Expelled into the universe when an aging star explodes in a supernova, magnesium is found throughout the Earth’s composition, from the crust to the mantle to the ocean and everything in between. In fact, it’s the fourth most common element in the Earth, after iron, oxygen, and silicon. But what, if anything, does a mineral born in the far reaches of the galaxy have to do with your body and your overall health?
Article at a Glance
The Health Benefits of Magnesium
- 60 percent of your body’s magnesium is found in your bones, with the rest in your blood, soft tissues, and muscles
- Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in your body
- These reactions include turning food into energy, repairing DNA, contracting muscles, and the regulation of neurotransmitters
Magnesium & Energy
- Your body requires more magnesium when you exercise
- Magnesium helps to move blood sugar to your muscles
- Athletes have displayed increased performance due to magnesium
Magnesium Is An Anti-Inflammatory
- Magnesium deficiency has been shown to increase inflammatory responses
- This can cause oxidative stress and an increase in free radicals
Magnesium & Heart Health
- Magnesium has been shown to regulate blood pressure and heart rhythm
- Magnesium counters the calcium in your heart and helps to relax the heart muscle
Magnesium & Brain Health
- Magnesium deficiency has been linked to depression
- One theory says that the decrease of magnesium in food sources and water could have led to higher rates of depression over the years
- Magnesium supplementation has been shown to decrease depression and anxiety
Magnesium For Bone & Joint Health
- Magnesium deficiency could be a risk factor for osteoarthritis
- Magnesium also plays a role in replacing old bone with new, healthy bone
The answer is: Just about everything. Magnesium is one of those nutrients you’ve heard about numerous times, but might not be too sure of the impact it actually has on the physiological functions that enable your heart to beat, your brain to think, and your bones to keep you upright and agile.
And even though it’s found throughout nature and is one of your most essential minerals, magnesium is sometimes referred to as an “orphan nutrient,” as it has been studied far less heavily that others, such as calcium for example. Perhaps as a result of its “orphan” status, almost half of the U.S. population consumes less than the required amount of magnesium.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Magnesium?
While about 60 percent of your body’s magnesium is found in your bones, it’s also found in your muscles, soft tissues, and blood. In fact, every single cell in your body not only contains magnesium but also requires the mineral in order to function properly. Besides its aforementioned unfortunate nickname, magnesium has also been called the “helper molecule,” as it is a cofactor in biological reactions performed by enzymes. In fact, magnesium is intimately involved in over 300 in your body.
And some of those reactions are among the most important that take place in your body at any given moment, including the conversion of food into energy, the creation of new proteins, the creation and repair of DNA and RNA, muscle contraction, and the regulation of neurotransmitters that send messages to your brain and nervous system.
More specifically, magnesium has garnered much attention for the health protections it could potentially provide as one grows older, including maintaining a normal heart rhythm and regulating blood pressure.
What Is Magnesium’s Role In Energy Production?
Perhaps the best way to demonstrate magnesium’s role in energy production is to discuss how it plays a part in exercise performance. As it turns out, your body requires up to 20 percent more magnesium during exercise than when you’re at rest because sweating from strenuous exercise apparently increases your body’s loss of magnesium. The mineral also helps blood move sugar into your muscles and dispose of lactate. This was demonstrated in an animal study, which showed that magnesium improves energy production during exercise performance by increasing glucose availability in muscles, blood, and brain.
Studies show the same positive results have translated to human efforts in the gym as well. In separate studies, magnesium supplementation was shown to display a positive effect on the exercise performance of those in advanced age, subjects with a heart condition, and those with a lung condition.
Meanwhile, magnesium also seems to yield positive energy results for athletes, even if they aren’t deficient in the mineral. In one example, a 2014 study provided supplemental magnesium to volleyball players and the results showed an improved flow of lactic acid—the energetic substance referred to when athletes “feel the burn.” And in another study, athletes who received a magnesium supplement experienced faster running, cycling, and swimming times during a triathlon, while they also saw a reduction in stress hormone levels.
Is Magnesium An Anti-Inflammatory?
Calling inflammation the scourge of the human body is not hyperbole. For decades, chronic inflammation has been spotlighted as the go-to symptom of many infectious diseases, as well as a broad range of non-infectious diseases.
When your body’s immune system is firing on all cylinders, inflammation is a good thing. It’s most recognizable when you’re battling an illness or mending a wound—any swelling or redness is a sure sign that your immune system is delivering white blood cells and nutrients to the affected areas. But in the case of chronic inflammation, this action can eventually damage healthy cells, tissues, and organs, leading to DNA and tissue damage, along with internal scarring.
Clearly this is a bad thing, which is why you hear so much about the anti-inflammatory properties of various nutrients. And science says you can count magnesium in the anti-inflammatory squad. Studies now show that a magnesium deficiency contributes to an inflammatory response and, in turn, the excessive production of free radicals.
This is especially true for those of advanced age, as a magnesium deficiency is proposed as a specific link between aging and inflammation, oxidative stress, and many age-related conditions. And according to research, magnesium supplementation can help ward off problematic inflammation.
Is Magnesium Good For Heart Health?
It stands to reason that if magnesium is an anti-inflammatory that it would also be a good addition to a heart-healthy diet, right? Let’s take a look at the science.
Research shows that magnesium does, in fact, play several roles in your cardiovascular health, including maintaining normal blood pressure and heart rhythm. Firstly, the dilation of blood vessels is key to keeping blood pressure under control—and in a 2018 study, magnesium was observed to do just that, as participants who received magnesium supplements experienced a healthy lowering of their blood pressure.
Magnesium also helps to maintain a healthy heart beat, which is due to how the mineral interacts with calcium. In your heart, calcium stimulates your muscles to contract—and it is possible for overstimulation to occur, which could potentially lead to a host of cardiovascular issues. For its part, magnesium acts as the gatekeeper in your heart, letting the right amount of calcium in and countering the effect of calcium in your heart, helping the muscles to relax.
Studies also show that magnesium can potentially reduce the overall risk factors that lead to cardiovascular complications.
How Does Magnesium Benefit The Brain, Including Depression & Anxiety?
As we’ve discussed here many times, your mental health can affect your physical wellbeing—and it seems that magnesium plays a vital role in your mood and overall brain function. Specifically, studies have shown that a magnesium deficiency could be linked to various types of depression. And another study showed an association between low levels of magnesium and depression was especially pronounced in younger adults.
Most interestingly, a theory has been floated that an increase in incidents of depression could be attributed to the depletion of natural magnesium levels in modern food and water. The theory even goes so far as to say that fortifying refined grain and drinking water with pre-20th century levels of magnesium is recommended.
In vegetables specifically, modern agricultural methods have led to crops with increasingly stripped-down levels of nutrients, according to a 2004 study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. The study chalks up the continued decline of nutritional content to modern agricultural practices that are meant to improve the size, growth rate, and pest resistance of crops. And though magnesium is not specifically mentioned in that study, researchers have stated in subsequent interviews that the mineral has also declined, but it was simply not included in the initial data gathering in 1950.
However, another study from 2016 explicitly names magnesium and says the mineral’s deficiency in plants “an urgent problem” and further states that the depletion of magnesium in plants is becoming an “increasingly severe problem with the development of industry and agriculture and the increase in human population.”
Meanwhile, one study involving close to 9,000 individuals found that those under the age of 65 with the lowest levels of magnesium had a 22 percent greater risk of developing depression. As for the older generation, one study showed that magnesium supplementation could potentially decrease incidents of depression.
Magnesium could also provide a helpful hand in the brain’s battle with anxiety. In a 2010 study regarding natural options for soothing anxiety, magnesium was among the highlighted nutrients. And as recently as 2017, magnesium was specifically lauded for its anxiety-fighting prowess in a review that gathered the results of 18 different studies in which anxiety was quelled with magnesium. These varying types of anxiety included mild, premenstrual, postpartum, and generalized anxiety.
This relates to the potential for magnesium to help you get a better night’s sleep, with some research demonstrating that the mineral could potentially increase the neurotransmitter GABA, which works to relax your thinking so that you can sleep better. Some evidence also shows that magnesium could help older adults fall asleep faster and could be useful for those with restless leg syndrome.
What Is Magnesium’s Role In Bone & Joint Health?
With 60 percent of your body’s magnesium stored in the bones, it should come as no surprise that the mineral is especially crucial to skeletal health and strength.
In fact, a comprehensive review of magnesium research concluded that the far-reaching magnesium deficiency in the U.S. population could potentially be a major risk factor for osteoarthritis development and progression, increasing inflammation in the joints, leading to cartilage damage, and a weakening of the pain-relieving power of analgesics. The conclusion of that study was that nutritional supplementation of magnesium shows promise as part of a therapeutic effort for osteoarthritis.
Magnesium also seems to be a necessary component of bone remodeling, a process that sees old bone being replaced with newly formed bone.
And recent research suggests that low levels of magnesium could also contribute to an increased risk of bone fractures and an increased intake of magnesium could protect against such an incident.
The Different Types Of Magnesium Found In Nutritional Supplements
As we’ve talked about before, bioavailability is incredibly important to whether or not your body can actually absorb the various nutrients delivered by food and/or supplements. Magnesium isn’t delivered into the body in one form—instead, the mineral has numerous variations, with each one offering a different rate of absorption while also providing targeted benefits to a different part of your physiology. These preparations see magnesium become a compound in an effort to elevate the mineral’s rate of absorption in your body.
The various forms of magnesium and their different bonding substances include: magnesium oxide, magnesium citrate, magnesium chloride, magnesium sulfate, magnesium lactate, and magnesium glycinate, among others. While all of these magnesium variations offer much of the same nutritional benefits, they do so at different rates and some with distinct specialties that target certain health benefits.
Let’s take a look specifically at the differences between the oxide, citrate, and glycinate forms of magnesium. Magnesium citrate is one of the most popular and easily absorbed forms of magnesium, and because of its prowess in increasing water and fluids in the intestines, it is often used as a saline laxative. But magnesium citrate is also utilized for the other nutritional needs associated with magnesium.
Magnesium oxide produces a lower level of bioavailability, especially when compared to the high bioavailability of magnesium citrate. Magnesium oxide is also used for gastrointestinal stress, especially when combined with activated charcoal.
Then there’s magnesium glycinate (sometimes referred to as magnesium glycine and magnesium bisglycinate chelate), a more gentle on the stomach and easily absorbed version of the mineral. This preparation sees magnesium combined with an amino acid called glycine, which works alongside your neurotransmitters like GABA to provide a calming and anti-anxiety feeling. This also enables magnesium glycinate to improve your sleep quality.
Magnesium Is An Out Of This World Mineral
It may have been delivered via space explosion, but magnesium is one mineral with important advantages right here on Earth. And as the research shows, the benefits of magnesium cross all age barriers, helping an array of residents on this planet enjoy a healthy lifestyle to infinity and beyond.