Recently on my TikTok page, I have seen many registered dietitians, healthcare professionals, and influencers discuss magnesium and its benefits. This poses the questions, what is magnesium, what are its supposed benefits, and how do I know if I need a magnesium supplement?
Magnesium is the second most abundant cation found in the body, right after potassium ("Bioavailability of magnesium food supplements: A systematic review”). It has many functions, including participating in enzymatic reactions, bone mineralization, blood clotting, hormone regulation, and calcium and potassium regulation within the body (Gropper, Sareen S, et al). Age and sex depend on how much magnesium someone needs in a day, as demonstrated in the table below (Gropper, Sareen S, et al). Magnesium deficiency is also common in women who are pregnant, so their needs are increased during this time.
Magnesium can be found naturally in food, including green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains (“Magnesium”). Foods that contain fiber generally contain magnesium. There are multiple forms of magnesium supplements on the market. Some include magnesium citrate, magnesium oxide, magnesium chloride, magnesium lactate, magnesium malate, magnesium taurate, magnesium L-threonate, magnesium glycinate, and magnesium orotate. Different supplement forms have different functions; however, in general, magnesium supplementation has had strong data in improving symptoms of migraines and depression (Kirkland, Anna E et al, Magnesium”). Also, magnesium products (such as Milk of Magnesia) are also known as laxatives to aid in constipation (“Magnesium”).
Magnesium deficiency is when there is a chronically low magnesium level in the body. It is relatively common and causes of magnesium deficiency can include gastrointestinal problems or the use of certain medications, such as diuretics ("Bioavailability of magnesium food supplements: A systematic review”). Although magnesium deficiency can sometimes be asymptomatic, symptoms of low magnesium can include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and weakness (“Magnesium”). This is common and treatable with supplements and the consumption of magnesium-rich foods.
Assessing magnesium levels can be difficult since most magnesium in the body is stored in the bones and soft tissue (“Magnesium”). Serum magnesium is also kept closely in check by the kidneys, which will work hard to excrete magnesium if levels are high (“Magnesium”). It is important to check with your primary care physician about your medical history before starting a magnesium supplement that is appropriate for you.
"Bioavailability of magnesium food supplements: A systematic review." Nutrition, vol. 89, 2021. ProQuest, https://ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/bioavailability-magnesium-food-supplements/docview/2565806649/se-2, doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nut.2021.111294.
Gropper, Sareen S, et al. “Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism”. Boston, MA. Cengage Learning. 2018.
Kirkland, Anna E et al. “The Role of Magnesium in Neurological Disorders.” Nutrients vol. 10,6 730. 6 Jun. 2018, doi:10.3390/nu10060730
“Magnesium”. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. US Department of Health and Human Services. Published June 2, 2022. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/#en3