By Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body.
It plays several important roles in the health of your body and brain.
However, you may not be getting enough of it, even if you eat a healthy diet.
Here are 10 health benefits of magnesium that are supported by modern scientific research.
Magnesium is a mineral found in the earth, sea, plants, animals and humans.
About 60% of the magnesium in your body is found in bone, while the rest is in muscles, soft tissues and fluids, including blood (1).
In fact, every cell in your body contains it, and needs it to function.
It is actually involved in more than 600 reactions in your body, including (2):
Bottom Line: Magnesium is a mineral that supports hundreds of chemical reactions in your body. However, many people get less than they need.
Magnesium also plays a role in exercise performance.
During exercise, you may actually need 10–20% more magnesium than when you’re resting, depending on the activity (4).
Magnesium helps move blood sugar into your muscles and dispose of lactic acid, which can build up in muscles during exercise and cause pain (5).
In one study, volleyball players who took 250 mg per day experienced improvements in jumping and arm movements (9).
Bottom Line: Magnesium supplements have been shown to enhance exercise performance in several studies.
One analysis of over 8,800 people found that those under 65 years of age with the lowest intake had a 22% greater risk of depression (14).
Bottom Line: People with depression may be deficient in magnesium. Supplementing with it can reduce symptoms of depression in some people.
Magnesium also has beneficial effects against type 2 diabetes.
One study followed more than 4,000 people for 20 years. It found that those with the highest intake were 47% less likely to become diabetic (21).
However, this may depend on how much you are getting from food. In a different study, supplements did not improve blood sugar or insulin levels in people who weren’t deficient (23).
Bottom Line: People who get the most magnesium have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and supplements have been shown to lower blood sugar in some people.
In one study, people who took 450 mg per day experienced a significant decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure (27).
However, these benefits may only occur in people who have high blood pressure.
Another study found that magnesium lowered blood pressure for people with high blood pressure, but had no effect on those with normal levels (28).
Bottom Line: Magnesium helps lower blood pressure when it is elevated, but does not seem to lower blood pressure for those with normal levels.
In one study, children with the lowest blood magnesium levels were found to have the highest levels of the inflammatory marker CRP.
They also had higher blood sugar, insulin and triglyceride levels (32).
Bottom Line: Magnesium has been shown to help fight inflammation. It reduces the inflammatory marker CRP and provides several other benefits.
Migraine headaches are painful and debilitating. Nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and noise often occur.
Some researchers believe that people who suffer from migraines are more likely than others to be magnesium deficient (36).
In one study, supplementing with one gram provided relief from a migraine more quickly and effectively than a common medication (39).
Bottom Line: People who suffer from migraines may have low magnesium levels, and some studies have shown that supplementing can provide relief from migraines.
Insulin resistance is one of the leading causes of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
It’s characterized by an impaired ability of muscle and liver cells to properly absorb sugar from the bloodstream.
Magnesium plays a crucial role in this process, and many people with metabolic syndrome are deficient (3).
One study found that supplementing reduced insulin resistance and blood sugar levels, even in people with normal blood levels (45).
Bottom Line: Magnesium supplements may improve insulin resistance in people with metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is one of the most common disorders among women of child-bearing age.
Bottom Line: Magnesium supplements have been shown to improve symptoms that occur in women with premenstrual syndrome.
Magnesium is absolutely essential for good health. The recommended daily intake is 400–420 mg per day for men, and 310–320 mg per day for women.
You can get it from both food and supplements.
The following foods are good to excellent sources of magnesium:
For more, here’s an article with 10 super healthy magnesium-rich foods.
If you have a medical condition, then check with your doctor before taking a supplement.
Although magnesium supplements are generally well-tolerated, they may not be safe for people who take certain diuretics, heart medications or antibiotics.
Bottom Line: Getting enough magnesium is important. Many foods contain it, and there are also many high-quality supplements available.
Getting enough magnesium is essential for maintaining good health.
Be sure to eat plenty of magnesium-rich foods, or take a supplement if you’re unable to get enough from your diet alone.
Without enough of this important mineral, your body simply can’t function optimally.