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Magnesium and Your Health

Running and Magnesium Benefits

"Running" by Lake Mead National Recreation Area is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.

Magnesium – Essentially Important For Your Whole Body

By Dale Mayo               March 8, 2022

Magnesium is an essential mineral element for your body:  your brain, heart, gut, muscles, nerves, and bones.  Magnesium is involved in almost all major metabolic and biochemical processes and hundreds of chemical reactions in the body.[1]  Muscles need it to contract; nerves need it to send and receive messages. It keeps your heart beating steadily and your immune system strong. Most people can get enough magnesium by eating magnesium-rich foods such as green leafy vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and fish.[2]  Most of the magnesium in our body is found in our bones, with the rest in other tissues – not much is found in our blood, but magnesium deficiency can be seen in blood tests.

Magnesium & Heart health

Magnesium helps regulate blood pressure. Studies have shown an association between high blood pressure and low magnesium, but the results have been mixed when using supplements to increase magnesium.  Epidemiological studies reveal an association between the DASH diet and decreased blood pressure.  (Because the DASH diet is rich in magnesium and other heart-healthy nutrients (potassium, calcium) that may also lower blood pressure, it is difficult to separate the effects from the specific nutrients.[3] )  A low magnesium level in the blood is also associated with atrial fibrillation, which happens when a malfunction in the heart’s electrical system causes the upper chambers of the heart to quiver.[4]


Magnesium & Bone Health

Magnesium is involved in bone-building and greater bone mineral density is associated with higher magnesium diets.

Magnesium & Muscle Health 

Magnesium acts as a smooth-muscle relaxer. Because you can absorb magnesium through your skin, runners use body butters, oils, or even an Epsom salt bath to soothe muscles after a run.[5]

Magnesium & Gut Health

This is important in part for the microbiota-gut-brain axis – for example about 95% of serotonin receptors are found in the lining of the gut, which indicates that microbiota, or flora within the gut, may directly impact people’s mental state. Studies in mice have shown that changing the level of magnesium affects the makeup of gut microbiota. In mice, diets low in magnesium were found to increase anxiety-related behaviors. Research is now looking at diet and probiotics for treating anxiety and depression.

Magnesium also is thought to play a role in the body’s immune system, since 70% of the immune system is found in the processes of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Even though their levels are small compared to macronutrients, vitamins and minerals are associated with bacterial physiological processes that reshape intestinal flora’s structure and composition. Studies have shown that even short-term deficiencies in magnesium may cause increased colonic and systemic inflammation. Magnesium may, because it aids muscle function, help regulate peristaltic movement of the bowel. Thus low magnesium levels have been associated with constipation and even stomach cramping.

Therefore, eating a balanced diet with foods containing magnesium is important from an overall physical and mental health standpoint. Foods naturally rich in magnesium may help a person to feel calmer.[6]  It is important to maintain gut health to reduce loss of magnesium – people with gastrointestinal disease are more likely to be magnesium deficient.

Type 2 Diabetes

Magnesium helps regulate blood sugar and insulin activity. Magnesium deficiency is frequent in people with type 2 diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome. An adequate dietary magnesium intake could positively affect the composition of the intestinal microbiota and the host metabolism, thus helping in preventing metabolic alterations associated with the development of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.[7]

Depression

The association between magnesium and depression is well documented, however the mechanism is unknown. Magnesium plays a role in many of the pathways, enzymes, hormones, and neurotransmitters involved in mood regulation. An interesting article that covers much more ground is found in Psychology Today (Magnesium for Depression: A controlled study of magnesium shows clinically significant improvement).[8]

Covid-19. Magnesium has been shown to be associated with the outcome of Covid-19 infection.  A recent study reports that the county-level cumulative incidence of Covid-19 was higher than in control areas and that an association was found between environmental magnesium concentration and the county-level Covid-19 cumulative incidence.[9]   

Risk Factors for Magnesium Deficiency

Some people simply do not get enough magnesium in their diet, but other conditions and behaviors may put you at risk for deficiency.[10] 

  • Alcohol abuse may be associated with digestive issues and other problems that lead to flushing out too much magnesium through urine.
  • Aging not only puts you at risk for lower magnesium intake, but also decreases absorption of magnesium in the gut. Elderly adults are also more likely to be taking medications for chronic diseases that can deplete magnesium.
  • Chronic diseases that affect absorption such as celiac and Crohns disease.
  • Type 2 diabetes can cause the kidneys to produce more urine and flush out magnesium.
Magnesium Rich Foods

"Milk, eggs, vegetables, oatmeal, beans and nuts - the concept of a varied healthy diet" by wuestenigel is marked with CC BY 2.0.

Food vs. Magnesium Supplements

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans says that we should get most of our nutrients from foods that contain vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and other substances that benefit health.  Before you reach for supplements, try to add more magnesium-rich foods into your diet. 

Recommended Dietary Allowance of Magnesium[11]

Adult

RDA

Men

400-420 mg

Women

310-320 mg

Pregnant women

350-360 mg

Rich sources of magnesium are greens, nuts, seeds, dry beans, whole grains, wheat germ, wheat and oat bran (please see the table below for amounts of magnesium found in a serving of selected foods).  In addition, some seafood is a good source of dietary magnesium (see second table below) and Sizzlefish can deliver it right to your door! 

Magnesium-rich foods[12]

 

 

Serving size

Magnesium

Pumpkin seeds

1 oz

168 mg

Almonds

1 oz

80 mg

Spinach

½ cup

78 mg

Peanuts

¼ cup

63 mg

Soymilk

1 cup

61 mg

Black beans

½ cup

60 mg

Dark chocolate

1 oz

50 mg

Avocado

1 cup

44 mg

Baked potato (with skin)

3.5 oz

43 mg

Banana

1 medium

32 mg

Chicken breast

3 oz

22 mg

Ground beef (90% lean)

3 oz

20 mg

Broccoli

½ cup

10 mg

Apple

1 medium

9 mg

 

Magnesium found in seafood [13]

 

Seafood type

Per 100g serving

(3.5 oz)

Percentage of RDA

Sockeye salmon

122 mg

31%

Sablefish

71 mg

18%

Octopus, squid

60 mg

15%

Scallops

59 mg

15%

Oysters  

58 mg

15%

Lobster

43 mg

11%

Atlantic cod

42 mg

11%

Yellowfin tuna

42 mg

11%

Shrimp

37 mg

9%

Coho salmon

35 mg

9%

Rainbow trout

30 mg

8%

Atlantic salmon

30 mg

8%

Halibut

28 mg

7%

Haddock

26 mg

7%

 

 

Warning: 

You can get too much:  The Tolerable Upper Intake Level is the maximum daily intake unlikely to cause harmful effects on health. The UL for magnesium is 350 milligrams from supplements only. High-dose supplements can lead to diarrhea, nausea, and cramping in some people. Extra magnesium from food is safe because the kidneys will eliminate excess amounts in urine.[14]

 

 

 

 

 

References

 

[1]  Pickering, G., Mazur, A., Trousselard, M., Bienkowski, P., Yaltsewa, N., Amessou, M., Noah, L., & Pouteau, E. (2020). Magnesium Status and Stress: The Vicious Circle Concept Revisited. Nutrients, 12(12), 3672. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12123672

[2]  https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/what-you-should-know-about-magnesium2

[3]   https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/magnesium/

[4]   Dallas, M.E. (2016).   How magnesium keeps your heart rhythm healthy.  Everydayhealth. July 26, 2016. https://www.everydayhealth.com/atrial-fibrillation/diet/where-to-get-your-magnesium-for-healthy-heart/

[5]   Pearson, K. (2022). Magnesium benefits:  why it’s a miracle mineral for runners.  Runners World, February 22, 2022. https://www.runnersworld.com/uk/nutrition/diet/a35947990/magnesium-benefits-for-runners/

[6]   Naidoo, U.  (2019). Nutritional strategies to ease anxiety. Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard Medical School. August 28, 2019. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-strategies-to-ease-anxiety-201604139441

[7]   Piuri, G., Zocchi, M., Della Porta, M., Ficara, V., Manoni, M., Zuccotti, G. V., Pinotti, L., Maier, J. A., & Cazzola, R. (2021). Magnesium in Obesity, Metabolic Syndrome, and Type 2 Diabetes. Nutrients, 13(2), 320. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13020320

[8]   Deans, E. (2018). Magnesium for Depression: A controlled study of magnesium shows clinically significant improvement.  Psychology Today. January 28, 2018.  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201801/magnesium-depression

[9]   Tian, J., Tang, L., Liu, X., Li, Y., Chen, J., Huang, W., & Liu, M. (2022). Populations in Low-Magnesium Areas Were Associated with Higher Risk of Infection in COVID-19's Early Transmission: A Nationwide Retrospective Cohort Study in the United States. Nutrients, 14(4), 909. https://doi.org/10.3390

[10]  https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/magnesium/

[11]  https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/magnesium/

[12]   https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15650-magnesium-rich-food

[13]  Information compiled from several related websites: http://www.dietandfitnesstoday.com/shellfish-high-in-magnesium.php, http://www.dietandfitnesstoday.com/magnesium-in-fish.php

[14]  https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/magnesium/