Magnesium Supplements – Is It Safe to Take This Supplement?

We all have seen various ads by featuring famous personalities promoting various nutritional supplements. Magnesium supplements and magnesium-rich foods are the need of modern society where a majority of the population is suffering from magnesium deficiency.

Magnesium deficiency symptoms include muscle aches or spasms, poor digestion, anxiety, trouble sleeping, etc. This condition is also known as hypomagnesemia.


Here, hypo means under, magnes means magnesium and emia means is in the blood. Magnesium deficiency is often underdiagnosed, and the need for magnesium supplements is under-recognized.

Magnesium is necessary for normal cell function. It participates in more than 300 biochemical reactions in our body.

Magnesium helps in nerve signal transmission, regular beating of your heart, help you to sleep and contraction of your muscles. Studies have shown that it may help protect from metabolic syndrome, which is a risk factor for diabetes.

Moving ahead, we will know necessary daily magnesium intake, types of magnesium supplements, magnesium benefits, precautions.

How much magnesium should you take?

Magnesium comes from the word “magnes.” It means magnet or magnetic powder. Magnesium is a divalent cation normally found in the human body. 50% of total body magnesium is present in human bones, and the rest is situated predominantly in the intracellular compartment.

The serum concentrations of magnesium are very low where normal is 1.7-2.4mg/dL. The serum concentrations are tightly regulated.

The RDA of magnesium varies according to age and gender. The current values are – (1)

Age  MaleFemalePregnancyLactation
Birth to 6 months30 mg*  30 mg*
7–12 months75 mg*  75 mg*
1–3 years80 mg  80 mg
4–8 years130 mg130 mg
9–13 years240 mg240 mg
14–18 years410 mg360 mg400 mg         360 mg
19–30 years400 mg310 mg350 mg         310 mg
31–50 years420 mg320 mg360 mg         320 mg
51+ years420 mg320 mg

*Adequate intake

When do you require magnesium supplements?

If you are suffering from the following condition then you might be in need of extra magnesium in the form of magnesium supplements.

  • Malabsorption syndromes – Chronic diarrhea and fat malabsorption resulting from Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, and regional enteritis can lead to magnesium depletion over time.
  • Chronic renal failure – In this condition, magnesium is lost in the urine along with other minerals.
  • Certain drugs such as Diuretics ( water pills), Cisplatin, Cyclosporine, Aminoglycosides, etc. All these drugs damage your kidneys, leading to increased magnesium loss in urine.
  • Alcoholics, as they suffer from many concomitant nutritional deficiencies primarily due to lack of proper diet.
  • Diabetes mellitus because people with diabetes lose magnesium in their urine.
  • Pregnant women in their third trimester.
  • Pancreatitis, burns, excessive sweating can lead to magnesium depletion.
  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are drugs used to reduce acid secretion of the stomach. Some examples are esomeprazole, lansoprazole, rabeprazole, etc.
    If these drugs are taken for a long time then they can cause magnesium deficiency. The mechanism underlying this is currently unknown.

Signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency

People who are deficient in magnesium may experience irritability, muscle weakness, apathy, fatigue, etc. Some more severe manifestations associated with magnesium deficiency are cardiac rhythm abnormalities such as sinus tachycardia (feeling of heart racing), and seizures.

Types of magnesium supplements

Magnesium deficiency can be fulfilled with the help of magnesium supplements. Here are some of the forms of magnesium supplements which are available in the market –

1)  Magnesium citrate

Magnesium is combined with the citric acid in a 1:1 ratio. Do not consume it in high dose as it can have a laxative effect, abdominal cramps, and nausea.

Try not to take tetracycline/fluoroquinolone group antimicrobials (e.g., doxycycline, tetracycline, ciprofloxacin) within 2 hours before or after taking this product because doing so may decrease the effectiveness of the antimicrobial.

2) Magnesium chloride oil

This is the liquid form of magnesium which was first used as an antiseptic. It is better absorbed than other magnesium supplements as it can be ionized entirely across a wide range of ph levels.

It can be applied on the skin too. Athletes use magnesium oil to dull muscle pain and enhance endurance.

3) Magnesium glycinate

This form of magnesium supplement is more preferred as it is very gentle on the stomach. It is the most readily absorbed form of magnesium supplement available as on date.

It has a very low probability of causing unpleasant side effects such as diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, etc.

These characteristics make magnesium glycinate best suited for people who have undergone GI surgery or are at risk for developing magnesium deficiency.

4) Magnesium threonate

This is a proprietary form of magnesium, discovered by researchers at MIT. It is exceptionally good at raising brain magnesium levels.

Magnesium is important in synaptic plasticity, a process that is fundamental to learning and memory. A study published in the journal Neuron showed that magnesium enhances memory and improves sleep.

Furthermore, this is the only supplement which can raise magnesium levels in your brain.

5) Magnesium Taurate

Magnesium and taurine are combined in this magnesium supplement. Our body normally uses taurine to help absorb and transport magnesium. Magnesium and taurine both help with heart problems.

Taurine also has additional antioxidant properties. It is the recommended form for people with heart problems. Always consult your doctor about taking magnesium if you are a heart patient.

Since most of the magnesium in our body is sequestered in bones or inside the cells, it makes measuring magnesium levels tricky.

As of now, there is no single test which can comprehensively measure body magnesium levels. But magnesium supplements have few risks for adverse effects; hence many healthcare professionals recommend them to prevent deficiencies.

6) Magnesium Orotate

Magnesium is combined with the orotic acid in this magnesium supplement. This form can be consumed to replenish magnesium or to obtain orotic acid.

Orotic acid is good for the heart. Preliminary studies show magnesium orotate has a role in preventing heart disease. It also improves athletic performance.

7) Chelated magnesium

Simply speaking, this supplement is made by combining magnesium with amino acids. It is meant for easy oral absorption. It has no particular advantages over other forms of magnesium supplements. However, it should not be given to a child.

Natural sources of magnesium

Magnesium supplements are good but nothing can replace natural products. Thus, you must opt foods high in magnesium for fulfilling your daily need of magnesium.

Food itemsMilligrams of magnesium per serving
Almonds, dry roasted, 1 ounce80
Spinach, boiled, ½ cup78
Cashews, dry roasted, 1 ounce74
Peanuts, oil roasted, ¼ cup63
Cereal, shredded wheat, 2 large biscuits61
Soymilk, plain or vanilla, 1 cup61
Black beans, cooked, ½ cup60
Edamame, shelled, cooked, ½ cup50
Peanut butter, smooth, 2 tablespoons49
Bread, whole wheat, 2 slices46
Avocado, cubed, 1 cup44
Potato, baked with skin, 3.5 ounces43
Rice, brown, cooked, ½ cup42
Yogurt, plain, low fat, 8 ounces42
Oatmeal, instant, 1 packet36
Kidney beans, canned, ½ cup35
Banana, 1 medium32
Salmon, Atlantic, farmed, cooked, 3 ounces26
Milk, 1 cup27
Halibut, cooked, 3 ounces24
Raisins, ½ cup23
Chicken breast, roasted, 3 ounces22
Beef, ground, 90% lean, pan-broiled, 3 ounces20
Broccoli, chopped and cooked, ½ cup12
Rice, white, cooked, ½ cup10
Apple, 1 medium9
Carrot, raw, 1 medium7

Magnesium benefits

1. Makes you energetic

ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is the energy currency of our cells. Magnesium is vital for its generation and utilization in the body. Reduction in ATP levels is the reason why hypomagnesemia leads to easy fatigability.

2. Relieves anxiety

Magnesium helps in the synthesis of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that makes us feel happy.

Magnesium deficiency causes increased production of cortisol, which is also called stress hormone, in mice brain by activation of the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus. (2)

3.  Necessary for a healthy heart

Magnesium is essential for a regular normal heartbeat. A deficiency would lead to irregularities in the rhythm known as arrhythmias.

Magnesium reduces platelet aggregation. Magnesium also relaxes the blood vessels. This vasodilatory effect of magnesium prevents spasm of the coronary vessels and prevents angina.

Magnesium helps to lower blood pressure. Low blood pressure means lower workload on your heart. A heart that has to work less will last longer. Magnesium orotate containing orotic acid is beneficial to the heart.

4. Gets those bowels going

Magnesium stimulates intestinal motility. It is necessary for a normal bowel movement. A deficiency can cause constipation. Low magnesium intakes were associated with significant increases in the prevalence of constipation. (3)

5. Relieves muscle aches and spasms

Magnesium decreases the excitability of nerves. Hence if magnesium levels are low, the nerves become excitable and cause muscle contractions leading to spasms.

Magnesium prevents this and magnesium also helps in ATP generation, all of which allows muscle relax. Athletes use oil based magnesium supplements to increase endurance and muscle healing and relieve muscle spasms.

6. Prevents terrible migraines

We all know what a terrible thing migraine is. It decreases our productivity and can have incapacitating effects if severe. Well, not to worry, magnesium may hold the solution to our problems.

It helps to control migraine-related pain by reducing vasoconstriction and releasing pain modulating hormones.

Studies show that high dose magnesium supplementation helps improve migraine symptoms. If you are already taking migraine control medication, consult your doctor before taking magnesium supplements.

7. Prevent weakening of bones

Osteoporosis means bone resorption. It occurs when magnesium or calcium levels are low in the blood. A rise in parathormone causes it.

Since magnesium supplements help to maintain a constant level of magnesium, they help prevent increases in parathormone levels, thereby reducing osteoporosis.

8. Eclampsia

Eclampsia is an emergency medical condition seen in pregnant women. It presents with hypertension, pedal edema, proteinuria, and seizures. It is a potentially life-threatening condition.

Magnesium sulfate is the drug used to treat eclampsia. Doctors administer it intravenously. It helps to reduce blood pressure and control seizures. Magnesium does this by antagonizing calcium.

9. Diabetes

Magnesium improves insulin sensitivity and metabolic control. It is required for the normal function of many insulin-dependent enzymes.

In a randomized, double-blind, controlled study, researchers concluded that “oral supplementation with Magnesium chloride solution restores serum magnesium levels, improving insulin sensitivity and metabolic control in type 2 diabetic patients with decreased serum magnesium levels.”  (4)

10. Helps you fall asleep

A study found that magnesium helps in the production of chemicals required for the functioning of our circadian rhythms, which is the body’s own internal clock. (5)

This internal clock is responsible for making us sleep at night, and its disruption can cause insomnia. Magnesium restores the normal functioning of this internal clock and helps us sleep.

Good sleep means you wake up feeling more fresh in the morning and become more productive during your day. Good sleep also improves cognitive performance and mood during the daytime.

11. Protect against Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia. It is seen predominantly in older people. Magnesium reduces memory decline in mice. It also decreases synapse loss (synapses are connections between neurons, essential for interneuronal communication). (6)

12. Helps in asthma

In asthma, the small airways of your lungs collapse. This occurs due to smooth muscle contraction. Smooth muscle contraction requires calcium.

Magnesium causes smooth muscle relaxation by antagonizing the action of calcium. Asthma patients treated with magnesium sulfate showed reduced frequency of attacks and reduced hospitalization rates when compared to those treated with beta-2 agonists.

Asthma patients must use magnesium in consultation with their doctor.

13. Alleviates depression

Depression is a mood disorder. Symptoms of depression include decreased activity, pessimism, anhedonia, and sadness. These disrupt normal life and lower productivity.

Magnesium helps in nerve transmission. Studies show magnesium is effective in alleviating the symptoms of depression. (7)

What are the risks when you take excessive magnesium supplements?

Usually, there is no significant risk from magnesium supplements as our kidneys can excrete out massive amounts of excess magnesium.

However, people with renal failure or damage to the mucosal surface can allow you to retain magnesium in the body leading to toxicity. So, people with any of these conditions should not take magnesium supplements without consulting their doctor.

Excessive magnesium supplements may cause diarrhea due to its laxative effect, a sign that you are going overboard with the supplements.


If diarrhea does not improve even after lowering the dose of supplements consult your doctor immediately. Never try to self-medicate.

Final words on magnesium supplements

Magnesium deficiency is one of the most underdiagnosed deficiencies in the world. You should always try to suffice your daily magnesium needs from natural food sources but still, magnesium supplements are helpful.

Some magnesium-rich foods are spinach, pumpkin seeds, black beans, bananas, avocado, cashews, etc. Magnesium deficiency can cause symptoms such as irritability, ataxia, irregular heartbeats.

Magnesium supplements are available in oral as well as intravenous form. It is much more common to take oral supplements. One should ever take IV magnesium under a doctor’s supervision.

There are very few side effects of magnesium supplements. But if you experience symptoms like diarrhea or cramping, it may be a sign that you are taking too much magnesium and need to cut down.

A rare side effect is muscle paralysis. It occurs at very high levels of magnesium in your body.


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