9 Magnesium Benefits That May Help Save Your Life

Updated: Nov. 15, 2020

Antioxidants may get all the headlines, but magnesium may just be your health MVP. Learn more about the benefits of this mineral.

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Get the scoop on these magnesium benefits

“The mineral magnesium supports so many functions in our body to keep us healthy,” says Stacey Antine, MS, RDN, founder of HealthBarn USA and author of Appetite for Life. “Research suggests that magnesium supports muscle and nerve function, helps regulate blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure, and improves bone health. Many people aren’t as aware of this powerhouse because it’s overshadowed by other minerals such as calcium or vitamin D.” If you’re wondering if you have a magnesium deficiency, it’s time to learn the signs.

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Reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes

If you’re at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, this may be one of the most important potential benefits  of magnesium for you: A 2016 review of studies involving more than 600,000 men and women suggested that people with a higher dietary intake of magnesium had a 17% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those with the lowest intake. In a 2019 study in the journal Nutrients, researchers randomly assigned 42 people with type 2 diabetes to take a magnesium supplement or no supplement at all for 3 months.  The magnesium-takers appeared to have an improvement in insulin resistance and blood sugar control compared to the other study participants.

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Build stronger bones

While many people know that calcium and vitamin D are essential for building bones, few realize that magnesium is just as important. In fact, boosting calcium levels without adding in magnesium could be less effective—and could actually increase the possibility of developing heart disease, according to a 2017 study in the journal Open Heart. “In bone health, it’s important to keep a balance of 2:1, of calcium to magnesium,” Antine says. “If you are supplementing with a calcium supplement that doesn’t contain magnesium, you may be disturbing the 2:1 balance.” If you’re worried about the strength of your skeleton, get the lowdown on  magnesium benefits and bone health.

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Lower blood pressure

After reviewing 34 double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled studies involving over 2000 people with high blood pressure, researchers found that taking a magnesium supplement was associated with roughly a 2-point decline in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure (the first and second numbers in a blood pressure reading). However, if you haven’t yet developed hypertension, don’t take magnesium as a preventive—a 2009 study shows that adding the nutrient doesn’t impact blood pressure levels in people who already have a normal blood pressure.

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Prevent migraines

Could magnesium help stop your migraine in its tracks? Some research indicates that people who have chronic migraines may also be magnesium deficient. In a 2016 review of 21 published studies, people having a migraine who were treated with intravenous magnesium had a resolution of symptoms. In the same review, migraine-prone people who took magnesium supplements had a drop in the frequency and intensity of the painful headaches. There are other drug-free ways besides magnesium to relieve your aching head, including these six natural remedies for headaches worth trying.

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Improve your athletic performance

Professional athletes stock up on the kinds of foods that are rich in magnesium, and here’s why. Research done in rats suggests that magnesium plays two key roles in helping you perform better: It helps fuel your muscles by enhancing the flow of glucose (fuel) to them and helps your body get rid of lactic acid (a byproduct of exercise that can lead to post-workout stiffness). Both these processes help you stay energetic through a long workout. There’s plenty more about magnesium’s fitness benefits that you’ll want to learn before your next workout!

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Reduce stress levels

Several studies have found that magnesium may play a role in reducing stress and anxiety symptoms. That’s not surprising given that stress and magnesium levels are connected, Antine says: “Stress is a factor in reducing levels of magnesium.” If you crave chocolate when you’re feeling under pressure, there could be a good reason: Dark chocolate is rich in magnesium.

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May improve your mood

If you suffer from depression, your diet could play a role. Research has linked magnesium deficiencies with an increased likelihood of depression in people under 65—but the jury is still out whether boosting magnesium intake can help ease depressive symptoms. Magnesium may also help with anxiety and PMS.  A 2017 review of existing research found that about half of the studies showed a benefit for anxiety or PMS and half did not, so more study is needed. If your periods bring you down every month, try one of these 11 ways to ease the PMS misery.

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Reduce inflammation

Chronic inflammation has been linked to everything from an increased risk of type 2 diabetes to cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses. One small, but intriguing study looked at the role magnesium played in inflammatory markers in overweight, middle-aged women. While the women with the lowest levels of magnesium had the highest levels of inflammation, taking 250 mg of magnesium for two months didn’t seem to affect inflammation. However, taking magnesium was associated with a decrease in the percentage of body fat, a known factor in inflammation. The researchers hypothesized that higher amounts of magnesium may have had a better effect, and they recommended getting magnesium through your food intake.

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Quell ADHD symptoms

Some studies have found that children diagnosed with ADHD were more likely to have magnesium deficiencies  than children who did not, although there is no evidence yet that the deficiency actually caused the ADHD. One small study of 25 children with ADHD and 25 children without it, suggested that magnesium supplementation helped improve cognitive function in the children with ADHD who also had a magnesium deficiency. (Although they also had some minor side effects of the treatment.) Don’t miss these signs that you may need vitamins and mineral supplements.

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Make sure you’re getting enough magnesium

About half of Americans aren’t getting adequate levels of magnesium in their diet. If you’re concerned that your levels are low, consider getting tested. “Do a full assessment—dietary recall and blood work—of your diet and the nutrient intake and see if additional magnesium is needed,” Antine suggests. Following the RDA recommendation of 350 milligrams per day for healthy individuals is adequate. Antine cautions against going above and beyond the recommended daily amount, however. “There is research to suggest that magnesium can be toxic at high doses, so talk with your physician before supplementing.” You don’t need that, so be sure you know these 6 rules before you take a magnesium supplement.

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Add magnesium to your diet

“Leafy greens, spinach, nuts, whole grain cereals, beans, peas, and soybeans are good sources,” Antine says. “If these foods are part of your daily dietary intake, you should have adequate magnesium levels.” Dark chocolate can be a decadent way to access magnesium benefits—just 3 ounces can give you a third of your recommended daily allowance. Before you run out to stock up on spinach and chocolate, make sure you’ve got these nutrient powerhouses in your house right now.