Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body and the second most common intracellular cation (positively charged ion) after potassium. It's required for the healthy function of most cells in your body, but is especially important for your heart, kidneys and muscles.
According to one scientific review, which included studies dating as far back as 1937, low magnesium actually appears to be the greatest predictor of heart disease, and other recent research shows even subclinical magnesium deficiency can compromise your cardiovascular health.
Low magnesium will also impede your cellular metabolic function and deteriorate mitochondrial function, and as a component necessary for the activation of vitamin D, magnesium deficiency may also hamper your ability to convert vitamin D from sun exposure and/or oral supplementation.
Magnesium Activates and Regulates Vitamin D
Two studies published last year have shed new light on the interactions between magnesium and vitamin D, warning that low magnesium impedes your body's ability to properly utilise vitamin D, even when it's present.
As noted by Mohammed Razzaque, professor of pathology at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Pennsylvania, coauthor of the first study published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association in March 2018, "By consuming an optimal amount of magnesium, one may be able to lower the risks of vitamin D deficiency, and reduce the dependency on vitamin D supplements."
A second study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in December 2018, also concluded that your magnesium status plays an important role in your vitamin D status. Overall, people with high magnesium intake were less likely to have low vitamin D. They also had a lower mortality risk from cardiovascular disease and bowel cancer.
What's more, magnesium was found to have a regulating effect, raising and lowering vitamin D based on baseline levels. In people who had a baseline vitamin D level of 30 ng/mL (75 nmol/L) or below, magnesium supplementation raised their vitamin D level. However, in those who started out with higher vitamin D levels (50 ng/mL or 125 nmol/L), magnesium supplementation lowered their vitamin D.
Magnesium Is Empirically Recommended for All Migraine Sufferers
According to some statistics, migraine is the third most prevalent illness in the world, affecting an estimated 1 billion people. Migraine attacks are typically recurring, of moderate to severe intensity, many times occurring only on one side of your head.
Along with throbbing, piercing or "burning" pain, other common symptoms include nausea, visual disturbances, dizziness, numbness in your extremities or face, and extreme sensitivity to light, sound, smell and touch. While the root cause for migraines continues to be debated, certain nutritional deficiencies have been found to exacerbate the condition, and magnesium deficiency ranks high on this list, as does vitamin D deficiency.
In one placebo-controlled study, daily intake of 600 milligrams of magnesium in the form of trimagnesium dicitrate for 12 weeks reduced the frequency of migraine attacks by nearly 42 percent, compared to less than 16 percent in the control group.
In many cases, receiving a high dose of magnesium can also abort an attack in progress. The most effective way to administer magnesium for migraine would be to get an intravenous (IV) infusion. Barring that option, magnesium threonate may be your best option for an oral supplement. It has superior absorbability compared to other forms of magnesium, and its superior ability to cross the blood-brain barrier makes it more likely to have a beneficial effect on your brain.
Magnesium More Effective Than Antidepressants for Depression
Another incredibly common health problem in which magnesium plays an important role is depression, as it acts as a catalyst for mood-regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin. Research published in 2015 found a significant association between very low magnesium intake and depression, especially in younger adults.
Research published in PLOS ONE demonstrated magnesium supplementation improved mild-to-moderate depression in adults, with beneficial effects occurring within two weeks of treatment. In fact, the effects of magnesium were comparable to prescription SSRIs in terms of effectiveness, but without any of the side effects associated with these drugs.
Participants in the treatment group received a daily dose of 248 milligrams (mg) of elemental magnesium for six weeks, while controls received no treatment. According to the authors, "It works quickly and is well tolerated without the need for close monitoring for toxicity."
Magnesium Improves Brain Plasticity
Memory impairment occurs when the connections (synapses) between brain cells diminish. While many factors can come into play, magnesium is an important one.
The specific brain benefits of magnesium threonate were demonstrated in a 2010 study published in the journal Neuron, which found this form of magnesium enhanced "learning abilities, working memory, and short- and long-term memory in rats." According to the authors, "Our findings suggest that an increase in brain magnesium enhances both short-term synaptic facilitation and long-term potentiation and improves learning and memory functions."
Magnesium Boosts Heart Health
Magnesium is also important for heart health. As explained by British cardiologist Dr. Sanjay Gupta, magnesium supports heart health via a number of different mechanisms. For starters, it combats inflammation, thereby helping prevent hardening of your arteries and high blood pressure.
It also improves blood flow by relaxing your arteries, and helps prevent your blood from thickening, allowing it to flow more smoothly. All of these basic effects are important for optimal heart function. Indeed, low magnesium has been linked to a higher risk for:
- Cardiovascular disease
Magnesium Is Required for Hundreds of Biochemical Reactions
The importance of magnesium becomes even more evident when you consider it is involved in more than 600 different biochemical reactions in your body, which play important roles in:
Creation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy currency of your body
Metabolism of calcium, potassium, zinc, phosphorous, iron, sodium, hydrochloric acid, acetylcholine and nitric oxide, as well as 300 enzymes, and the activation of thiamine
Vitamin D activation and regulation
DNA, RNA and protein synthesis and integrity, and the creation of chromosomes
Mitochondrial function and health. Magnesium is required both for increasing the number of mitochondria in your cells and for increasing mitochondrial efficiency
Regulation of blood sugar and insulin sensitivity, which is important for the prevention of Type 2 diabetes (In one study, prediabetics with the highest magnesium intake reduced their risk for blood sugar and metabolic problems by 71 percent)
Normalising blood pressure
Detoxification, including the synthesis of glutathione, considered by many to be your body's most powerful antioxidant
Muscle and nerve function, including the action of your heart muscle
Antioxidant defense via a number of different mechanisms, including anti-inflammatory activity and support of endothelial and mitochondrial function
Maintenance of ionic gradients — keeping intracellular sodium and calcium low and potassium high — and maintaining cellular and tissue integrity
Catalyzing mood-regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin, which helps prevent anxiety and depression
Lowering the damage from electromagnetic fields (EMF) by blocking voltage gated calcium channels
Supporting healthy brain function. Magnesium acts as a buffer between neuron synapses, particularly those involved with cognitive functions (learning and memory).
Magnesium "sits" on the receptor without activating it, protecting the receptor from overactivation by other neurochemicals, especially glutamate, an excitotoxin that can harm your brain if it accumulates
Providing mental and physical relaxation; considered an important stress antidote
Preventing headaches by relaxing blood vessels in your brain and acting as a calcium channel blocker