Longevity Articles

Top 5 Health Benefits of Magnesium: From Metabolism to Muscles to Mood

Magnesium is an essential mineral found in nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains.

As the fourth most abundant mineral in the body, magnesium is a crucial yet under-consumed nutrient. The functions of magnesium range from muscle contraction to mood regulation to metabolic control. In this article, learn more about the health benefits of magnesium and the different forms of supplemental magnesium you can take. 

Magnesium: The Basics

Magnesium is an essential mineral used as a cofactor in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body, including DNA and protein synthesis, energy production, immune cell support, and cellular signaling. 

Although magnesium is found widely in plant-based foods, it’s estimated that up to 80% of Americans have low or deficient levels of this mineral.

In the past, plant foods contained higher magnesium levels due to the mineral’s presence in the soil. However, current agricultural practices have depleted soil magnesium, which reduces the amount found naturally in fruits and vegetables. Also, magnesium bioavailability tends to be low, with as little as 25% of the mineral getting absorbed in the gut. 

The highest food sources of magnesium are nuts, seeds, beans, dark leafy greens, dark chocolate, and avocado. Adult males and females should consume 420 and 320 mg of magnesium per day, respectively ‚ÄĒ this could come from food or supplements.

Supplemental Types of Magnesium

Magnesium can be taken in capsule or powder form, applied as a topical cream, or added to the bathtub in the form of magnesium salts. There are many supplemental magnesium forms, as the mineral is used for different health reasons when bound to various molecules. The different types of magnesium can be taken concurrently, depending on individual needs. 

    • Magnesium threonate: This form has been studied for its ability to support brain health and cognition.¬†
    • Magnesium oxide: Also known as milk of magnesia, this type is used as a laxative.¬†
    • Magnesium citrate: Bound with citric acid, this form is easily absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and commonly used to promote regularity as it draws water into the intestines.
    • Magnesium chloride: This form is commonly used in bath salt form in people with magnesium deficiency, as it is highly soluble in water and gets absorbed through the skin.
  • Magnesium malate: This is also a highly bioavailable form, but without the laxative-inducing effects of magnesium oxide and citrate.
Supplemental magnesium can be taken as capsules, powders, bath salts, or creams.

Top 5 Health Benefits of Magnesium

1. Heart Health

Magnesium is involved in supporting healthy blood pressure, lipids, and glucose, all of which play a role in cardiometabolic health. Magnesium supports heart health by regulating endothelial function and nitric oxide production, reducing inflammatory pathways and oxidative stress, and controlling smooth muscle contraction in the heart. 

Low levels of both dietary intake of magnesium and circulating levels of the nutrient have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular or metabolic conditions. 

In a large meta-analysis published in Nutrients in November 2016, the results from 25 studies were pooled. Data from over 630,000 individuals found that for every additional 100 mg per day of dietary magnesium consumed, the risk of developing metabolic dysfunction was reduced by up to 13%. 

Similarly, a study published in the Nutrition Journal in September 2017 found that greater blood magnesium levels were linked to a reduced risk of developing cardiovascular conditions. 

2. Brain Health

In the brain, magnesium is necessary for intracellular signaling and the growth, differentiation, and survival of neuronal cells and networks. These functions have made magnesium a therapeutic target for preserving synaptic plasticity, cognition, and memory. Magnesium also upregulates the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that promotes the survival and growth of neurons.

In a study published in Molecular Brain in September 2014, mice with memory loss that received magnesium threonate experienced a reversal in cognitive deficits and improvements in synaptic abilities. 

As synaptic dysfunction is a leading cause of cognitive impairment, focusing on preserving these signaling pathways via adequate magnesium intake may benefit patients at risk of developing dementia. 

3. Supports Mood

Low magnesium levels have been found in adults with mood disorders, likely due to its previously mentioned role in neuronal signaling, BDNF production, and neurotransmitter function. 

In a study published in Nutrients in July 2019, older adults who had lower blood magnesium levels were significantly more likely to score higher on measures of low mood, even when magnesium levels were technically within the normal range. This indicates that even without a full-blown deficiency, magnesium levels on the lower end of normal may be implicated in mood disorders. 

Some intervention studies have shown promise with using magnesium to manage mood. Published in PLoS One in June 2017, a 6-week crossover trial found that those who took magnesium chloride experienced significant improvements in mood compared to those who didn't.

Healthy magnesium levels are linked to improved mood

4. Supports Sleep

Magnesium is involved in the circadian rhythm, our body’s internal clocks that regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Magnesium’s ability to relax muscle contractions may help people who have trouble sleeping due to restless legs. Magnesium may also improve sleep by reducing anxious or stressful feelings, potentially allowing for quicker sleep latency.

In an October 2018 study published in Nutrients, greater dietary magnesium intake was linked to a reduction in the prevalence of daytime sleepiness in women, but not men. 

Another study looked at the effects of supplemental magnesium in elderly people with sleep issues. They found that those who took 500 mg of magnesium per day for eight weeks experienced significant improvements in sleep time and efficiency, with reductions in early-morning awakenings and serum cortisol levels, indicating lower amounts of stress. 

5. Supports Muscle Recovery  

Exercise affects magnesium metabolism; research has looked at the effects of supplemental magnesium on improving post-activity recovery. The mechanism behind this is likely due to magnesium’s involvement in energy metabolism, muscle contractions, and protein synthesis.

A systematic review published in Nutrients in March 2019 concluded that 300-500 mg of magnesium per day is associated with improved muscle recovery markers and reductions in exercise-induced stress, injury, and inflammation. However, research has not supported the use of magnesium in the short-term to enhance athletic performance.

In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in September 2014, older women with a mean age of 70 years had significant improvements in the Short Physical Performance Battery score, chair stand times, and walking speeds after supplementing for 12 weeks with 300 mg of magnesium per day. As frailty is a common concern in the elderly, magnesium supplements may be a simple way to improve older adults’ physical performance.

Key Takeaway: 

  • Magnesium is an essential mineral used for hundreds of biochemical actions in the body.¬†
  • The health benefits of magnesium include¬†support for cardiovascular, metabolic, and brain health.¬†
  • Magnesium may¬†support mood and sleep disorders and improve muscle strength and recovery.¬†
  • Supplemental magnesium can be taken in many forms, with magnesium threonate and magnesium malate being the most bioavailable without causing gastrointestinal symptoms.¬†


Abbasi B, Kimiagar M, Sadeghniiat K, Shirazi MM, Hedayati M, Rashidkhani B. A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Res Med Sci. 2012;17(12):1161-1169. PMCID: PMC3703169.

Al Alawi AM, Majoni SW, Falhammar H. Magnesium and Human Health: Perspectives and Research Directions. Int J Endocrinol. 2018;2018:9041694. Published 2018 Apr 16. doi:10.1155/2018/9041694

Cao Y, Zhen S, Taylor AW, Appleton S, Atlantis E, Shi Z. Nutrients. 2018;10(10):1354. Published 2018 Sep 21. doi:10.3390/nu10101354

Fang X, Han H, Li M, et al.  Nutrients. 2016;8(11):739. Published 2016 Nov 19. doi:10.3390/nu8110739

Heffernan SM, Horner K, De Vito G, Conway GE. The Role of Mineral and Trace Element Supplementation in Exercise and Athletic Performance: A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2019;11(3):696. Published 2019 Mar 24. doi:10.3390/nu11030696

Li W, Yu J, Liu Y, et al. Mol Brain. 2014;7:65. Published 2014 Sep 13. doi:10.1186/s13041-014-0065-y

Rosique-Esteban N, Guasch-Ferré M, Hernández-Alonso P, Salas-Salvadó J. Dietary Magnesium. Nutrients. 2018;10(2):168. Published 2018 Feb 1. doi:10.3390/nu10020168

Tarleton EK, Kennedy AG, Rose GL, Crocker A, Littenberg B. Nutrients. 2019;11(7):1475. Published 2019 Jun 28. doi:10.3390/nu11071475

Tarleton EK, Littenberg B, MacLean CD, Kennedy AG, Daley C. PLoS One. 2017;12(6):e0180067. Published 2017 Jun 27. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0180067

Veronese N, Berton L, Carraro S, et al. Effect of oral magnesium supplementation on physical performance in healthy elderly women involved in a weekly exercise program: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;100(3):974-981. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.080168

Yamanaka R, Shindo Y, Oka K. Magnesium Is a Key Player in Neuronal Maturation and Neuropathology. Int J Mol Sci. 2019;20(14):3439. Published 2019 Jul 12. doi:10.3390/ijms20143439

Older post Newer post