The Health Benefits Of Magnesium

The health benefits of magnesium

Our bodies cry out for this nutrient every day for so many different things. So make sure you're getting enough of it today

YOU’VE BEEN LECTURED time and time again about the importance of getting in your vitamins and minerals. The milk industry plastered billboards telling you about the benefits of calcium. Juice brands pushed out commercial after commercial that never let you forget about your need for vitamin C. Even your mum probably yelled at you to get outside more often so that you could get more vitamin D from the sun. But there’s one nutrient that’s getting plenty of attention recently, sans the advertisements: magnesium.

You’ve likely heard of the mineral before, but you might not have been enlightened to its importance. Magnesium is an essential mineral—meaning, your body needs it to function, but doesn’t make it on its own. We need to obtain enough of it through magnesium-rich foods, like pumpkins seeds and almonds, or through supplementation, for it to support our bodies the way we need.

Recently, it’s hit a bit of popularity in the social media sphere through avenues like TikTok and Instagram, as influencers tout its benefits. They claim everything from better sleep to muscle relaxation to improving bowel function. Is the recent call to the stage worth its spotlight? We asked nutrition expert New York City-based Bianca Tamburello, R.D.N., to lay out the details on the real health benefits of magnesium.

What are the health benefits of magnesium?

While magnesium deficiency isn’t common among healthy individuals, you want to ensure that you have the optimal amount. Research shows that low magnesium intake leads to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammation, heart disease, stroke, migraine headaches, asthma, and colon cancer. According to Tamburello, getting enough magnesium is also important in aiding the body in proper absorption of calcium and potassium, two other important minerals.

Magnesium has also been shown to promote muscle relaxation through its assistance in regulation of calcium. It may also help nerve control and transmission, which effects our neuromuscular coordination. Magnesium oxide, a specific type of magnesium, helps increase the amount of water in our bowels, which helps relieve constipation, according to the University of Michigan.

Some of magnesium’s recent popularity stems from hype as a potential sleep aid, but the science isn’t so clear. In 2021, a comprehensive data review published in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies found that adults who supplemented magnesium slept longer than those who supplemented with a placebo. However, the difference wasn’t significant enough for it to be conclusive. More studies would need to be done to confirm its effect.

How much magnesium do you need?

According to the National Institutes of Health, men should be getting between 400 and 420 mg of magnesium per day. Supplementation might be an option if you struggle to hit that amount and your doctor advises it.

It is possible to get too much of a good thing, though, which is why it’s important to seek counsel related to your individual needs before starting to take a magnesium supplement, Tamburello says. Getting too much magnesium through a supplement can cause symptoms such as diarrhoea, nausea, and stomach pain.

“Taking a magnesium supplement is not for everyone, so you should talk to your doctor before starting one,” she says. While high magnesium levels seem to have some beneficial effects—they’ve been associated with a decreased risk of osteoporosis and diabetes, and the lessening of lessen migraine symptoms (if your magnesium levels were low), explains Tamburello, there are risks of getting too much. It can be toxic, she says. According to the National Institutes of Health, adults should take no more than 350 mg of a magnesium supplement daily.

“It’s important to note that the magnesium supplement daily limit (350 mg) is lower than the overall recommended daily magnesium intake,” Tamburello explains. “This is because the body reacts differently to concentrated amounts of minerals and vitamins found in supplements.”

Can you get enough magnesium through food?

You can, especially if you fill up on magnesium-rich foods including pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, salmon, almonds and almond butter, peanuts and peanut butter, raisins, and chickpeas, Tamburello says. Fruits such as guava, banana and dried figs are also high in magnesium, as are vegetables including spinach and Swiss chard.

If you’ve confirmed with a health care professional that you do need more magnesium, Tamburello recommends trying to bring your levels up through food first, rather than through supplements. Natural sources provide other key vitamins and minerals as well as magnesium.

The bottom line on magnesium:

Talk to your doctor if you think you may have a magnesium deficiency. A healthcare provider can help you determine if you can get back on track by simply tweaking your diet, or if adding a supplement would beneficial.

This story originally appeared on Men’s Health U.S. 

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