Magnesium is a naturally occurring mineral — and one of the most abundant in the human body. Given its level of occurrence in our bodies, it’s no surprise that it’s also an essential nutrient that plays a critical role in numerous bodily functions, including regulating muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure and making protein, bone, and DNA.
In this article, we’ll explore all the amazing things magnesium does for our bodies.
Where Magnesium Fuels Your Body
Magnesium plays a central role in muscle contraction and relaxation. Getting enough magnesium every day can help prevent muscle cramps, spasms, and stiffness. Magnesium also helps with nerve signal transmission and cellular energy production. It helps convert the food we eat into usable energy, promoting vitality and combating fatigue.
In the heart, magnesium is crucial for maintaining a healthy heartbeat and supporting cardiovascular function. In the bones it aids in bone mineralization and supports bone density, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
How Much Magnesium The Human Body Needs
So, we know that magnesium is very important to our bodies, but how much do we need? It depends on your age and sex. An adult man needs about 400-420 mg per day whereas an adult woman needs 310-320 mg per day. Pregnant and breastfeeding women need more.
Getting More Magnesium Through Diet and Supplements
Magnesium can be found naturally in many foods and is added to some fortified foods. By eating a variety of foods like legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, green leafy vegetables (like spinach), milk and other dairy products, and fortified cereals you can get all the magnesium you need in a day.
If you are worried that you aren’t getting enough magnesium through your diet alone, it is found in many multivitamins, as a supplement by itself, as well as in some medicines for treating constipation and heartburn. When you are looking for magnesium as a supplement, you’ll usually see it in forms called magnesium aspartate, magnesium citrate, magnesium lactate, and magnesium chloride. These forms are most easily absorbed by the body.
Many Americans don’t get enough magnesium from their diet alone. Men older than 70 and teenage girls and boys are most likely to have low intakes of magnesium. When the amount of magnesium people get from food and dietary supplements is combined, however, total intakes of magnesium are generally above the recommended amounts.
Magnesium’s Effect On Human Health
Scientists are studying other ways magnesium can affect health. Magnesium supplements might decrease blood pressure, but only by a small amount. Some studies show that people who have more magnesium in their diets have a lower risk of some types of heart disease and stroke. But in many of these studies, it’s hard to know how much of the effect was due to magnesium as opposed to other nutrients.
People with higher amounts of magnesium in their diets tend to have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Magnesium helps the body break down sugars and might help reduce the risk of insulin resistance (a condition that leads to diabetes). Scientists are studying whether magnesium supplements might help people who already have type 2 diabetes control their disease. More research is needed to better understand whether it can be used to treat diabetes.
Magnesium is important for healthy bones. People with higher intakes of magnesium have a higher bone mineral density, which is important in reducing the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis. Getting more magnesium from foods or dietary supplements might help older women improve their bone mineral density. More research is needed to better understand whether magnesium supplements can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis or treat this condition.
People who have migraine headaches sometimes have low levels of magnesium in their blood and other tissues. Several small studies found that magnesium supplements can modestly reduce the frequency of migraines. However, people should only take magnesium for this purpose under the care of a healthcare provider. More research is needed to determine whether magnesium supplements can help reduce the risk of migraines or ease migraine symptoms.
Too much magnesium can be a bad thing as well. Usually, we can’t get too much magnesium through our diet alone but taking magnesium supplements over the recommended upper limit should only be done under the supervision of a healthcare professional. Too much magnesium can cause abdominal pain and diarrhea. Very high doses of magnesium can cause irregular heartbeat and heart attack.
Magnesium is a silent hero, diligently working behind the scenes to keep our bodies functioning optimally. From muscle and nerve function to energy production and bone health, its contributions are nothing short of remarkable. To ensure you're getting enough magnesium, consider incorporating magnesium-rich foods into your meals, such as leafy greens, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes. If necessary, dietary supplements can also be an option, but it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplementation.