Much Ado About Magnesium

Medically reviewed by Melanie Fiorella, M.D.

Adios, ashwagandha. Ciao, calcium. The latest supplement darling on social media is magnesium. From the sleepy girl mocktail to migraines, there’s a lot of buzz about the benefits of magnesium. But how much of it is true and should you consider taking a magnesium supplement?

We reached out to Melanie Fiorella, M.D., an integrative primary care physician and director of the Center for Integrative Education at University of California San Diego, to get the facts.

What is magnesium?

Magnesium is a naturally occurring mineral in your body. It helps you regulate blood sugar and blood pressure and helps with nerve and muscle function. Magnesium also helps keep your bones strong and your heart beat steady among other important things.

If you’ve ever perused the supplement aisle for magnesium, you know there are a lot of options out there. This is because many magnesium supplements are blends of different types. Fiorella noted that you can tailor the supplements to your symptoms. “For instance, if you have constipation plus a lot of cramping I would use magnesium citrate because it’s bioavailable so it’s easily absorbed,” she said.

What are the different types of magnesium?

Different types of magnesium supplements can help with different needs. The common types and associated health conditions include:

Magnesium L-threonate for pain, mood and brain function

What is magnesium good for?

Magnesium helps more than 300 enzymes create chemical reactions in your body. So it’s good for your health overall. And this may be especially true for women and people assigned female at birth.

“In general, we have a magnesium deficiency in our diet and there’s a lot of association with menstrual and hormonal-type issues such as painful periods or menstrual migraines because of this deficiency,” Fiorella said. A supplement may help with cramping and also general fatigue during your period, too.

Research is ongoing regarding the benefits of magnesium, but studies show magnesium can benefit certain health conditions. These can include:

  • Cardiovascular disease

Research shows higher levels of magnesium can reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke. In one study of postmenopausal women, low magnesium intake was associated with a higher risk of heart failure.

  • Type 2 diabetes

Magnesium plays a role in managing blood sugar levels. And people who consume less magnesium tend to have higher blood sugars and a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes.

  • Migraine attacks

Studies show taking a magnesium supplement may help prevent migraine attacks in some people. “I have seen really good benefits to people when they start supplementing daily with the reduction in how many migraines they have. It’s not great for stopping a migraine once it starts, but it’s good for prevention,” Fiorella said.

Does the sleepy girl mocktail really make you sleep better?

You can’t believe everything you read on the internet, but there may be something to the “sleepy girl” mocktail making the rounds on social media. Fiorella said the mix of tart cherry juice and magnesium powder can be a good combination to support better sleep. “Tart cherries contain tryptophan and increase melatonin so taking that before bed — plus the magnesium — is great,” she said. Magnesium has an overall relaxing effect on the body because it relaxes muscles and helps lower anxiety. “It’s one of the first things I recommend for insomnia and just general sleep.”

What foods have magnesium?

You get magnesium from the foods you eat. These can include:

  • Leafy vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Whole grains
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Beef

“Pumpkin seeds and Brazil nuts are really good,” Fiorella said. Magnesium is also added to foods like fortified cereal. Bottled, mineral and tap water can also contain magnesium.

What does the FDA say about magnesium?

In 2022, the FDA announced there was enough scientific evidence to support the connection between magnesium and reduced risk for hypertension. This means foods and dietary supplements can advertise this health claim on products as long as that product has at least 84 mg of magnesium per serving and, for dietary supplements, no more than 350 mg.

The recommended daily allowance for magnesium is 320 mg for women ages 31-51 and 420 mg for women 51 and older.

Who shouldn’t take magnesium?

Certain medications can interact with magnesium supplements or decrease the absorption of the medication. These medications can include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Diuretics
  • Proton pump inhibitors
  • Bisphosphonates

Fiorella noted that people with kidney disease should avoid magnesium supplements.

What else do we need to know about magnesium?

Magnesium is safe to take overall. However, too much magnesium can cause diarrhea, nausea and abdominal cramping. Very high intakes of magnesium can lead to irregular heartbeat and cardiac arrest. Talk to your healthcare provider before taking magnesium or any other supplement.

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