Magnesium Supplement – Health Benefits, Side Effects and Dietary Sources


Magnesium is a mineral that plays an important role in many functions, viz – blood pressure regulation, proper muscle and nerve function, and blood sugar control. Despite its importance, many people are deficient in magnesium, which can lead to a variety of health problems. In this article, we will discuss the health benefits of magnesium, the risks of deficiency, recommended dosage, dietary sources and the best ways to supplement with magnesium.

Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body, and it is essential for maintaining healthy bones, teeth, and muscles. Adequate magnesium intake has been linked to a reduced risk of osteoporosis, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes. It also plays a crucial role in the functioning of the nervous system and may help alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety, and insomnia.

Magnesium deficiency is a common problem, and it can have a wide range of negative effects on the body. Magnesium deficiency can cause fatigue, muscle weakness, cramps, and muscle twitching. It can also lead to more serious health problems such as osteoporosis, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes.

Magnesium deficiency is often caused by a diet that is low in magnesium-rich foods such as leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Certain medical conditions such as Crohn’s disease and celiac disease can also make it difficult for the body to absorb magnesium. The use of certain medications, such as diuretics and proton pump inhibitors (for acidity and GERD), can also contribute to magnesium deficiency.

Food Sources of Magnesium

Magnesium is found in the following foods:

  • Leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale
  • Nuts and seeds. Pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are rich in magnesium. Almonds are yet another source of Mg
  • Legumes, such as black beans, kidney beans, and lentils
  • Whole grains, such as quinoa, brown rice, and oats
  • Fish, such as salmon and halibut
  • Dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)

It’s worth noting that the magnesium content of foods can vary depending on factors such as growing conditions and processing methods, so it’s important to eat a varied diet to ensure adequate intake of this mineral. Additionally, magnesium can also be obtained via dietary supplements.

Magnesium Food Sources

Magnesium Supplementation

To ensure adequate magnesium intake, it is important to eat a diet that includes magnesium-rich foods. However, for those who are deficient, supplementation may be necessary.

There are several different forms of magnesium supplements available, each with its own unique characteristics:

  • Magnesium oxide: This is one of the most common forms of magnesium supplements, and is often used to help with constipation because it has a laxative effect. It is also relatively inexpensive. However, it is not as well absorbed as other forms of magnesium.
  • Magnesium citrate: Similar to magnesium oxide, magnesium citrate is also used to relieve constipation. It is more easily absorbed than magnesium oxide and is also relatively inexpensive.
  • Magnesium glycinate: This form of magnesium is well absorbed and is also less likely to cause diarrhea. It is also less likely to interact with medications. Magnesium glycinate may help in reducing stress, anxiety, and insomnia.
  • Magnesium chloride: Magnesium chloride is well absorbed and can be used to improve bone density. It is also used for skin conditions such as eczema.
  • Magnesium L-threonate: This form of magnesium is well absorbed in our body. It is also more efficient in crossing the blood-brain barrier, and hence may be beneficial for neurological conditions such as migraines and depression.
  • Magnesium Malate: Magnesium malate is well absorbed and can be used for supporting energy production and muscle function.

The most bioavailable forms of magnesium are magnesium citrate, magnesium glycinate, and magnesium threonate. Also, it’s important to note that not all forms of magnesium are suitable for everyone and some forms may interact with certain medications.

Magnesium Supplement – Recommended intake

How much magnesium should you take? The recommended daily intake of magnesium may vary based on gender and age. . For adult men, the recommended daily intake is 400-420 mg/day, while for adult women it is 310-320 mg/day. For pregnant and breastfeeding women, the recommended intake is increased to 350-360 mg/day and 310-320 mg/day, respectively. It is important to note that these are just general guidelines, and individual needs may vary depending on factors such as overall health, diet, and medications. It’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized recommendations. Learn more about recommended intake here – Magnesium Factsheet

Side effects of Magnesium supplement

Magnesium supplementation is generally safe, but as with any supplement, there can be potential side effects. Some common side effects of magnesium supplements include:

  • Diarrhea: High doses of magnesium can have a laxative effect, which can lead to diarrhea.
  • Stomach upset: Some people may experience stomach upset, nausea, or vomiting when taking magnesium supplements.
  • Tummy cramps: Magnesium supplements can cause abdominal cramping or bloating.
  • Interaction with Medications: Magnesium supplements can interact with certain medications, such as antibiotics and blood pressure medications. It is always best to consult with a healthcare professional before starting a magnesium supplement to determine the best form and dosage for you. Read more about the possible interaction with medicines here –
  • Hypermagnesemia: Hypermagnesemia is a rare condition in which there’s too much magnesium in the body. This may lead to vomiting, and muscle weakness. Hypermagnesemia is seen in people with kidney problems or those consuming high doses of magnesium supplements for a longer period of time.

Also Read: Supplement Interaction with Medicines

Blood test to check Magnesium levels

A blood test is one of the ways to check for magnesium deficiency. The test measures the level of magnesium in the blood and is known as the serum magnesium test. A normal range for magnesium in the blood is generally considered to be 1.8-2.2 mg/dL. A level below 1.8 mg/dL is considered to be low and may indicate a deficiency.

It’s important to note that while a serum magnesium test can indicate if someone has a deficiency, it may not always be accurate as the majority of magnesium in the body is stored in bones and tissues, and only a small fraction is found in the blood. Therefore, even if the blood test results are within the normal range, it does not necessarily mean that there is no deficiency.

Other ways to check for magnesium deficiency include a 24-hour urine test, which measures the amount of magnesium excreted in the urine over a 24-hour period, and a red blood cell magnesium test, which measures the amount of magnesium in red blood cells.

It’s also important to note that magnesium deficiency can be caused by various factors such as poor diet, malabsorption, chronic diarrhea, alcohol abuse, and chronic stress. Therefore, in addition to a blood test, a healthcare professional may also consider a patient’s symptoms and medical history to determine if they have a deficiency and need to take a magnesium supplement.

In summary, a blood test is one of the ways to check for magnesium deficiency and it is known as a serum magnesium test. However, it may not always be accurate and other tests such as 24-hour urine test and red blood cell magnesium test can be used. It’s also important to consider the patient’s symptoms and medical history to get the complete picture.

Bottom line

In conclusion, magnesium plays a vital role in many bodily functions. Magnesium deficiency is a common problem that can lead to a variety of health problems. To ensure adequate intake, it is important to eat a diet that includes magnesium-rich foods. For those who are deficient, supplementation may be necessary, but it is important to be aware of the potential risks and to speak with a healthcare professional before starting a supplement.

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