenous magnesium sulfate for bronchial hyperreactivity: a randomized, controlled, double-blind study. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2001;69:365-71.
27.Ciarallo L, Brousseau D, Reinert S. Higher-dose intravenous magnesium therapy for children with moderate to severe acute asthma. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2000;154:979-83.
28.Stendig-Lindberg G, Tepper R, Leichter I. Trabecular bone density in a two year controlled trial of peroral magnesium in osteoporosis. Magnes Res. 1993;6:155-63.
29.Eby GA, Eby KL. Rapid recovery from major depression using magnesium treatment. Med Hypotheses. 2006;67(2):362-70. Epub 2006 Mar 20.
30. Hanus M, Lafon J, Mathieu M. Double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of a fixed combination containing two plant extracts (Crataegus oxyacantha and Eschscholtzia californica) and magnesium in mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders. Curr med Res Opin. 2004;20:63-71.
31. Rylander R, Dahlberg C, Rubenowitz E. Magnesium supplementation decreases airway responsiveness among hyperactive subjects. Magnesium-Bulletin. 1997;19:4-6. 32. Schenk P, Vonbank K, Schnack B, et al. Intravenous magnesium sulfate for bronchial hyperreactivity: a randomized, controlled, double-blind study. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2001;69:365-71. 33. Skorodin MS, Tenholder MF, Yetter B, et al. Magnesium sulfate in exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Arch Intern Med. 1995 Mar 13;155(5):496-500. 34. Abreu González J, Hernández Garcia C, Abreu González P, et al. [Effect of intravenous magnesium sulfate on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbations requiring hospitalization: a randomized placebo-controlled trial]. Arch Bronconeumol. 2006 Aug;42(8):384-7. 34. do Amaral AF, Rodrigues-Júnior AL, Terra Filho J, et al. Effects of acute magnesium loading on pulmonary function of stable COPD patients. Med Sci Monit. 2008 Oct;14(10):CR524-9.
35. Ceremuzynski L, Gebalska J, Wolk R, Mkowska E. Hypomagnesemia in heart failure with ventricular arrhythmias. Beneficial effects of magnesium supplementation. J Intern Med. 2000;247:78-86.
36. Christiansen EH, Frost L, Andreasen F, et al. Dose-related cardiac electrophysiological effects of intravenous magnesium. A double-blind placebo-controlled dose-response study in patients with paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia. Europace. 2000;2:320-6.
37. McCord JK, Borzak S, Davis T, Gheorghiade M. Usefulness of intravevnous magnesium for multifocal atrial tachycardia in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Am J Cardiol. 1998;81:91-3.
38. Iseri LT, Fairshter RD, Hardemann JL, Brodsky MA. Magnesium and potassium therapy in multifocal atrial tachycardia. Am Heart J. 1985;110:789-94.
39. Davey MJ, Teubner D. A randomized controlled trial of magnesium sulfate, in addition to usual care, for rate control in atrial fibrillation. Ann Emerg Med. 2005;45:347-53.
Evidence Based Rating Scale
The Evidence Based Rating Scale is a tool that helps consumers translate the findings of medical research studies with what our clinical advisors have found to be efficacious in their personal practice. This tool is meant to simplify which supplements and therapies demonstrate promise in the treatment of certain conditions. This scale does not take into account any possible interactions with any medication/ condition/ or therapy which you may be currently undertaking. It is therefore advisable to ask your doctor before starting any new treatment regimen.
Multiple high-quality studies have show efficacy
Multiple high-quality studies with large sample sizes have consistently shown efficacy.
Clinically accepted as effective treatment. Several trials have shown benefit in reducing severity of attacks over time.
Conflicting evidence exist. More studies are needed to confirm or refute efficacy. (31-34)
Preliminary evidence indicates efficacy in preventing complications such as eye disease. Results from most trials demonstrate ineffectiveness in controlling blood glucose. However, additional trials have shown it may be of benefit in treating insulin resistance.
Arrhythmia: Multiple high-quality studies with large sample sizes have consistently shown efficacy for arrhythmia. Supplementation may also decrease bone loss. Dosage: 400-800 mg per day (35-39)
One study indicates some relief of pain. More research is needed in larger trials to confirm/refute these early results.
High blood pressure
A meta-analysis indicates efficacy, especially when taken with potassium. But some studies report mixed results. More research is necessary to elucidate benefit compared to other first line treatments.
Several high-quality trials support efficacy.
Preliminary evidence suggests supplementation in addition to calcium might decrease bone loss in postmenopausal patients. More research is needed to confirm or refute these initial findings.
Several studies have shown efficacy in preventing and lowering blood pressure.
Disclaimer: All material provided in the WholeHealthMD website is provided for educational purposes only. Consult your physician regarding the applicability of any information provided in the WholeHealthMD website to your symptoms or medical condition.