What Is Magnesium And What Does It Do? (What You Should Know About Magnesium)


What is magnesium?

Magnesium is a mineral that is essential for life as we know it. It is found in the earth, the sea, in plants, and in animals, and is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body. Approximately 60% of your body’s magnesium is in your bones. The remainder is present in your muscles, fluids, soft tissues and blood. In fact, every single cell in your body needs magnesium to function.

But what exactly does magnesium do? It is necessary for many processes in the human body. It helps regulate hundreds of biochemical reactions, from the production of protein to the regulation of blood sugar. It plays a role in metabolic reactions and helps maintain required levels of minerals such as potassium, zinc, and calcium in your body. Magnesium is essential for your heart, muscles, nerves, and kidneys to function, and it also helps build bones and teeth and keep them healthy.


Low magnesium levels

Magnesium insufficiency is surprisingly common in the UK with around 6.5 million adults not getting enough. Low magnesium can lead to numerous health issues including fatigue, lethargy, depression, diabetes, a weakened immune system, heart disease, and blood pressure imbalances.]


Low magnesium treatment

If you suffer any of the above symptoms, see your GP first. If you do have low magnesium levels it’s easily corrected through diet and supplements.


Magnesium Benefits

  • Magnesium and sleep

One of magnesium’s roles in your body is to promote restorative sleep. Bearing in mind this link between magnesium and sleep, magnesium supplements may help treat sleep problems by activating the parasympathetic nervous system and promoting feelings of calm [2].]


  • Magnesium and anxiety

A neurotransmitter produced in the brain called GABA helps us relax and feel calm, both emotionally and physically. During stressful conditions or due to chemical imbalances, low GABA levels in the body can lead to stress, anxiety, and restlessness. There is some evidence that magnesium and anxiety are linked and that supplementation may have a beneficial effect in mild anxiety [3].

  • Magnesium and physical performance

Magnesium plays an essential role in the strength and integrity of bones, muscle tone and overall health and energy production in your body. If you are an athlete, a dancer, or have a physically strenuous job, it is crucial to maintain healthy levels of magnesium.

  • Magnesium for headaches

It is thought that migranes may be linked to magnesium deficiency. Magnesium and headaches are therefore also thought to be linked. Magnesium supplements are a well-tolerated and safe treatment option that have been found useful in both the prevention and treatment of various forms of headache, including migranes, tension-headaches, and cluster-headaches [4]. However, because the recommended dose for migranes exceeds passes the recommended upper limits, magnesium treatment for headaches should be taken with the guidance of a health professional.

  • Magnesium for depression

It is thought that magnesium may play a role in the treatment of depression although the jury’s still out when it comes to the research [5].

  • Magnesium for cramps

Leg cramps are common and generally harmless – but that doesn’t stop them from being disturbing. A diet low in magnesium can result in leg cramps [6]. Whether magnesium supplementation can actually help cramps is still unkown, however. Older adult cramp sufferers seem to benefit while more research is needed for the role of magnesium on cramps in pregnant women [7].

  • Magnesium in pregnancy

Magnesium could help lower the risk of complications in pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and preterm labour in pregnancy [8,9]. However, more research is needed into whether it’s better to take supplements or to simply eat more magnesium-rich foods.

  • Magnesium and menopause

During the menopause, women may suffer from magnesium deficiency which could lead to thyroid and other hormone disorders [9]. Further studies are needed to determine whether supplements could be of benefit in most women, however, there is evidence to suggest that magnesium oxide can help relieve the hot flashes suffered by menopausal women with a history of breast

Check out our fantastic article “How To Treat Menopause Symptoms Naturally” to learn more.

  • Magnesium and cardiac activity

Healthy levels of magnesium in the body help keep the heart contracting as it should. A magnesium-rich diet may lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease [1].


  • Magnesium and diabetes

Eating a magnesium-rich diet has been linked to a lower risk of diabetes, since magnesium may play a role in the metabolism of glucose [1]. More thorough research is needed to support the use of magnesium in people who have diabetes.

How much magnesium should you consume?

A healthy diet with plenty of fresh vegetables and wholegrains will provide most people with adequate levels of magnesium. Your body will absorb between 30 and 40% of all dietary magnesium [1]. NHS guidelines state that adult men need 300mg magnesium per day, while adult women need 270 mg per day [11].

Five foods containing magnesium

1. Nuts and seeds

Almonds, cashews, and peanuts are packed with magnesium. A 28g serving of almonds contains 80mg of magnesium. The same amount of cashews contains 74mg, while two tablespoons of peanut butter contain 49mg of magnesium [1]. Pumpkin seeds, pecans, sunflower seeds, and flax are also good sources.


2. Whole grains

Whole grains beat their processed counterparts hands down when it comes to nutritional value. Two slices of whole-grain bread contain 46mg of magnesium. A packet of instant oatmeal contains 36mg and half a cup of brown rice contains 42mg.

3. Dark leafy vegetables

Half a cup of cooked spinach gives you a whopping 78mg of magnesium. Other good vegetable sources of magnesium are collard greens, kale, and brocolli.


4. Dark chocolate

Chocolate-lovers will be glad to hear that dark chocolate is a good source of magnesium. A 28g serving of dark chocolate is loaded with 64mg of magnesium [13].


5. Fruits

Bananas are famous for being packed with potassium but they also contain high amounts of magnesium, with medium-sized banana weighing in at 32mg of magnesium. Other magnesium-rich fruits to add to your diet include figs, tangerines, strawberries, grapefruit, and blackberries.


Do some people have higher magnesium requirements?

Pregnancy, breastfeeding, and being highly physically active can increase magnesium requirements. People with certain health issues are more likely to be magnesium-deficient too. This includes those with gastrointestinal diseases and type 2 diabetes, and those with alcohol-dependence. Older adults can also suffer from magnesium-deficiency [1].


What Is The Best Form Of Magnesium?

The choices abound when it comes to magnesium supplements. The best magnesium supplement to take will therefore vary according to your needs [12].

· Magnesium Taurate could be one of the most effective forms of magnesium due to its superior absorption levels and ability to readily cross the blood-brain barrier. Taurine also offers additional benefits related to muscles, heart, sleep and neurotransmitter balance.

Magnesium Malate is an effective and beneficial form of magnesium. Its complex of magnesium and malic acid ensures efficient absorption, while its gentle effects on digestion make it easy to tolerate. It may help support energy levels, nerve function and bone development.

·         Magnesium citrate is one of the most common forms and is easily absorbed by your body. It is frequently used to both fight magnesium deficiency and to treat constipation.

·         Magnesium oxide is commonly found in food supplements but is poorly absorbed by your body. It is more commonly used as constipation relief than for magnesium deficiency.

·         Magnesium chloride, naturally found in seawater, is another form of magnesium that is easily absorbed by your body. It is often found in supplements, but in flake form it can be used to ease tired muscles.

Why You Should Take An Ethical Nutrition Supplement

When it comes to taking a food supplement we think you need to choose a brand which has thought about your health and the environment. We formulate our products to contain exactly what you need to complement your diet, not too much, but an effective dose in the best forms. We use magnesium taurate and citrate in our products so you know you’re getting a form well absorbed and utilised by the body.

Click here to read more about foods high in magnesium.


The Evidence

1. Magnesium fact sheet for professionals

2. Biorythms and possible central regulation of magnesium status, phototherapy, darkness therapy and chronopathological forms of magnesium depletion

3. The effects of magnesium supplementation on subjective anxiety and stress

4. Magnesium in headache

5. Can magnesium help depression – or is it just a placebo?

6. Muscle cramp

7. Magnesium for muscle cramps

8. Effect of magnesium supplement on pregnancy outcomes

9.  Magnesium in pregnancy

10. Activities of serum magnesium and thyroid hormones in pre-, peri-, and post-menopausal women

11. Ten interesting types of magnesium (and what to use each for)

12. Others: vitamins and minerals

13. 10 magnesium-rich foods that are super healthy