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The Benefits of Magnesium

Each one of our 20 trillion cells needs Magnesium, and it’s also used in over 600 biochemical reactions in the body as a co-factor or ‘helper molecule’. The benefits of magnesium include energy production, regulating our nervous systems, building and repairing DNA, contrasting and relaxing muscles and forming proteins (1).

However, up to 80% of us are deficient in magnesium (2), and measuring a deficiency with a standard blood test is very difficult because only 1%-2% of body magnesium is in our blood, (67% is in our bones and 31% in our cells). The problem is caused by the fact that today the magnesium in our diets has been significantly reduced from the levels we would have had over the vast majority of human evolution.

For example it’s taken out of drinking water and removed from our salt. Also in recent years the drive in increase crop yields has meant we have our fruit and vegetables now grow much more quickly, meaning they have less time to absorb vitamins and minerals from the soil, so they have much lower levels of magnesium than just 30 -40 years ago (3).

Also our modern lifestyles have played a part, we’ve moved away from quality foods to processed ones devoid of any nutrition, and the stress of the modern world depletes magnesium from our bodies. That’s why the symptoms of magnesium deficiency are becoming so common, and why many of us are turning to specialist magnesium supplements to ensure we’re getting enough.

Signs of magnesium deficiency include (4):

  • High blood pressure and heart disease
  • Other nutrient deficiencies including vitamin K, vitamin B1, calcium and potassium
  • Migraines
  • Mental health issues and mood swings
  • Trouble sleeping / Insomnia
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Worsened PMS symptoms
  • Osteoporosis
  • Recurrent bacterial or fungal infections
  • Tooth decay
  • Muscle Weakness and Cramps
  • Impotence

Here are the top 10 benefits of reintroducing proper levels of magnesium into your body either through improving your diet, or by taking high quality magnesium supplements.

1. Magnesium is Vital For Heart Health and Low Blood Pressure

Magnesium is hugely important for our hearts, in fact the highest level of magnesium in the whole body is in the heart. The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study on almost 14,000 middle aged people without heart disease found that those who had the lowest levels of magnesium had the highest chance of developing heart disease (5).

Another study found that oral magnesium supplements significantly improved artery and endothelial function, and exercise tolerance in patients with heart disease (6). There are also several studies showing magnesium can lower blood pressure in patients suffering from high blood pressure (7,8,9)

2. Magnesium Helps you Fall Asleep

Magnesium is a natural relaxant, is balances your neurotransmitters to prevent your brain getting overstimulated, and it’s used all the time in conventional medicine to help with life threatening heart problems such as irregular heart rhythms, open-heart surgeries, and also on the maternity ward where it can help save the lives of mother and baby in preterm labor. It acts sort like a muscle relaxer and relaxes the contracting uterus. It you’re having trouble falling asleep try magnesium.

3. Magnesium Can Calm Your Nerves

Magnesium also helps to calm you down. It binds to GABA receptors in the brain (10). GABA is the natural ‘valium’ and acts in the same way as Valium and other transqluilizers do. It can also help to reduce stress and anxiety levels.

Magnesium deficiency can also can an increase in the production of cortisol which can specifically activate the paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus (PVN), a part of the brain involved in controlling the responses to stress and anxiety (11).

4. Magnesium Increases Energy and Boosts Sports Performance

ATP the main source of energy in all our cells must be bound to a magnesium ion in order to be biologically active. It’s also involved in oxygen uptake and electrolyte balance. So when you’re exercising you needs for magnesium can go up 20%, so even a marginal deficiency impairs our performance and make increases the potentially negative side effect of exercise – inflammation. During exercise more magnesium is lost in sweat and filtered out of the body in our urine.

That’s why it’s absolutely essential for anybody that’s physically active, (and the should be all of us), get adequate magnesium (12).

Magnesium also helps move glucose into your muscles during exercise, and also helps to prevent lactic acid building up (13). It has been shown to increase performance in competing athletes, the elderly and those with heart disease (14,15,16,17,18).

Amongst competing athletes magnesium supplementation has demonstrated increased endurance performance, and increases in power output (17,18).

5. Magnesium Can Prevent Migraines

Magnesium can cause relax the arteries and blood vessels in the brain and improve circulation. It also can act on GABA receptors in the brain and central nervous system which reduces pain, as well as reducing cortisol levels. It also reduces the build up of red blood cell platelets, another factor strongly associated with the development of migraines.

Several studies have directly shown the effectiveness of supplementing with magnesium orally in both preventing migraines from developing, and reducing their severity in both children and adults (19-21).

6. Magnesium Boosts Learning and Memory

For a brain to be able to think, process and learn the nerve cells or neurones of the brain and Central Nervous system need to be able to make connections between each other to pass on information. The ability to be able to do this is known as ‘brain plasticity’. The better able our brains are to form new connections, the more ’plastic’ they are, and the better we can learn.

Magnesium improves brain plasticity by improving the efficiency with which neurones make new connections (aka called synapses). Magnesium is specifically located in the gaps between nerve cells on receptors known at NMDA receptors, here it regulates the flow of calcium through the cells to ensure nerve impulses are sent efficiently to ensure more likelihood of successful connections. So the more magnesium in the brain the more successful connections can be made (22).

7. Magnesium Relieves Muscle Aches and Spasms

Just as Magnesium has an important role in the connections of nerve cells in the brain so they can transmit information, it also has an important role in the transmission of signals between the motor neurones of our spinal cord, and our muscles allowing us to move.

If we don’t have enough magnesium our muscles will literally go into spasm (23). We also need magnesium to balance our calcium levels. Whilst magnesium is often deficient in our diets calcium is often abundant, and many people compound this by taking extra calcium supplements which can result in muscle pains, cramps and weakness. Adding magnesium to your diet will also help with recovery from muscle pain and aches after exercise. Muscles love magnesium!

8. Magnesium Is Vital For Bone Health

Most people think of calcium when it comes to bone, but magnesium is just as important for bone health. Magnesium is vital for the absorption and calcium in the gut, and it’s also vital for the production of the active form of vitamin D which is important in forming osteoblasts the cells that make bone.

Magnesium also maintains the balance of 2 hormones that are vital for regulating calcium levels in our bones and teeth, calcitonin and parathyroid hormone. Studies have shown that increasing magnesium intake can increase bone mineral density (24).

9. Magnesium, Insulin Resistance and Type II Diabetes

People who consume more magnesium have a much lower chance of developing diabetes because it has an important role in glucose metabolism (25, 26). Very low levels of magnesium in the blood (known as hypomagnesaemia) also worsens insulin resistance (27). There is also a vicious circle whereby diabetes itself leads to greater losses of magnesium from the body in urine, which leads to lower body magnesium levels and then impaired insulin secretion and action, which worsens a persons control on diabetes (28).

10. Magnesium Can Help PMS Symptoms

PMS symptoms can really take the fun out of life and include water retention, tiredness, cramps and irritability. Magnesium can help to ease cramps, water retention, and has also been shown to improve mood in women suffering from PMS (29, 30).

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(2) The Magnesium Miracle, Carolyn Dean

(3) Donald R. Davis, Declining Fruit and Vegetable Nutrient Composition: What Is the Evidence? HortScience February 2009 vol. 44 no. 1 15-19

(4) The multifaceted and widespread pathology of magnesium deficiency. Johnson S, Med Hypotheses. 2001 Feb;56(2):163-70.

(5) Is low magnesium concentration a risk
factor for coronary heart disease? The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities
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(6) Oral Magnesium Therapy Improves Endothelial Function in Patients With Coronary Artery Disease, Michael Shechter, MD, MA; Michael Sharir, MD; Maura J. Paul Labrador, MPH; James Forrester, MD; Burton Silver, PhD; C. Noel Bairey Merz, MD, Circulation. 2000; 102:2353-2358.

(7) Oral magnesium supplementation reduces ambulatory blood pressure in patients with mild hypertension. Hatzistavri LS, Sarafidis PA, Georgianos PI, Tziolas IM, Aroditis CP, Zebekakis PE, Pikilidou MI, Lasaridis AN. Am J Hypertens. 2009 Oct;22(10):1070-5.

(8) Effects of magnesium supplementation in hypertensive patients: assessment by office, home, and ambulatory blood pressures. Kawano Y, Matsuoka H, Takishita S, Omae T. Hypertension. 1998 Aug;32(2):260-5.

(9) A pilot study on the effects of magnesium supplementation with high and low habitual dietary magnesium intake on resting and recovery from aerobic and resistance exercise and systolic blood pressure. Kass LS, Skinner P, Poeira F, J Sports Sci Med. 2013 Mar 1;12(1):144-50.

(10) Magnesium potentiation of the function of native and recombinant GABA(A) receptors. Neuroreport. Möykkynen T, Uusi-Oukari M, Heikkilä J, Lovinger DM, Lüddens H, Korpi ER.
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(11) Magnesium deficiency induces anxiety and HPA axis dysregulation: Modulation by therapeutic drug treatment. S.B. Sartori, N. Whittle, A. Hetzenauer, and N. Singewald. Neuropharmacology. 2012 Jan; 62(1): 304–312.

(12) Update on the relationship between magnesium and exercise. Nielsen FH, Lukaski HC. Magnes Res. 2006 Sep;19(3):180-9.

(13) Magnesium enhances exercise performance via increasing glucose availability in the blood, muscle, and brain during exercise. Chen HY, Cheng FC, Pan HC, Hsu JC, Wang MF.PLoS One. 2014 Jan 20;9

(14) The effect of acute magnesium loading on the maximal exercise performance of stable chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients. Amaral AF, Gallo L Jr, Vannucchi H, Crescêncio JC, Vianna EO, Martinez JA. Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2012;67(6):615-22.

(15) Oral magnesium therapy, exercise heart rate, exercise tolerance, and myocardial function in coronary artery disease patients. Pokan R, Hofmann P, von Duvillard SP, Smekal G, Wonisch M, Lettner K, Schmid P, Shechter M, Silver B, Bachl N. Br J Sports Med. 2006 Sep;40(9):773-8.

(16) Effect of oral magnesium supplementation on physical performance in healthy elderly women involved in a weekly exercise program: a randomized controlled trial. Veronese N, Berton L, Carraro S, Bolzetta F, De Rui M, Perissinotto E, Toffanello ED, Bano G, Pizzato S, Miotto F, Coin A, Manzato E, Sergi G. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Sep;100(3):974-81.

(17) On the significance of magnesium in extreme physical stress. Golf SW, Bender S, Grüttner J. Cardiovasc Drugs Ther. 1998 Sep;12 Suppl 2:197-202.

(18) Magnesium status and the physical performance of volleyball players: effects of magnesium supplementation. Setaro L1, Santos-Silva PR, Nakano EY, Sales CH, Nunes N, Greve JM, Colli C. J Sports Sci. 2014;32(5):438-45.

(19) Oral magnesium oxide prophylaxis of frequent migrainous headache in children: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Wang F1, Van Den Eeden SK, Ackerson LM, Salk SE, Reince RH, Elin RJ. Headache. 2003 Jun;43(6):601-10.

(20) The effects of magnesium prophylaxis in migraine without aura. Köseoglu E1, Talaslioglu A, Gönül AS, Kula M. Magnes Res. 2008 Jun;21(2):101-8.

(21) Comparison of therapeutic effects of magnesium sulfate vs. dexamethasone/metoclopramide on alleviating acute migraine headache. Shahrami A, Assarzadegan F, Hatamabadi HR, Asgarzadeh M, Sarehbandi B, Asgarzadeh S. J Emerg Med. 2015 Jan;48(1):69-76.

(22) The mechanism of magnesium block of NMDA receptors, J.Peter Ruppersberg, Eberhard v. Kitzing, Ralf Schoepfer, Seminars in Neuroscience, Volume 6, Issue 2, April 1994, Pages 87-96

(23) Muscle cramps and magnesium deficiency: case reports. D. L. Bilbey and V. M. Prabhakaran, Canadian Fam Physician. 1996 Jul; 42: 1348–1351.

(24) Institute of Medicine (IOM). Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D and Fluorideexternal link disclaimer. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1997.

(25) Larsson SC, Wolk A. Magnesium intake and risk of type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis. J Intern Med 2007;262:208-14.

(26) Rodriguez-Moran M, Simental Mendia LE, Zambrano Galvan G, Guerrero-Romero F. The role of magnesium in type 2 diabetes: a brief based-clinical review. Magnes Res 2011;24:156-62.

(27) Simmons D, Joshi S, Shaw J. Hypomagnesaemia is associated with diabetes: not pre-diabetes, obesity or the metabolic syndrome. Diabetes Res Clin Pract 2010;87:261-6.

(28) Rude RK. Magnesium. In: Ross AC, Caballero B, Cousins RJ, Tucker KL, Ziegler TR, eds. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 11th ed. Baltimore, Mass: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2012:159-75.

(29) Facchinetti F, Borella P, Sances G, Fioroni L, Nappi RE, Genazzani AR. Oral magnesium successfully relieves premenstrual mood changes. Obstet Gynecol. 1991 Aug;78(2):177-81.

(30) Walker AF, De Souza MC, Vickers MF, Abeyasekera S, Collins ML, Trinca LA. Magnesium supplementation alleviates premenstrual symptoms of fluid retention. J Womens Health. 1998 Nov;7(9):1157-65.

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