What is Magnesium for?
Magnesium is a mineral that is present in relatively large amounts in the body. Researchers estimate that the average person’s body contains about 25 grams of magnesium, and about half of that is in the bones. Magnesium is important in more than 300 chemical reactions that keep the body working properly. People get magnesium from their diet, but sometimes magnesium supplements are needed if magnesium levels are too low. Dietary intake of magnesium may be low, particularly among women.
An easy way to remember foods that are good magnesium sources is to think fiber. Foods that are high in fiber are generally high in magnesium. Dietary sources of magnesium include legumes, whole grains, vegetables (especially broccoli, squash, and green leafy vegetables), seeds, and nuts (especially almonds). Other sources include dairy products, meats, chocolate, and coffee. Water with a high mineral content, or “hard” water, is also a source of magnesium.
People take magnesium to prevent or treat magnesium deficiency. Magnesium deficiency is not uncommon in the US. It’s particularly common among African Americans and the elderly.
Magnesium is also used as a laxative for constipation and for preparation of the bowel for surgical or diagnostic procedures. It is also used as an antacid for acid indigestion.
Some people use magnesium for diseases of the heart and blood vessels including chest pain, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, high levels of “bad” cholesterol called low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, low levels of “good” cholesterol called high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, heart valve disease (mitral valve prolapse), and heart attack.
Magnesium is also used for treating attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, leg cramps during pregnancy, diabetes, kidney stones, migraine headaches, weak bones (osteoporosis), premenstrual syndrome (PMS), altitude sickness, urinary incontinence, kidney stones, restless leg syndrome, asthma, hayfever, multiple sclerosis, and for preventing hearing loss.
Athletes sometimes use magnesium to increase energy and endurance.
Some people put magnesium on their skin to treat infected skin ulcers, boils, and carbuncles; and to speed up wound healing. Magnesium is also used as a cold compress in the treatment of a severe skin infection caused by strep bacteria (erysipelas) and as a hot compress for deep-seated skin infections.
Some companies that manufacturer magnesium/calcium combination supplements promote a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio as being ideal for absorption of these elements. However, there is no credible research to support this claim. Claims that coral calcium products have ideal combinations of magnesium and calcium to cure a variety of diseases and conditions are being carefully evaluated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and US Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
What is Magnesium Possibly Effective for?
• Dyspepsia (heartburn or “sour stomach”) as an antacid. Various magnesium compounds are used. Magnesium hydroxide seems to work the fastest.
• Preventing and treating magnesium deficiency, and certain conditions related to magnesium deficiency.
• Use as a laxative for constipation or preparation of the bowel for surgical or diagnostic procedures.
• Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Children with ADHD seem to have lower magnesium levels. Limited research suggests that magnesium might help ADHD in children with low magnesium levels.
• Anxiety. There is some evidence that magnesium, hawthorn, and California poppy (Sympathyl) might be effective in treating mild to moderate anxiety disorder. But this product is not available in the US.
• Restless leg syndrome. Limited research suggests that taking magnesium might decrease the amount of movement and increase the amount of sleep in patients with restless leg syndrome. However, the role of magnesium, if any, in restless leg syndrome is uncertain since some people with the condition have high levels of magnesium in their blood, while other people with the condition have low magnesium levels.
• High blood pressure (hypertension). Some evidence suggests that taking magnesium reduces diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number in a blood pressure reading) by about 2.2 mmHg in patients with mild to moderate high blood pressure. This is a small reduction. Magnesium does not seem to lower systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) much. Some researchers question these results because they think the studies were poorly designed.
• Pregnancy-related leg cramps. Research on the use of magnesium for treating leg cramps caused by pregnancy has been inconsistent. One study shows that magnesium might reduce the frequency of leg cramps. However, another study shows no benefit.
• Lyme disease.
• Multiple sclerosis (MS).
• Premature labor.