Magnesium is a mineral that is absolutely necessary for health and proper functioning of the human body. It plays many roles in the body, ranging from regulating blood pressure, to regulating heart rhythm. Though severe deficiencies are rare, a good portion of Americans unknowingly have a mild magnesium deficiency. In fact, this deficiency is the second most common nutrient deficiency in developed countries, just after vitamin D deficiency.
Not getting enough of this nutrient can endanger your health. Not consuming sufficient amounts of this mineral is associated with elevated inflammation markers, which in turn is associated with major health problems like diabetes and heart disease. Insufficient levels therefore can increase your risk of developing these illnesses; it can also cause hypertension, insulin resistance, and low bone density.
You may have a higher risk of serious deficiency if you:
- Are an older adult
- Have Crohn’s disease another illness that affects digestion
- Have an alcohol addiction
- Have kidney disease
- Have parathyroid problems
- Take a proton pump inhibitor medication
- Take antibiotics
- Take cancer drugs
- Take diabetes drugs
Magnesium rich foods are an easy way to up your intake of this important mineral. The best foods with magnesium are:
- Dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale
- Legumes such as beans, peas, soybeans, and lentils
Foods high in magnesium are not eaten daily by the average American. This is why mild deficiencies are so common. Eating a serving of each of these foods with magnesium every day can be enough to ward off the possibility of magnesium deficiency for the average person.
Of course, you can also get this mineral through supplements. Getting more of a nutrient through diet versus through supplements is a personal choice. Magnesium foods (dark leafy greens, legumes, and nuts) are also high in other essential vitamins and minerals, plus fiber, protein, and beneficial antioxidants; this is the main advantage of going the dietary route. In general, nutrients in food are better-absorbed by the body than nutrients in pills.
However, there are also cases in which taking supplements is a better choice. For example, if the foods high in magnesium are not palatable to you, you can simply take a supplement. Or, if you have a digestive condition that makes you not tolerate dietary fiber, then you are better off taking supplements than eating those high-fiber magnesium foods.
Proven Benefits of This Mineral
Increasing intake of this nutrient relieves mild hypertension, according to one study that used a sample of 48 people. Twelve weeks of supplementation plus lifestyle changes is more effective for treating the condition than lifestyle changes alone. Many other studies confirm the benefits of magnesium for blood pressure regulation.
Reducing Asthma Symptoms
Taking this supplement regularly can produce a small but notable reduction in asthma symptoms. In one study, 55 people with asthma took 340 milligrams of this nutrient daily for 6 months and saw an improvement in their condition.
Mental Health Benefit
There is evidence that the mineral can be useful for many mental health concerns. The mineral can help depression; researchers have also found that people who have depression tend to have lower levels of the nutrient in the first place. Taking this mineral can help reduce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which can include emotional symptoms such as mood swings. Lastly, taking this supplement may help you better cope with stress, as demonstrated by rat studies.
Other Benefits of Magnesium
Hypertension, asthma, and mental health are among the best-proven uses for supplementation with this mineral. There are also many other magnesium benefits that are perhaps a little less well-studied, but for which there is still good evidence nonetheless. This essential nutrient can also help to:
- Improve athletic performance.
- Improve bone mineral density.
- Improve sleep quality.
- Reduce symptoms of diabetic neuropathy.
- Reduce the severity of migraines.
- Reduce tinnitus.
Keep in Mind
If you have a medical condition, including any psychiatric condition, you should not rely on supplements alone to treat your condition. Magnesium supplements should be used as a complementary therapy together with any prescribed medications and other measures, as directed by your doctor. Do not try to replace a prescription medication with a supplement.
Which Form Should I Take?
Magnesium oxide, chloride, sulfate are sub-optimal forms of magnesium. Magnesium oxide and magnesium chloride are more likely to cause gastrointestinal side effects like diarrhea, while the sulfate form is not absorbed by the body very well.
Magnesium glycinate is a good go-to, as it is very well-absorbed and gentle on the digestive system. Magnesium citrate is also a common and versatile choice. Avoid magnesium oxide, sulfate, and chloride unless your doctor recommends them. Most other forms of the mineral are acceptable.
Another option is to use topically-applied magnesium oil. This carries the advantage of having no risk of gastrointestinal side effects.
Concerns and Precautions
In addition to what you get from your diet, you should not take any more than 350 milligrams of this supplement per day. Taking too much of this mineral can cause gastrointestinal distress, low blood pressure, muscle weakness, and fatigue. At very high doses, taking too much can even be fatal. Be careful about your dosage and keep the supplement out of reach of children.
Certain medications are incompatible with magnesium supplements, especially diuretics, antibiotics, and heart medicines. Check with your doctor before taking it if you use any prescription medicines.
Despite the many magnesium benefits, this supplement is not safe for everyone. If you have diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or a disease of the digestive tract, check with your doctor before taking this mineral.