Magnesium has many benefits. We present those that are scientifically proven. Make sure you get enough magnesium every day – with food or a dietary supplement. Because a magnesium deficiency makes you susceptible to chronic diseases and reduces performance in sports. A good magnesium supply, on the other hand, can improve numerous complaints. Read everything about magnesium, its tasks and effects, and what you should pay attention to when taking it.
Everyone needs magnesium
Magnesium belongs together with e.g. B. calcium, potassium, and sodium to the vital minerals. Magnesium is essential, which means that it must be obtained from food and cannot be produced by the body. The body of an adult contains approximately 20 to 30 g of magnesium (approx. 0.05 percent of body weight):
- 50 to 60 percent of it is in the bones
- 2 percent in the body fluids, of which 1 percent in the blood serum
- The rest in connective tissue, liver, and red blood cells
- 95 percent of the magnesium is in the cells
Tasks and properties in the body
Magnesium has numerous tasks in the body and is a crucial cofactor in 500 to 600 enzyme systems. One of the most important tasks is participation in energy production. If there is a lack of magnesium, you become listless, and tired, and have the feeling that everyday life is overwhelming. Cardiac arrhythmias can also be the result of a magnesium deficiency. Also muscle cramps. Because magnesium relaxes the muscles and thus prevents cramps.
Magnesium also has an anti-inflammatory effect, helps with diabetes because it influences insulin metabolism, is important for the heart, nerves, and brain, increases performance, promotes muscle growth, supports the body’s own detoxification, is involved in bone formation and relaxes the muscles of the blood vessel walls, which has a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system and e.g. B. lowers high blood pressure – to name just a small selection. Magnesium is also important for the formation of genetic material (DNA and RNA) and the development of endogenous proteins.
Magnesium deficiency is not very rare
Low magnesium levels are therefore associated with a large number of chronic diseases, such as B. Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, migraines, and ADHD
In the USA it is assumed that 50 percent of the population is undersupplied when it comes to magnesium. According to a study from 2001, in Germany, almost 34 percent have suboptimal magnesium levels in their blood. Since the usual foods (meat, cheese, sausage, eggs, white bread, polished rice, sweets, beer, and coffee) contain very little magnesium, the result is not particularly surprising.
Magnesium against insulin resistance
Insulin resistance is a precursor to type 2 diabetes but is also often associated with obesity, high blood pressure, and high blood fat levels. In the case of insulin resistance, muscle and liver cells no longer react as well to insulin, i.e. they no longer absorb the blood sugar comprehensively, so it is increasingly converted to fat and stored. Magnesium could prevent this process, but this often does not happen because many of those affected have a magnesium deficiency. In addition, the rising insulin levels associated with insulin resistance lead to increased loss of magnesium through the urine, which further reduces magnesium levels.
However, if you take magnesium, the situation described improves. For example, in one study, magnesium supplementation resulted in reduced insulin resistance and also decreased blood sugar levels.
Magnesium in type 2 diabetes
Insulin resistance quickly turns into type 2 diabetes. A low magnesium intake can accelerate this development. Studies show how consuming too little magnesium increases the risk of diabetes. Conversely, a study of more than 4,000 people over 20 years showed that those with the highest magnesium intake (via diet and supplements) had a 47 percent lower risk of diabetes.
But even if you already have type 2 diabetes, magnesium also helps. Because you may be one of the 48 percent of diabetics who have low magnesium levels and could therefore benefit from taking magnesium.
For example, in a randomized, double-blind study, participants (who had low magnesium levels and type 2 diabetes) received 50 ml of a magnesium chloride solution (50 g magnesium chloride in 1 liter of water) daily for 16 weeks. Apart from the fact that magnesium levels naturally recovered, insulin sensitivity, blood sugar levels, and long-term blood sugar (HbA1c) also improved.
Magnesium not only supports insulin production in the pancreas but also ensures that insulin can transport blood sugar into the cells. In the course of diabetes, the magnesium deficiency worsens, since diabetics usually excrete more minerals through the kidneys than healthy people.
Magnesium and obesity
In the case of insulin resistance, the insulin level increases. However, high insulin levels prevent fat loss. The result is obesity. A magnesium deficiency should therefore also be avoided by those who want to lose weight or are wondering why they can’t get rid of their excess weight despite consistent dieting.
Magnesium and cardiovascular diseases
A low magnesium level also promotes the development of high blood pressure and lipid metabolism disorders (high cholesterol and triglyceride levels), so the vicious circle closes here, since the four factors (obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and lipid metabolism disorders) increase the risk of many other diseases, especially for Cardiovascular diseases (heart failure, heart attack, stroke).
High blood pressure in particular can be well influenced by taking magnesium, as a comprehensive study (meta-analysis) from 2017 showed. The dose of magnesium administered was between 365 and 450 mg pure magnesium per day and resulted in a reduction in both systolic (by 4.18 mmHg) and diastolic blood pressure (by 2.27 mmHg). The dosage is remarkable, even though the consumer centers and the BfR tell us that we shouldn’t take more than 250 mg of magnesium, which obviously prevents people from feeling better again.
The lower the magnesium level, the higher the risk of PAD, the so-called claudication – a vascular disease of the legs that is associated with pain due to calcification of the leg arteries and can lead to amputation of the legs. Taking magnesium improves the condition of the vessels, e.g. B. the flow-mediating vasodilation.
So if you take magnesium regularly, it can lower your high blood pressure. Magnesium – in normal doses – only lowers blood pressure that is too high. Blood pressure that is already healthy is not lowered any further.
Magnesium and cancer
Magnesium also protects against several types of cancer. A high magnesium content in drinking water – according to epidemiological studies – seems to protect against liver and esophagus cancer as well as breast, prostate, and ovarian cancer. It is important to keep an eye on the correct calcium-magnesium ratio, which should be at least 2.5:1 (better below). The number means that daily calcium intake is 2.5 times higher than daily magnesium intake.
A high calcium-magnesium ratio is now considered a risk factor for breast cancer during menopause. Because especially during menopause, many women take a lot of calcium in the form of calcium supplements and plenty of dairy products to prevent osteoporosis. However, this then leads to a massive imbalance in the mineral balance – to the detriment of magnesium.
Because both minerals compete for the same transporter molecules in the body. If all transporters are occupied by calcium, magnesium can hardly become active and cell dysfunction occurs, which makes degeneration/cancer formation more likely. An unfavorable calcium-magnesium ratio also seems to increase the risk in connection with colon cancer.
If you want/need to take calcium AND magnesium and prefer a natural dietary supplement, then the Sango Sea Coral is a good choice, which naturally contains calcium and magnesium in a ratio of 2:1.
Magnesium activates vitamin D
Magnesium activates vitamin D, which means that if there is an insufficient supply of magnesium, vitamin D cannot work. You can therefore be very well supplied with vitamin D, e.g. B. if you spend a lot of time in the sun – but the vitamin cannot work because magnesium is missing. But if you consider the countless positive properties of vitamin D alone, it becomes clear what serious health consequences a poor magnesium supply can have.
Magnesium in autoimmune diseases
Magnesium can also help with autoimmune diseases such as B. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis – an inflammatory disease of the thyroid gland – be helpful. A 2018 study found that low magnesium levels are associated with an increased risk of Hashimoto’s disease and hypothyroidism.
Even in rare diseases such as B. giant cell arteritis, an inflammatory autoimmune disease of the arteries, magnesium can be integrated into the therapy to alleviate the course and also to prevent consequential damage. On the one hand, magnesium has an anti-inflammatory effect, on the other hand, it has a positive effect on the blood vessels. For example, magnesium improves blood circulation and the health of the vessel walls. Magnesium also has a vasodilating effect, which can prevent vascular occlusion.
Magnesium and the immune system
A review was published in May 2020 stating that people with weaker immune systems are particularly affected by viral diseases (e.g. colds, but also Covid-19) and that the following precautions can help to strengthen the immune system that one can overcome corresponding infections better: A plant-based diet increases the quality of the intestinal flora, which makes up 85 percent of the human immune system. In addition, you should drink enough water and u. with sufficient minerals such as magnesium and zinc.
Magnesium has an anti-inflammatory effect
Chronic inflammatory processes are considered a risk factor or even the cause of many chronic diseases. Obesity and the aging process are also massively promoted by chronic inflammation. Even in children, it has been shown that a low magnesium level is associated with an increased inflammation value (CRP). At the same time, the children had higher blood sugar, insulin, and blood lipid levels.
Magnesium intake, in turn, can lower CRP and other levels of inflammation in both the elderly and those who are overweight, as well as in those with pre-diabetes.
Magnesium prevents migraines
Many migraine sufferers are magnesium deficient. Not least because of this, migraines can be treated with magnesium—not just preventively, but also when the migraine is already active. Migraines cause severe headaches – often combined with nausea, vomiting, and hypersensitivity to light and noise.
In a 2015 study, people with an acute migraine attack were given 1g of magnesium sulfate or their usual medication (metoclopramide (for nausea and vomiting) and dexamethasone (a glucocorticoid, (cortisone)). Magnesium was found to be better at relieving the attack than migraine medications, but dietary changes that include eating more magnesium-rich foods can also help reduce migraine symptoms in the long term.
Magnesium improves the premenstrual syndrome
Magnesium can also be helpful in PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) – in doses of 200 mg daily. In the first cycle of taking it, there was no improvement in a corresponding study. From the second cycle, however, the symptoms improved. In the days before menstruation, PMS causes water retention with weight gain, tiredness, mood swings, headaches, breast tension, cravings, etc., but this subsides on the first day of the period.
Magnesium against depression
Magnesium also plays an important role in brain metabolism and therefore also influences a person’s mood. Therefore, low magnesium levels are also associated with an increased risk of depression. For example, in a 2015 study of 8,800 people, those with the lowest levels of magnesium had a 22 percent greater risk of depression.
Experts suspect that the low magnesium content of today’s diet is an important reason for depression and other mental disorders – not least because the administration of magnesium can lead to enormous improvements in some cases of depression. For example, in one study, depressed adults received 450 m daily grams of magnesium. The effect was as good as that of an antidepressant.
Magnesium for more performance in sports
Since magnesium e.g. is involved in energy production and in the transport of blood sugar to the muscles, a good supply of magnesium leads to better performance in sports. At the same time, magnesium requirements increase by 10 to 20 percent during exercise compared to rest. Magnesium supplementation has been shown to improve exercise capacity in older people and people with chronic conditions, according to various studies.
In athletes, magnesium is considered a performance booster even if there was no previous magnesium deficiency. Previously, it had been assumed that taking magnesium only had an effect if there was a corresponding deficiency, but this was not the case. For example, in one study, volleyball players took 250 mg of magnesium per day, which improved their jumping ability and arm movements. In another study, triathletes took magnesium for four weeks and subsequently had a better swim, bike, and running times. Her insulin and stress hormone levels also dropped.
In top athletes (endurance athletes), a magnesium deficiency (magnesium loss during sport) is even considered to be the cause of cardiac arrhythmia and sudden death (since an enormous amount of magnesium is excreted with sweat).
While there are studies that show no effects of magnesium intake, the many positive results indicate that supplementation is definitely worth a try – especially since the risk of magnesium deficiency is not really worthwhile. If the magnesium level falls, this leads to an increased need for oxygen in order to ensure the energy supply. On the other hand, 390 mg of magnesium per day for 25 days resulted in increased oxygen uptake and better performance. The same result was seen in physically active students when they supplemented 8 mg of magnesium per kg body weight.
Do you need magnesium?
There is no doubt that magnesium is an extremely important mineral. Unfortunately, a magnesium deficiency is more common than any other mineral deficiency – according to Uwe Gröber in his book Orthomolecular Medicine: A guide for pharmacists and doctors. Therefore, check whether you are consuming enough magnesium or whether you should possibly use a dietary supplement with magnesium.
This is how you can measure your magnesium level
The magnesium level in the blood serum is usually determined. But that makes little sense because the organism is always trying to keep the magnesium content in the serum evenly high. If the magnesium level in the serum falls, sufficient magnesium is simply released back into the serum from the cells. If the serum magnesium level drops, then the overall situation is pretty bad, since there doesn’t seem to be enough magnesium left in the cells to recharge the serum.
Therefore, if you want to have your magnesium level checked by a doctor, insist on a whole blood test (serum plus blood cells) because – as mentioned above – most of the magnesium is found inside the cells. The magnesium content of the blood cells can therefore be determined in whole blood, from which conclusions can be drawn about the overall supply of the organism.
Magnesium requirement: This is how much magnesium is required per day
Depending on the age and life situation, the German Society for Nutrition (DGE) recommends the following amounts of magnesium per day, with the higher values (if two values are given) mostly referring to men and the lower ones to women:
- Infants up to 4 months: 24 mg
- Infants 4 to 12 months: 60 mg
- Children 1 to 4 years: 80 mg
- Children 4 to 7 years: 120 mg
- Children 7 to 10 years: 170 mg
- Adolescents 10 to 13 years: 230 – 250 mg
- Adolescents 13 to 15 years: 310 mg
- Adults 15 to 19 years: 350-400 mg
- Adults over 25 years: 300-350 mg
- Pregnant women: 310 mg
- Breastfeeding: 390 mg
In the US, the recommendations are higher
However, the above recommendations do not have to be followed meticulously, as there are other recommendations in other countries that have certainly not been researched less thoroughly and suggest that you should definitely take more magnesium than is recommended in Germany. The NAM ( National Academy of Medicine, formerly IOM ( Institute of Medicine )) in the USA, for example, recommends higher magnesium intakes for several population groups:
- For babies up to 6 months 30 mg magnesium (6 mg more than in D.)
- Babies up to 12 months 75 mg (15 mg more than in D.)
- 9-year-old children 240 mg (70 mg more than in D.)
- 14-year-old boys 410 mg (100 mg more than in D.)
- Men over 31 years of age 420 mg magnesium daily (70 mg more than in D.)
- (We only listed the differences, all other values are similar).
Foods with magnesium
Mineral water also provides magnesium, but not excessively, in the best case around 50 mg of magnesium per liter. Although there are mineral waters with a higher magnesium content, these are also richer in sodium, which is not so desirable. On the other hand, a high bicarbonate content would be good (over 400 mg), since this is responsible for the base potential of water.
Can the need be met with food?
Anyone who googles magnesium on the internet will first come to the consumer advice center website. There is u. a. explains: “…Magnesium is found in many foods. A healthy person can therefore easily cover their daily requirements with a balanced diet….”.
Everything is true, magnesium is actually contained in many foods – and if you eat a balanced diet, you can cover your daily requirement as a healthy person through your diet. Nevertheless, there are at least two problems in this context: firstly, hardly anyone is healthy and secondly, hardly anyone eats a balanced diet.
In Germany alone, around 30 percent of all adults suffer from high blood pressure, an important risk factor for cardiovascular diseases of all kinds. Among those over 65, there are even two-thirds suffer from high blood pressure. In Germany, almost 16 percent of the population (2017) suffer from depressive disorders – and the trend is rising. 30 percent of Germans suffer from chronic back pain, 10 percent from diabetes, 20 percent from allergies, and 18 percent from arthrosis (in the group of over 65-year-olds it is even almost 50 percent among women).
So you can say that the majority of the population suffers from some kind of chronic problem, is therefore no longer healthy, and can therefore no longer easily cover their magnesium requirements with their diet – especially since the need for vital substances increases in the event of illness and at the same time studies have long been available that show this that a subclinical (symptomless and unrecognized) magnesium deficiency could have contributed to the development of these diseases in the first place.
For example, a 2018 study found that people with low magnesium intakes had higher levels of inflammation and therefore a higher risk of chronic disease. On the other hand, people who were already ill could lower their inflammation levels by taking magnesium.
The second problem that the Consumer Advice Center ignores is diet, which few people today are truly balanced and healthy, as we explained in our article on widespread vitamin deficiencies. The consumer advice center lists beans, peas, and whole grain products made from wheat, spelled, barley, rye, oats, or buckwheat as good sources of magnesium, as well as nuts and mineral water containing magnesium. You should now simply eat 2 servings of fruit and 3 servings of vegetables daily, plenty of whole grain products, and a small handful of nuts or sunflower seeds. Then the magnesium supply is secured.
However, the National Consumption Study II (even a popular source for the consumer advice center) now states that 86.9 percent of the population does not consume the recommended amount of vegetables and legumes and eats an average of just 2 g of nuts per day. Wholemeal bread is also not exactly a favorite among Germans and accounts for only 10 percent of all bread sold. So how is the average person supposed to meet their magnesium needs through diet alone?
To take or not to take magnesium
The consumer advice center tops off its recommendations by writing: And even if you don’t consume enough magnesium, that doesn’t mean that you will inevitably have a deficiency. On the contrary, dietary supplements containing magnesium are rarely necessary.
Even the mainstream portal netdoktor.de writes on the subject of magnesium supply that a magnesium deficiency often goes unnoticed, which is confirmed by numerous experts and scientists. In a review from 2018, for example, one reads that most cases of magnesium deficiency are not discovered/diagnosed because a magnesium deficiency cannot be determined in the blood serum (or only at a very advanced stage of the disease), but the serum is usually examined in order to check a person’s magnesium levels.
However, for the majority of the population in modern societies, there is a risk of magnesium deficiency as a result of chronic diseases, medication, and the declining magnesium content of many foods (e.g. due to industrial processing).
In order to prevent a subclinical (symptomless) magnesium deficiency and thus prevent chronic diseases, it would make sense for many people to supplement with magnesium. It is precisely this subclinical magnesium deficiency that increases the risk of a wide variety of cardiovascular diseases and thus drives up the costs of healthcare systems. An inexpensive and simple solution has long been available: taking magnesium!
Dietary supplement with magnesium
So if you’re not getting enough magnesium in your diet, get a quality magnesium supplement. Here we present the best magnesium supplements. You can choose the one that suits you personally best. There are magnesium compounds that promote sleep particularly well, magnesium compounds that help with heartburn, magnesium compounds for the cardiovascular system, etc.
It is usually sufficient if you take around 200 to 300 mg of magnesium with a supplement. Your diet should provide the missing amount to meet your needs. The requirement of an adult is now officially given as 300 mg (women) to 350 mg (men). Only young men between the ages of 15 and 25 should take 400 mg per day.
The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment advises not to take more than 250 mg of magnesium from food supplements, since 300 mg or more can lead to diarrhea and gastrointestinal problems.
It is interesting, however, that 100 years ago people consumed around 500 mg of magnesium (not least because of the higher magnesium content of the soil in the past) so today one can assume a higher requirement than the officially stated figure.
Tablets or capsules
Magnesium tablets are less recommended than capsules. Because tablets – including effervescent tablets – contain far too many unnecessary accompanying substances. The magnesium dragées from Verla, for example, contain the following substances in addition to magnesium:
- Glycerol 85%
- Povidone K25
- Macrogol 6000
- Macrogol 35000
- Methacrylic acid ethyl acrylate copolymer (1:1)
- Dimethicone 350
- triethyl citrate
- calcium carbonate
- potassium dihydrogen phosphate
- glucose solution
- Montana glycol wax
- titanium dioxide
Effervescent tablets contain sweeteners, sugar substitutes, citric acid, and, of course, flavorings. Capsule preparations, on the other hand, usually only contain the capsule material and nothing else in addition to magnesium. However, pay attention to the list of ingredients here as well.
According to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), it is said that one should not take more than 250 mg of magnesium in the form of dietary supplements. In this context, the consumer center warns with the words: “Overdoses can have very unpleasant consequences. An additional magnesium intake of 300 mg or more per day can lead to diarrhea and gastrointestinal problems. A dose of more than 2500 mg per day can even have very dangerous side effects such as a drop in blood pressure or muscle weakness.”
Magnesium can actually have a laxative effect. However, the slightly laxative effect of magnesium (of which most people do not feel anything) is often desirable from a certain dose, namely when chronic constipation is present. In this case, magnesium supplements can help to relieve constipation without any side effects (compared to conventional laxatives). There are even specific laxatives based on magnesium, with which one takes 500 mg up to 2000 mg or more magnesium.
The dangerous dose of 2500 mg specified by the consumer center is therefore taken with appropriate laxatives, but not with conventional dietary supplements to optimize the magnesium level. Because even high-dose magnesium preparations contain no more than 400 mg of pure magnesium so you would have to take 6 or more capsules to reach the dangerous 2500 mg.
Interestingly, in the US, the authorities do not recommend a maximum of 250 mg, but rather a maximum of 350 mg of magnesium, which can be taken daily via dietary supplements without any side effects. In the USA, therefore, those dietary supplements that are considered almost scandalous in Germany because they allegedly overdose would officially do very well. In reality, it is the set maximums that are scandalous.
After all, you could already see from the studies presented above that higher doses were usually administered in order to achieve a healing effect. It can therefore be assumed that the doses considered appropriate in Germany (up to 250 mg) will have no effect if a chronic disease already exists.
Side Effects of Magnesium
Serious side effects occur when magnesium is taken from 2,500 mg, i.e. from about ten times the amount of a normal dose. A drop in blood pressure and even respiratory paralysis and cardiac arrest can then occur. However, severe events of this type usually only occur if too high a dose of magnesium is accidentally given intravenously, as in two case reports in which the patients were suddenly given 20 g of magnesium sulfate instead of 2 g.
The mentioned diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, and low blood pressure are considered mild side effects – which indicate that the dose is too high for the individual patient. In any case, the advantages of a good magnesium supply outweigh the disadvantages, especially since there are no side effects with an individually tailored magnesium intake.
Avoid side effects from magnesium
Nevertheless, the tolerability of magnesium is of course different. If you experience side effects in the form of diarrhea, abdominal cramps, or nausea, always take the magnesium with a meal and divide your daily dose into two or even three doses. It is therefore better to choose a lower-dose preparation that you then take more frequently, e.g. B. Magnesium citrate of effective nature with approx. 60 mg magnesium per capsule, of which you can take two capsules twice a day and 1 capsule once a day, depending on your needs, to get to 300 mg.
A number of medications can affect magnesium levels. Below are some examples:
diuretics, e.g. B. are prescribed to lower blood pressure, leading to increased excretion of magnesium with the urine and thus to a deficiency if magnesium is not taken as a dietary supplement. However, there are also the so-called potassium-sparing diuretics, which even prevent the excretion of magnesium.
Proton pump inhibitors (PPI; acid blockers/gastric protectors), such as B. omeprazole or lansoprazole can lead to a magnesium deficiency with long-term use. In 25 percent of those affected, not even taking magnesium could help increase magnesium levels if PPIs continued. Only when the medication was stopped could the magnesium level rise again. If you’re taking PPI, here are lots of tips on alternatives and tapering off antacids.
Since, conversely, magnesium can also influence the absorption and effect of some medications – it can affect the absorption of e.g. B. bisphosphonates for the treatment of osteoporosis – you should always talk to your doctor before taking medication if you can take magnesium and when. A time-delayed intake is often sufficient (at least 2 hours apart from medication).
Magnesium can also form insoluble complexes with some antibiotics, such as tetracyclines (Declomycin), doxycycline (Vibramycin), and fluoroquinolone antibiotics (ciprofloxacin (Cipro), and levofloxacin (Levaquin)). If these antibiotics are unavoidable, they should be taken at least 2 hours before or 4 to 6 hours after the magnesium supplement.
How long does it take for magnesium to work?
It depends on the purpose for which you take magnesium. In the case of cramps, magnesium works quite quickly, subjectively shortly after taking it, but officially it says after one or two days.
If you take magnesium to relieve constipation, you will notice the effect the next day at the latest.
Taking magnesium to improve a chronic condition, such as B. a type 2 diabetes or cardiac arrhythmia, then it takes a few weeks to months until an effect is noticed, but usually, after about 4 weeks, because then a deficiency should be compensated.
The effect occurs all the faster, the more pronounced the magnesium deficiency was previously, and the sooner the magnesium deficiency was also responsible for the respective symptoms.
Anyone who is mainly ill for other reasons (i.e. is well supplied with magnesium) does not notice anything or not as much as someone who was previously in a deficiency situation.
However, one should never rely solely on magnesium for chronic diseases, even if there is a pronounced deficiency. Because chronic diseases usually have a whole package of causes, of which magnesium deficiency can only be one of many. It is therefore better to implement a holistic concept that consists of many measures (change in diet, exercise, optimization of the supply of vital substances, stress management, etc.), including, of course, the intake of individually selected and individually dosed magnesium preparations.