Magnesium is one of the elements essential to all cellular life. Considered one of seven “macrominerals,” it's a major mineral used in many intracellular processes in our bodies.
Unstable in its pure state, magnesium isn’t found freely in nature and tends to bind with other molecules, forming well-known compounds like Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) and magnesium carbonate. It was first discovered in 1755, when Scottish chemist Joseph Black distinguished magnesia (magnesium oxide) from lime (calcium oxide) and debunked the myth that calcium and magnesium were the same substance.
Almost 50 years later, Sir Humphry Davy isolated the element in its pure form in 1808. Magnesium is named after Magnesia, a district of Thessaly in Greece, where the mineral magnesia alba was first found.
In today's edition, we're digging into magnesium, AKA the “relaxation” mineral, and how it can lift your mood or even relieve your headache.
What Is Magnesium and Why Should I Care?
Magnesium is an essential mineral
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body and is responsible for the proper functioning of many tissues and organs, including the cardiovascular, neuromuscular, and nervous systems. Our bodies need large amounts of this nutrient, but we’re unable to manufacture it ourselves and must get it through our diet or supplements. (Source)
Our cells cannot make or use energy without magnesium
This critical mineral is involved in over 300 metabolic reactions and lives in all of our tissues, although it’s primarily found in the bones, muscles, and brain. On a cellular level, it’s required for the synthesis of essential molecules, including DNA and RNA, and ion transport, in addition to supporting energy production and stabilizing cellular membranes. (Source)
Magnesium is involved in a number of far-reaching processes
Magnesium acts as an essential cofactor for a diverse set of biochemical reactions in the body, ranging from neurotransmitter synthesis to insulin regulation. On a more macro level, muscles need this mineral to contract and relax. It also builds bones and teeth and has a role in preventing and treating a number of diseases. (Source)
Half of us don’t get enough magnesium
Studies have shown that nearly 50% of US adults don’t get enough magnesium in their diets. Researchers suggest that consumption of magnesium from natural foods has decreased in the past few decades due to contributing factors such as:
- Soil depletion
- Increased consumption of processed foods
- Increased usage of magnesium-depleting medications (e.g., antibiotics, diuretics)
- Increased prevalence of chronic gut problems, which can compromise magnesium absorption
A magnesium-deficient diet doesn’t generally lead to identifiable symptoms, but chronic magnesium deficiency has been associated with:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Metabolic syndrome
- Migraine headaches
- Cardiovascular disease
- Atherosclerotic vascular disease
- Sudden cardiac death
What Does the Research Show About Magnesium?
Magnesium may affect symptoms of depression
Researchers have found that low magnesium levels may be linked to an increased risk of depression in some adults. In a randomized controlled trial in older adults suffering from depression, magnesium intake of 450 mg daily improved mood as effectively as an antidepressant drug. A later study, however, found that while low dietary intake of magnesium was associated with increased risk of depression in young adults, it was associated with lower risk of depression in seniors. (Source, Source)
Magnesium may help reduce migraines
Research suggests low levels of magnesium in the blood may be linked to migraine headaches. Some studies suggest magnesium supplementation may prevent and even help treat migraines. In one study, a daily dose of 600 mg of magnesium decreased frequency by 33% and reduced intensity by 47% in patients suffering from chronic migraines. (Source, Source)
Magnesium can enhance memory
Magnesium threonate, or magnesium-L-threonate, is one of the newer forms on the market and has recently been studied with patients who have Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of cognitive decline. A study published in Neuron demonstrated that in rats magnesium threonate crossed the blood-brain barrier and improved working memory and both short- and long-term memory. (Source)
Magnesium can benefit leg cramps
Studies have shown that magnesium bisglycinate, a chelated form of magnesium, is believed to be better tolerated and more bioavailable than some other forms can be helpful for charley horses. In one trial, pregnant women taking 300 mg of magnesium bisglycinate each day reported a 50% reduction in frequency and intensity of leg cramps compared to placebo. (Source)