Health & Fitness

Do you have enough magnesium?

Magnesium plays an important role in over 300 enzyme reactions and is an essential mineral in the human body. As well as helping with nerve and muscle function, magnesium helps to regulate our blood pressure and support the immune system.

Now, there are around 25 grams of magnesium in an adult body and between 50-60% of it is stored within the skeletal system. The rest can be located in soft tissue, muscle and bodily fluids. Many people in the US don’t get enough magnesium into their diets; although deficiency symptoms are unlikely in people that are otherwise healthy.

Health professionals state that a magnesium deficiency is linked to a range of other health complications so you should ensure you’re meeting the daily recommended amount. Cashew nuts, almonds and spinach are some of the foods high in magnesium. If you’re unable to get enough magnesium just through your diet, then your doctor may recommend taking supplements.

Here we take a closer look at the benefits and function of magnesium, what it does in the body and the possible health risks when there is too little or too much.

Magnesium: the benefits

Magnesium is one of the seven essential macrominerals; these are minerals that we need to consume quite large amounts of, at least 100mg (milligrams) per day. Even though they’re needed in smaller amounts, microminerals such as iron and zinc are also vital.

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Our bodies need magnesium as it is essential for several bodily functions. When you’re getting enough magnesium, you’re reducing the risk of developing the below conditions:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Migraines

Let’s discuss the function of magnesium and how it affects our health.

1. Bone health

Whilst most research will point to calcium playing the largest role in bone health, magnesium is also vital in the formation of healthy bones.

A study from 2013 found a link between sufficient magnesium intake with higher bone density and improved bone crystal formation; as well as a lower risk of osteoporosis in women after menopause.

So, both directly and indirectly, magnesium may improve bone health as it assists in the regulation of calcium and vitamin D levels. Calcium and vitamin D are the two most vital nutrients for bone health.

2. Diabetes

A World Journal of Diabetes review from 2015  has reported that in most cases people with diabetes also have low magnesium and that this may play a part in diabetes management. There has also been research to suggest that those with high magnesium diets have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. This may be due to the fact that magnesium plays an important role in insulin metabolism and controlling glucose.

It’s possible that magnesium deficiency may worsen insulin resistance, this is also a condition that can often develop before type 2 diabetes. However, insulin resistance may also cause low magnesium levels.

3. Heart health

Our bodies need magnesium to maintain the health of muscles, including the all-important heart. Studies have found that magnesium plays an important role in cardiovascular health.

There have been reports that a magnesium deficiency can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular problems; this is likely due to its roles on a cellular level. Studies have observed that a magnesium deficiency is typically common in people with congestive heart failure and can worsen the outcome.

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Those who receive magnesium soon after a heart attack lowers their risk of mortality. Not only this, but doctors sometimes use magnesium during treatment for congestive heart failure to reduce the risk of abnormal heart rhythm or arrhythmia. Studies have shown that increasing your magnesium intake can also reduce the risk of having a stroke; for every 100mg, the risk falls by 2%.

Research has suggested that magnesium plays a part in hypertension. Although, there has been reported that taking magnesium supplements only reduces your blood pressure slightly.

4. Migraines

A magnesium deficiency can affect neurotransmitters and restrict blood vessel constriction. These are both elements that doctors have linked to migraines, meaning that magnesium therapy may help relieve and prevent these headaches. Those who experience migraines may have lower levels of magnesium in their body tissues and blood in comparison to others. It’s also possible that the magnesium levels in a person’s brain may be low during a migraine.

The American Migraine Foundation reported that people often take doses of between 400-500mg a day for migraine prevention. To be effective, it is likely to be a high amount, but this should be something only done under the guidance of your doctor.

5. Anxiety

Magnesium levels can play a part in mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.

According to research from a study in 2017, low magnesium levels may have an association with higher levels of anxiety. This is somewhat due to the activity within the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis; these are a set of three glands that control our reaction to stress.

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Although, it needs to be pointed out that the quality of this evidence isn’t great. In order for us to truly know how effective magnesium supplements may be for anxiety, further and better quality research needs to take place.

Recommended daily magnesium intake

For us guys, we need more magnesium than women, the daily recommended amounts for our age are:

  • Age 1-3: 80mg
  • Age 4-8: 130mg
  • Age 9-13: 240mg
  • Age 14-18: 410mg
  • Age 19-30: 400mg
  • Age 31-50: 420mg
  • From age 51+ 420mg

Sources of magnesium

There are plenty of foods out that contain high levels of magnesium; it’s also added to foods by manufacturers. You can find it in foods such as:

  • Whole grains
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Dark green vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Cereals

Here are some of the best sources of magnesium you could add in to your diet:

  • 1oz almonds – 80mg per serving
  • ½ cup spinach – 78mg per serving
  • 1 oz roasted cashews – 74mg per servings
  • 1 cup soy milk – 61mg per serving
  • ½ cup cooked black beans – 60mg per serving
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter – 49mg per serving
  • ½ cup cooked brown rice – 42mg per serving
  • 1 medium banana – 32mg per serving

Whole grain bread products and cereals are best as wheat products lose magnesium when the wheat is refined.


Whilst there are plenty of people out there not getting the recommended intake of magnesium, it’s rare to experience symptoms in people that are otherwise healthy. A magnesium deficiency is know as hypomagnesemia. A magnesium deficiency can be caused by:

  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
  • Side effects of other medications
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Diabetes

Symptoms of magnesium deficiency are:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • A loss of appetite

If this is a more advanced case, you may also experience:

  • Heart rhythm changes
  • Personality changes
  • Seizures
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Muscle cramps

Can you have too much magnesium?

Simply, yes you can. An overdose of magnesium through diet is highly unlikely as any excess would be eliminated from the body through urine. However, taking too high an amount of magnesium supplements can lead to gastrointestinal problems such as cramping, nausea and diarrhea. Those with a kidney disorder shouldn’t take any magnesium supplements unless advised to by their doctor. If for some reason anyone were to take a very large dose, this can cause:

  • Kidney problems
  • Low blood pressure
  • Urine retention
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Loss of central nervous system
  • Cardiac arrest
  • In worst cases, possible death

The bottom line

So, we now understand that getting the right amount of magnesium in our diet is highly important in reducing the risk of developing a deficiency or another health condition.

If you’re not able to get your daily recommended amount of magnesium from your diet, then perhaps consult your doctor regarding some supplements and what you can do.

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