Peer Reviewed

SupplementsMagnesium is a mineral that is essential in many of the body's vital functions. This mineral helps uptake of calcium and potassium, prevents soft tissue calcification (calcium deposits in arteries, kidneys, and other tissues), reduces blood pressure, the effects of stress, anxiety and depression, lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reduces cramps and water retention associated with menstruation, and may improve sleep.

The Basics

It may also prevent osteoporosis, some forms of cancer, and complications of pregnancy (preeclampsia and eclampsia). Preeclampsia and eclampsia are both serious conditions involving hypertension during pregnancy.

A deficiency in magnesium may cause the following symptoms: Insomnia, confusion, rapid heartbeat, and poor digestion. Magnesium's balance in the body may be disrupted from vomiting, diarrhea, diabetes, stomach or bowel disease, diuretics, and pancreatitis. A deficiency in magnesium may worsen disease.

There is a test for magnesium deficiency called intracellular magnesium screen. This is a sensitive test that may be more accurate than a standard serum magnesium screen.


Some of the richest food sources include nuts (Brazil nuts, cashews, black walnuts), green leafy vegetables, wheat bran, soybean flour, and blackstrap molasses. Other sources for magnesium are apples, apricots, bananas, avocados, garlic, lima beans, and salmon. Even many herbs/spices contain magnesium (sage, basil, lemongrass, peppermint, parsley, paprika, and many more).

Magnesium is also available as magnesium citrate, magnesium gluconate, and magnesium lactate. Look for supplements that are soluble - it is easier for the body to absorb. These come in capsule and tablet forms.

Other sources include Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) and milk of magnesia. These are used as laxatives.

Guidelines and Cautions

The recommended daily doses are:

 Age Group (Age in Years) Dose
 Children 1 to 3  80-mg
 Children 4 to 8  130-mg
 Children 9 to 13  240-mg
 Girls 14 to 18  360-mg
 Boys 14 to 18  410-mg
 Women 19 to 30  310-mg
 Women 30 plus  320-mg
 Men 19 to 30  400-mg
 Men 30 plus  420-mg

To avoid diarrhea, take magnesium throughout the day with a full glass of water.

Do not take magnesium supplements if heart or kidney disease is present. Too much magnesium can cause serious problems or death. Seek the advice of a medical professional prior to taking magnesium.

Calcium (Vitamin D), manganese, phosphorus, zinc, iron, fat, certain medicine, and some foods/drinks can increase the body's need for magnesium.

Diuretics, digitalis, alcohol, caffeine, salt, and sugar can cause the body to lose magnesium. Do not overuse milk of magnesia or Epsom salts as laxatives. Serious health problems may result.

If taking medication on a daily basis, consult a medical professional before taking magnesium.

Updated on: 08/06/15
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Wellness Center
Vincent Traynelis, MD
Although many patients describe improvement in their condition after taking one of the supplements previously described, the Editorial Board is unable to endorse these supplements, as there is insufficient peer reviewed research available. Hopefully the role of these compounds will be better understood once more scientific research is compiled.
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