Magnesium Supplements: What Are They Good For?
Words by Phoebe McRae
As I get older, supplements are something that I have slowly started to integrate into my diet. And while I am addicted to the benefits I’m seeing from using fish oil, probiotics and iron on the regular, I’m seriously considering adding magnesium supplements to my diet, too.
But there’s still so much I don’t know about magnesium supplements and how they could help me, so I spoke to Carli-Louan Foster, a registered Nutritional Therapist, and Ellie Busby, founder of Vojo® and also a registered Nutritionist, to find out what all the fuss is about.
WHAT IS MAGNESIUM?
As Foster tells The Sports Edit, “Magnesium is an essential mineral involved in over 300 enzyme reactions in the body.” Found in high-fibre foods like whole grains, green vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and tofu, “it’s important for muscles, energy production, and nerve function.”
“Magnesium is also critical to our brain health and mood,” adds Busby. “It’s a cofactor for enzymes important for maintaining the balance of our neurotransmitters. So magnesium can help reduce anxiety, calm you down, and help you get to sleep.”
Per the NHS, the minimum amount of magnesium you need each day is 300mg a day for men (19 to 64 years) and 270mg a day for women (19 to 64 years), however, it is estimated that almost two-thirds of the Western world don’t meet this requirement. And that’s exactly where magnesium supplements come in.
WHAT ARE MAGNESIUM SUPPLEMENTS?
Put simply, magnesium supplements help you meet your recommended daily intake of magnesium when you can’t get enough through your diet. According to Foster, they are usually available in one of five different forms, all offering slightly different benefits.
- Commonly used to alleviate constipation, Foster points to research that indicates magnesium citrate is one of the most bioavailable forms of magnesium, meaning your body is able to absorb more of it than other forms.
- Also known as Epsom salts, magnesium sulfate is used to soothe muscles and relieves stress (via an Epsom salt bath). “Although relaxing, there’s not much evidence that it’s well absorbed through the skin to make a difference to levels in the body,” notes Foster.
- Magnesium glycinate, on the other hand, is believed to have a calming effect, making it useful for anxiety, stress, insomnia and depression, however, Foster warns that more research is needed.
- “Magnesium malate has been recommended for conditions such as fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue but there is currently no evidence to support this,” says Foster. Nevertheless, it is believed to be gentle yet very well absorbed.
- While magnesium oxide isn’t necessarily the best option if you’re trying to up your magnesium levels, according to Foster, it’s can be a good option for those with digestive issues like heartburn.
HOW TO TELL IF YOU’RE MAGNESIUM DEFICIENT
According to Foster, “Magnesium can get depleted during times of stress.” She continues, “You may also have lower levels if you have a condition such as diabetes, coeliac disease or other digestive issues that may reduce absorption.” While deficiency is rare, low levels are common.
As Busby warns, “if you’re not getting enough magnesium, you risk fatigue, muscle cramps, irregular heartbeat, osteoporosis, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, depressive symptoms, [and] migraine headaches.”
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms, the best thing you can do is head to your local GP to work out whether or not Magnesium has anything to do with it.
WHAT'S THE RIGHT MAGNESIUM DOSAGE FOR ME?
Both Foster and Busby believe that magnesium requirements differ from person to person, meaning the “right dose” doesn’t really exist. While taking magnesium supplements is unlikely to cause harm, it’s important to be aware that there is such thing as too much magnesium (think side effects like diarrhoea, nausea, and abdominal cramping).
As a result, you should always follow the instructions on the label to determine your dosage and consult a medical professional if you have any questions.
Magnesium is an essential mineral involved in muscle recovery, brain health, energy production, nerve function, and even mood. All things most of us would consider to be pretty important.
So if you're thinking of adding magnesium supplements to your cupboard, it's important to consider the what form and dosage is best for your needs. For a wide range of magnesium supplements, check out our range here.