Health Benefits of Magnesium

By Dr. VikMBBS, MRCP(GB), PhD
Health benefits of magnesium

Our body requires numerous nutrients to function normally. Besides simple processes, nutrients are needed for:

  • Normal heart function

  • The maintenance of hormone production

  • Joint health

  • Skin health

Of all the minerals needed by the body, magnesium plays a very important role in keeping us healthy.

In this article, I will briefly review the various health benefits of magnesium.


Sources of magnesium


Magnesium can be found in a normal diet. Foods rich in magnesium include:

  • Fruits and vegetables, like spinach, pears and okra, cereals, dairy products and certain meats.

  • Legumes, nuts, and certain kinds of ocean fish.

Our bodies need around 300 to 400 mg. of magnesium every day. In the last 80 years the magnesium content of foods has dropped dramatically.

This can make it difficult to get the magnesium we need through the foods we eat. For most individuals, taking a daily magnesium supplement may prove helpful.

Let's take a closer look at the health benefits of magnesium.


The Role and Function of Magnesium Supplements


Magnesium supplements are now available that can bridge the gap between what is available in one’s diet and what is needed by the body.

The medical community is quite aware of the benefits of taking a magnesium supplement.

For one, they are administered to hospitalized patients to clear out their bowels preparing for surgery, and to treat constipation.

But this is just one of many benefits. Let’s take a look at why there are so many health benefits of magnesium.


1. Restoring bowel function

There are numerous gastrointestinal disorders. Of these, constipation is one of the most common types.

Constipation affects a large number of individuals across the globe. Typically constipation is managed through lifestyle modifications along with a change in diet

However, for some patients this approach may not work.

  • They may find it hard to get enough fiber or liquids in their diet

  • For some, exercise may not be an option due to a busy daily schedule or required bedrest. 

In such situations, 300 to 400 mg. a day of a magnesium supplement may be helpful in treating constipation and restoring normal bowel movement.

Clinical research has shown that low intake of magnesium is associated with an increased prevalence of functional constipation (Murakami, 2006).

In other words, individuals who do not get a sufficient amount of magnesium in their diet can develop constipation that requires treatment.

Magnesium supplements are extremely beneficial for such patients. Supplemental magnesium may be taken orally to help relieve constipation safely and effectively to enjoy all of it's health benefits.


2. Help for acute pancreatitis

The health benefits of magnesium in supplementation may be beneficial is in the management of acute pancreatitis (Schick, 2013). Acute pancreatitis is a clinical condition that is characterised by inflammation of the pancreas.

Patients may encounter extreme abdominal pain along with vomiting and abnormalities in certain blood tests. If left untreated, acute pancreatitis can be life threatening.

Magnesium supplementation has been shown to reduce the severity of pancreatitis by:

  • Blocking the effect of calcium (high calcium levels are directly linked to development of pancreatitis

  • Altering the activation of certain enzymes that are responsible for the development of pancreatic inflammation.


3. Help for blood pressure

Scientific evidence confirms the role of magnesium in the maintenance of normal blood pressure, beginning at the cellular level.

  • Laboratory studies have demonstrated that magnesium has an effect on a specific sodium-potassium pump in the cell membranes.

    This, in turn, can alter the way that blood vessels react to changes in blood pressure (Motoyama T, 1989).

  • Clinical trials have shown that administering intravenous magnesium to women suffering from eclampsia can reduce blood pressure significantly (Albert DG, 1958).

  • More recent studies have also demonstrated that magnesium supplementation can help reduce blood pressure. The amount of relief was dependent on the dose of magnesium administered (Jee, 2002).

These studies demonstrate the health benefits of magnesium in blood pressure control.

Of course, having normal blood pressure can reduce the chance of developing cardiovascular disease and stroke.


4. Management of diabetes

Insufficient intake of magnesium has been shown to bear a link to the development of a clinical condition called metabolic syndrome (Guerrero-Romero F, 2002).

Metabolic syndrome consists of a group of clinical conditions that include:

  • High blood pressure

  • Diabetes

  • High cholesterol

  • Obesity

Scientific experiments have demonstrated a link between low magnesium levels and the development of resistance to the effects of insulin in the body (called insulin resistance), which is a direct precursor in the development of diabetes mellitus (Guerrero-Romero F, 2002).

Offering patients with diabetes mellitus magnesium supplements can improve their fasting glucose levels along with the sensitivity their body has to insulin.

In addition, the health benefits of magnesium in diabetic patients extend to:

  • Improving the levels of cholesterol in the blood

  • A reduction in overall blood pressure.

In other words, magnesium supplementation can help improve clinical status in metabolic syndrome.

Some scientific groups now hypothesise that magnesium supplements could in fact prevent the development of type II diabetes completely, though this is yet to be substantiated in large clinical studies.


5. Prevent cardiovascular disease

Coronary artery disease is a condition where there is narrowing of the arteries around the heart. The resulting limited blood flow in these arteries can ultimately lead to a heart attack.

Studies have demonstrated that low magnesium levels seem to play an important role in the development of coronary artery disease.

An increased intake of magnesium as a health benefit seems to offer protection to the patient against the development of coronary disease and subsequent cardiovascular death (Singh, 1989).

Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is one of the primary pathogenic mechanisms in the development of heart disease.

Research has shown that low levels of magnesium can result in a high level of inflammation within the blood vessels, thus stimulating the development of atherosclerosis.

This has been directly reflected in carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT), which is a measure of the degree of atherosclerosis within the body. The lower the magnesium level, the higher the CIMT (Kupetsky-Rincon, 2012).

Irregular heart beat

Magnesium supplementation is also used in clinical practice in hospitals to manage life-threatening conditions such as irregularities in heartbeat.

In these emergency cases, magnesium is offered as an intravenous drug rather than an oral supplement to achieve it's wonderful health benefits.


6. Lessen clinical depression

Individuals who suffer from clinical depression tend to eat a low quantity of food leading magnesium deficiency.

An inverse relationship between low magnesium intake and the development of depression has been demonstrated (Jacka, 2009). The lower the magnesium intake, the higher the chance of developing clinical depression.

Low levels of magnesium may also increase the level of inflammation which appears to worsen the symptoms of depression.

Magnesium may have an antidepressant-like effect

Health benefits of magnesium supplements can help people suffering from depression by exerting an antidepressant-like effect.

While it is unclear how exactly it works, the available evidence suggests that magnesium can alter the activity of certain neurotransmitters within the brain that enhance mood, thus treating depression.

However, it must be borne in mind that using magnesium supplements as an antidepressant therapy should not be done without the advice of a registered medical practitioner or registered psychiatrist.


7. Help with cancer management

Studies have assessed the link between magnesium levels in the development of cancer.

A recent analysis of magnesium intake demonstrated that a high intake of dietary magnesium was associated with a low incidence of colorectal (bowel) cancer and female cancers (Ko, 2014).

In other words, magnesium has a protective effect in the body against cancer. 

Given the difficulty of obtaining the required magnesium through diet, supplementing with magnesium is another approach to procuring magnesium’s cancer depressing benefits.


8. Strengthen the immune system

Low levels of magnesium in the body appear to be directly related to immune function.

Low levels of magnesium can result in an increased level of damage to cells through physiological processes resulting from a reduction in immunity.

Optimal intake of magnesium as a health benefit is essential for exerting an antioxidant effect on the body which can help fight harmful free radicals that induce cell damage.


Conclusion, health benefits of magnesium

Magnesium is an important nutrient in achieving many health benefits. It is required for numerous physiological processes within the body. 

Magnesium’s major role in bodily functions is under-appreciated. The majority of individuals do not get enough magnesium in their diet.

This can have numerous detrimental effects on overall health. For these individuals, magnesium supplementation may be considered as an essential part of life.

The above article clearly demonstrates numerous benefits that magnesium supplementation has on the:

  • Gastrointestinal tract 

  • Cardiovascular system

  • Psychological state

  • Immune levels

  • Diabetes mellitus

For most individuals, magnesium supplementation has numerous health benefits with very little risk to the patient.

Note: As with any over-the-counter remedy, talk with your doctor before starting on a magnesium supplement to achieve its health benefits.

Supplemental magnesium may interfere with certain prescription medications. Those with kidney disease should not take a magnesium supplement unless instructed to do so by their doctor.

(Return from health benefits of magnesium to magnesium for constipation)


Bibliography

Albert DG, M. Y. (1958). Serum magnesium and plasma sodium levels in essential vascular hypertension. Circulation, 761 - 764.

Guerrero-Romero F, R.-M. M. (2002). Low serum magnesium levels and metabolic syndrome. Acta Diabetol, 209 - 213.

Jacka, F. N. (2009). Association between magnesium intake and depression and anxiety in community-dwelling adults: the Hordaland Health Study. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 45 - 52.

Jee, S. H. (2002). The effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. American journal of hypertension, 691 - 696.

Ko, H. J. (2014). Dietary Magnesium Intake and Risk of Cancer: A Meta-Analysis of Epidemiologic Studies. Nutrition and cancer, 1 - 9.

Kupetsky-Rincon, E. A. (2012). Magnesium: novel applications in cardiovascular disease–a review of the literature. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 102 - 110.

Motoyama T, S. H. (1989). Oral magnesium supplementation in patients with essential hypertension. Hypertension, 227 - 232.

Murakami, K. S. (2006). Association between dietary fiber, water and magnesium intake and functional constipation among young Japanese women. European journal of clinical nutrition, 616 - 622.

Schick, V. J. (2013). Effect of magnesium supplementation and depletion on the onset and course of acute experimental pancreatitis. Gut.

Singh, R. B. (1989). Effect of dietary magnesium supplementation in the prevention of coronary heart disease and sudden cardiac death. Magnesium and trace elements, 143 - 151.


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