9 key health benefits of magnesium


by Baylor Scott & White Health

Feb 26, 2024

Often overlooked, magnesium is one of the seven essential micronutrients that the human body requires in significant amounts. From maintaining heart health, bone health and metabolic health, to managing stress and promoting sleep, magnesium is an essential part of a healthy diet. 

Despite its importance, many people don't get enough magnesium in their diet, leading to deficiencies linked to a range of health complications. Magnesium is important in keeping up your overall health and well-being, so taking a magnesium supplement to up your intake can be a good idea for some people. 

Let’s break down the biggest health benefits of magnesium.

1. Magnesium and heart health 

Magnesium is important for keeping your heart healthy and strong. It helps your heart beat regularly, controls your blood pressure and manages your cholesterol.  

Also, magnesium can help lower multiple cardiovascular risks, such as: 

  • Having heart disease
  • Experiencing a stroke
  • Developing high blood pressure

One meta-analysis, which included 16 studies containing more than 313,000 subjects, found that higher magnesium levels in the body were associated with a 30% lower risk of cardiovascular disease. 

2. Magnesium and bone health 

Magnesium is critical for keeping your bones healthy. It helps your bones grow strong and stay strong as you get older. Not having enough of this mineral can make you more likely to develop osteoporosis, which is a condition that makes your bones both weak and easy to break. 

“In fact, about 50-60% of magnesium in the body is stored inside bones,” said Lisa Marsh, MS, RD, LD, a registered dietitian at Baylor Scott & White Signature Medicine. “Our skeletal system acts as a magnesium reservoir. However, as we age, the reservoir is reduced to nearly one-half over the course of a lifetime. Therefore, the need for supplementation can increase as we age.” 

3. Magnesium and metabolic health 

Magnesium helps your body use protein and fat and control how much sugar is in your blood. Having an adequate intake of magnesium can reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Magnesium helps make your body better at using insulin, which is important for controlling blood sugar.

“Magnesium affects so many enzymes and enzymatic reactions in the human body,” Lisa said. “One of which is tyrosine kinase, which is an enzyme that helps to activate insulin receptors. In the absence of adequate magnesium, this important metabolic function could be negatively impacted.”  

4. Magnesium and sleep 

Studies have found that magnesium is important for helping us enjoy deep and fulfilling sleep. It does this by controlling special chemicals in your brain that are linked to sleep. 

If you have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about whether supplementing with magnesium at night could help you improve the quality of your sleep. 

5. Magnesium and stress management 

Magnesium helps lower the stress hormone cortisol in your body, helping you relax and handle stress appropriately. If you often feel stressed, you might not have enough magnesium, making you more likely to feel anxious and sad. 

Magnesium also plays a role in promoting brain health by supporting the blood-brain barrier, which serves as a protective shield against harmful factors such as neurotoxins. 

Eating enough magnesium or supplementing with magnesium can help prevent and manage mental health issues like anxiety and depression by maintaining healthy neurological function.

6. Magnesium and migraines 

If you experience migraine headaches, you know they can be very painful, make you feel sick and nauseous, and cause you to be sensitive to light and noise. Some scientists think that people who get migraines might not have enough magnesium in their bodies. Also, some studies suggest that taking a magnesium supplement might help prevent and ease migraine headaches.

“Magnesium deficiency may be present in up to one-half of all migraine sufferers,” Lisa said. “This is possibly from increased urinary excretion due to a hormone-related stress response. Supplemental magnesium may be a sensible intervention for those experiencing migraine headaches.” 

7. Magnesium and digestive health 

Magnesium is key in helping your digestive system work well. It helps break down your food and helps your body absorb nutrients into the bloodstream. Also, it can help make it easier to go to the bathroom by relaxing your stomach muscles and bringing in water to soften the stool. 

8. Magnesium and muscle function 

Magnesium plays a role in muscle function by helping your muscles squeeze and relax. It may also keep your muscles from getting cramps and feeling tired. 

People who do a lot of exercise, like athletes, might feel better and have more energy if they eat a diet rich in magnesium or supplement with magnesium. 

9. Magnesium and inflammation 

Over time, inflammation can cause a variety of health issues like heart problems, diabetes and some cancers. Getting enough magnesium might help lower your risk for these conditions by reducing the levels of C-reactive protein in your body, which is a marker of inflammation. It can also reduce other inflammatory markers in your body as well. 

Magnesium: An essential mineral 

From heart health and stress management, to bone health and exercise recovery, magnesium is at work all throughout the body. It is extremely important for many different bodily functions, helping enzymes in your body complete over 600 essential reactions.

So, are you wondering whether you’re getting enough magnesium? Magnesium needs vary by age and other individual factors, but the recommended magnesium intake for most people is in the 300-400 mg/day range.  

You can find magnesium in lots of different foods, including green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, legumes, avocados, bananas and dark chocolate. There are also supplements you can take in capsule form to make sure you’re meeting your magnesium requirements.

But before you start taking any new supplements, it's always a good idea to talk to your doctor or a dietitian first. They can help determine if taking magnesium is a good option for you and support you in developing a personalized plan to meet your unique nutritional needs. 

Questions about your diet or supplements? Find a dietitian near you.

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