Unlocking the Health Benefits of Magnesium: From Depression to Heart Disease, Types of Magnesium, and Testing

Magnesium is an essential mineral that is required for numerous biochemical processes in the body.

It plays a crucial role in various functions, such as maintaining normal nerve and muscle function, regulating the heartbeat, and supporting the immune system.

Magnesium is also necessary for the production of DNA, RNA, and proteins, and it is involved in energy production.

Magnesium deficiencies are among the most common of all nutritional deficiencies worldwide only second to Vitamin D.

In this article, I will be discussing the functions of magnesium as well as the effect of its deficiency along with testing and supplementation.

Functions of Magnesium in the Body

Magnesium is a cofactor in more than 300 enzymatic reactions in the body, including those involved in carbohydrate metabolism, protein synthesis, and nucleic acid synthesis. It also helps regulate the balance of calcium, sodium, and potassium ions across cell membranes, which is essential for nerve transmission and muscle contraction. It is also a co-factor for the utilization of Vitamin D.

Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency

Magnesium deficiency can result in a range of symptoms, including:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Tremors
  • Spasms
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation.

Severe magnesium deficiency can lead to more serious symptoms, such as

  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Seizures
  • Abnormal heart rhythms

Diseases Associated with Magnesium Deficiency

Magnesium deficiency has been linked to a variety of diseases, including:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Hypertension
  • Osteoporosis
  • Migraine headaches

Inadequate magnesium intake has also been associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer.

Evidence-Based Use of Magnesium in Specific Diseases

Recent studies have suggested that magnesium supplementation may offer health benefits for various conditions, including depression, anxiety, migraines, heart disease, and fibromyalgia.

Depression and Anxiety

Several studies have shown a potential link between magnesium deficiency and an increased risk of depression and anxiety. Clinical trials have found that magnesium supplementation may help alleviate symptoms in people with mild-to-moderate depression (1). Another study found that magnesium supplementation may improve symptoms of anxiety in patients with generalized anxiety disorder (2)


Migraine headaches are a debilitating condition that affects many people and can be somewhat difficult to manage. Magnesium has been found to be effective in preventing and treating migraines. A review of several clinical trials found that magnesium supplementation may reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines, and may also help with acute migraine treatment (3)

Heart Disease

Magnesium plays a crucial role in maintaining cardiovascular health. Low magnesium levels have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke (4). Magnesium supplementation may help lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels (5), as well as lower inflammation (6) – all of which are risk factors for heart disease.


Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain and tenderness. This condition can be somewhat difficult to manage. Magnesium supplementation has been found to be effective in reducing pain and improving the quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia. A randomized controlled trial found that magnesium supplementation significantly reduced pain scores and tender point count in patients with fibromyalgia (7). In another clinical study, the use of transdermal magnesium chloride was found to beneficial in fibromyalgia (8)

Other Health Benefits

Magnesium supplementation may also offer benefits for other conditions, such as osteoporosis (9), type 2 diabetes (10), and metabolic syndrome (11). Magnesium may also play a role in preventing and managing certain types of cancer, such as colorectal cancer (12).

How to Test Magnesium Levels

There are several methods to test for magnesium levels, including

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Hair analysis

However, the most accurate and reliable test is the “RBC magnesium test”, which measures the level of magnesium in red blood cells.

RBC Magnesium Test

The RBC magnesium test is important because it reflects the long-term magnesium status of the body, rather than just the amount of magnesium in the blood at the time of the test. This test is particularly useful for individuals who have normal serum magnesium levels but may still have a magnesium deficiency.

What are Normal Magnesium Levels?

Normal levels of magnesium in the blood can vary depending on the which test is used. Generally, the normal range for serum magnesium is 1.7 to 2.3 mg/dL, while the normal range for RBC magnesium is 4.2 to 6.8 mg/dL. However, it is essential to note that these ranges may vary depending on various factors including the lab as well as the individual’s age, gender, and health status.

Types of Magnesium Supplements

Magnesium supplements come in various forms, including magnesium oxide, magnesium citrate, magnesium glycinate, and magnesium chloride. The different forms of magnesium have different absorption rates and may have different effects on the body. It is important to choose a high-quality magnesium supplement that is well-tolerated and effectively absorbed by the body. It is also important to select a magnesium supplement that is most suited for the specific health concern.

Here are some of the types of magnesium & their uses:

Magnesium Citrate

  • Highly absorbable
  • Regulate bowel movements
  • Used to treat constipation
  • Beneficial in low stomach acid levels.
  • Relaxing effect on the muscles -> relieves cramps and muscle tension
  • Dosage: 200-400mg a day*

Magnesium Glycinate

  • Highly absorbable
  • Commonly used to treat anxiety, depression, and insomnia
  • Beneficial for muscle pain -> reduces muscle cramps and soreness
  • Dosage: 200-400mg a day*

Magnesium Threonate

  • Highly absorbable
  • Has cognitive benefits.
  • Appears to increase brain magnesium levels -> which can improve memory and cognitive function
  • Beneficial for people with anxiety and depression
  • Dosage: 2000-3000mg a day*

Magnesium Malate

  • Bound to a compound known as malic acid
  • Commonly used to assist with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Can also help to reduce muscle pain and promote muscle relaxation
  • Dosage: 1000-3000mg a day*

Magnesium Oxide

  • Not as highly absorbable as other forms of magnesium
  • Used for constipation constipation
  • Beneficial for low stomach acid levels (hypochloridria)
  • Dosage: 400-800mg a day*
  • I personally, am not in favor of the use of this type of magnesium due to it not being well absorbed

Magnesium Chloride

  • Commonly used in topical applications -> well absorbed through the skin
  • Helps to relieve muscle pain and tension
  • Topical application was appears to be effective for fibromyalgia
  • Also beneficial for people with skin issues, such as eczema and psoriasis
  • Dosage: 200-400mg a day*

Magnesium Sulfate

  • Also known as Epsom salt
  • Commonly used in bath salts and topical applications
  • Beneficial for sore muscles, joint pain, and skin issues such as acne and psoriasis.
  • Can also be taken orally to relieve constipation (with proper supervision)
  • For topical use: Add 1-2 cups of Epsom salt to a warm bath and soak in it for at least 15 minutes, or mix 1/2 cup of Epsom salt with warm water for a foot soak and keep your feet in it for 15-25 minutes
  • Can also be used orally but should only be used as per the recommendation of a healthcare practitioner

Magnesium Taurate

  • Bound to taurine, an amino acid that supports heart health
  • Highly useful for people with high blood pressure and heart disease in general
  • Helps to reduce anxiety and appears to also promote a sense of relaxation
  • Dosage: 125-500mg a day*

Magnesium Orotate

  • Bound to orotic acid, a compound that supports heart health and cellular energy production
  • Beneficial heart disease & fatigue
  • Appears to support athletic performance
  • Dosage: 500-2000mg a day*

Foods Rich in Magnesium

Magnesium can also be obtained from dietary sources. Foods that are high in magnesium include spinach, almonds, black beans, avocado, dark chocolate, and whole grains. Here is a breakdown of the magnesium content and percentage of the recommended daily intake (RDI) for each of these foods:

  • Spinach (1 cup cooked): gives 157mg of magnesium (37% RDI)
  • Swiss Chard (1 cup cooked): gives 150mg of magnesium (36% RDI)
  • Almonds (1 oz): gives80mg of magnesium (19% RDI)
  • Black beans (1 cup cooked): gives 120mg of magnesium (29% RDI)
  • Avocado (1 medium): gives 58mg of magnesium (14% RDI)
  • Dark chocolate (1 oz): gives 64mg of magnesium (15% RDI)
  • Whole grain bread (2 slices): gives 46mg of magnesium (11% RDI)

Magnesium and Vitamin D

Magnesium and vitamin D are both essential nutrients that work together to support optimal health. Magnesium is required for the activation of vitamin D, and vitamin D enhances the absorption of magnesium. Research has shown that low levels of magnesium may contribute to vitamin D deficiency, and supplementation with magnesium may improve vitamin D status.

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(Always use medicinal herbs under the supervision of a doctor)

by Dr. Nishal R.
Copyright © 2023

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