My mom is a nutritionist and is constantly raving about the health benefits of Magnesium. Magnesium has been in favor with health professionals for a long time. It used to be recommended to treat a host of illnesses. According to Doctor Emily Deans at Psychology Today, “Magnesium is an old home remedy for all that ails you, including ‘anxiety, apathy, depression, headaches, insecurity, irritability, restlessness, talkativeness, and sulkiness'” (link). For Magnesium’s biological function, I will leave that to the experts over at the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association:
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body after calcium, potassium, and sodium. Magnesium activates more than 600 enzymes and influences extracellular calcium levels. It is essential for the stability of cell function, RNA and DNA synthesis, and cell repair, as well as maintaining the antioxidant status of the cell. It is an important cofactor for the activation of a wide range of transporters and enzymes. Also, magnesium-dependent kinases are responsible for the activation of up to 30% of the functional body proteins. Approximately 40% of total body magnesium content is intracellular, and almost 60% of magnesium is present in bone and teeth, with less than 1% in extracellular ﬂuids.
We naturally obtain Magnesium from our diet, but most people don’t get nearly enough. Martha Shrubsole, PhD, a research professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center told Healthline,
A lot of people have received recommendations from their healthcare providers to take vitamin D supplements to increase their levels based upon their blood tests. . . In addition to vitamin D, however, magnesium deficiency is an under-recognized issue. Up to 80 percent of people do not consume enough magnesium in a day to meet the recommended dietary allowance (link).
Magnesium-deficient individuals obviously stand the most to gain from supplementation but the four benefits outlined below apply to everyone.
1. Magnesium Improves Sleep Quality
In an 8-week study conducted on the elderly, Magnesium supplementation dramatically improved sleep quality.
As compared to the placebo group, in the experimental group, dietary magnesium supplementation brought about statistically significant increases in sleep time (P = 0.002), sleep efficiency (P = 0.03), concentration of serum renin (P < 0.001), and melatonin (P = 0.007), and also resulted in significant decrease of ISI score (P = 0.006), sleep onset latency (P = 0.02) and serum cortisol concentration (P = 0.008). Supplementation also resulted in marginally between-group significant reduction in early morning awakening (P = 0.08) and serum magnesium concentration (P = 0.06). Although total sleep time (P = 0.37) did not show any significant between-group differences.
Supplementation of magnesium appears to improve subjective measures of insomnia such as ISI score, sleep efficiency, sleep time and sleep onset latency, early morning awakening, and likewise, insomnia objective measures such as concentration of serum renin, melatonin, and serum cortisol, in elderly people.
Magnesium has been described as the original chill pill and has long been prescribed to treat insomnia.
2. Magnesium Helps Optimize Vitamin D Levels
I talk a lot on this site about the power of Vitamin D in human health. Humans have a Vitamin D receptor in almost every cell. Vitamin D is a key to testosterone, athletic performance, and overall health, and there are ways to optimize it without direct sun exposure. It is a well-known fact that Magnesium plays a vital role in Vitamin D optimization. According to the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association:
The adequate balance of magnesium and vitamin D is essential for maintaining the physiologic functions of various organs. Vitamin D helps regulate calcium and phosphate balance to maintain healthy bone functions.1-6 Skeletal muscles, heart, teeth, bones, and many other organs require magnesium to sustain their physiologic functions. Furthermore, magnesium is needed to activate vitamin D. Abnormal levels in either of these nutrients can lead to serious organ dysfunctions.
It is also well-known that Magnesium deficiency impairs the body’s ability to produce Vitamin D. Doctors regularly recommend Magnesium supplementation for Vitamin D-deficient patients who do not respond to Vitamin D supplementation alone. According to Healthline,
Researchers also have noted variations in vitamin D synthesis, with some people failing to raise their levels of the vitamin even when taking high-dose supplements. Dr. Qi Dai, the lead author on the latest study and a professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said their research explains why. ‘Magnesium deficiency shuts down the vitamin D synthesis and metabolism pathway’ (link).
3. Magnesium Raises Total and Free Testosterone Levels
This study studied the effect of Magnesium supplementation and exercise on total and free testosterone levels. It measured testosterone levels resting before supplementation, exhaustion before supplementation, resting after supplementation, and exhaustion after supplementation in three study groups, two of which supplemented with varying amounts of Magnesium. The researchers concluded that “supplementation with magnesium increases free and total testosterone values in sedentary and in athletes. The increases are higher in those who exercise than in sedentary individuals.”
In another study done on ZMA supplementation (Zinc, Magnesium, and Vitamin B-6), participants who took 450 mg of Magnesium aspartate over an 8-week period observed a substantial 25% increase in free testosterone levels. We don’t know the precise role Magnesium played in this experiment given the presence of two other minerals. However, based on other studies like the one cited above it is safe to conclude that Magnesium increases testosterone levels.
I have taken Magnesium on and off for years and have noticed an increase in energy and gains. I have also noticed a dramatic increase in libido.
4. Magnesium Improves Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety
A controlled study gave Magnesium to adults who were experiencing mild-to-moderate symptoms of depression. After the 6-week intervention, patients reported fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety on Patient Health Questionnaire. The researchers concluded “Magnesium is effective for mild-to-moderate depression in adults. It works quickly and is well tolerated without the need for close monitoring for toxicity.”
For more discussion on the relationship between Magnesium and depression, see Doctor Emily Dean’s article on Magnesium for Depression (link).
Where to Buy Magnesium:
When purchasing Magnesium, be mindful of bioavailability. Bioavailability affects how much of the mineral your body can absorb and use. Magnesium oxide is quite common but does not get absorbed by the body as well as Magnesium citrate. For online purchases, my #1 recommendation is Amazon’s Solgar Magnesium Citrate, Highly Absorbable, Promotes Healthy Bones, Non-GMO. It’s Magnesium citrate, puts out a strong dose at 400 MG, and is the best bang for the buck.
For a ZMA supplement with 450mg of Magnesium that was found to increase free testosterone by 25% in the study cited above, check out MET-Rx ZMA Supplement 90 Capsules. You will be hard-pressed to find a better value product.
There are a plethora of research-backed reasons for supplementing with Magnesium. I’ve focused on four of them in this article–improved sleep quality, Vitamin D optimization, increased testosterone levels, and improved symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Magnesium is one of the few supplements I’ve taken regularly over the years (Vitamin D and Zinc round out the trifecta). Decide for yourself in consultation with your doctor whether this super mineral is worth adding to your dietary regimen.