Article Series

  1. Magnesium - Functions And Health Benefits
  2. Foods with Magnesium / Magnesium-Rich Foods
  3. Magnesium Deficiency - Causes, Symptoms, Treatment
  4. Magnesium - Overdose & Excess

Related Articles

Magnesium - Functions And Health Benefits

Magnesium - Functions And Health Benefits
Table Of Contents
  1. Functions and Effects
  2. Preventive Effects of Magnesium
  3. Magnesium for Athletes
  4. Improving Magnesium Absorption from Food
  5. Impairment of Magnesium Absorption
  6. Do vegans need to consider anything?

Magnesium is an essential mineral and an important electrolyte. This mineral must be obtained through food intake. The human body contains approximately 24 grams of magnesium 1. About 60 to 65% is stored in bones and teeth, 27% in muscles, 6 to 7% in other cells, and the remaining 1% is located outside the cells (extracellular space) 2. Almost all body cells contain magnesium.

Functions and Effects

Magnesium is essential for the function of enzymes. Enzymes are necessary for maintaining bodily functions. However, enzymes cannot function on their own; cofactors are required by the body. Magnesium is such a cofactor that enables over 300 metabolic reactions and over 600 enzymatic reactions, which are crucial for energy metabolism and protein synthesis 3 4. Thus, magnesium is involved in many important functions in the body, which are listed below: Magnesium

  • plays an essential role in carbohydrate metabolism for energy production (participates in ATP formation, enabling muscle functions) 5
  • is involved in the transmission of signals between nerves and muscles
  • serves as a central component in metabolic networks and signaling cascades (signal transmission through multiple stages), where magnesium participates in regulating enzyme activity and directing macromolecules to specific complexes or cellular locations 6
  • allows for muscle relaxation by drawing calcium (responsible for muscle contractions) from the blood, thus promoting relaxed muscles. Calcium
  • regulates blood pressure and has a blood pressure-lowering effect. 7
  • strengthens the cellular and humoral immune system by inhibiting inflammatory processes in the body and is involved in the formation of antioxidants such as glutathione. 8 9
  • improves insulin sensitivity, allowing for better breakdown of blood sugar. 10
  • enhances the absorption and metabolism of vitamin D as it is involved in the conversion of vitamin D into its active form 11. Additionally, magnesium allows vitamin D to bind to its transport proteins (vitamin D-binding proteins; VDBP), which are needed for the transportation of vitamin D through the blood 12 13
  • supports the formation and maintenance of bones, bone density, and bone health as magnesium influences the regulation of osteoblasts responsible for bone formation 14 15 16
  • sStimulates the formation of calcitonin, which helps preserve bone structure by reducing calcium release from the bones 17
  • is required for the synthesis of DNA and RNA, which are responsible for the formation of new cells and proteins, enabling muscle building and maintenance, among other functions 18
  • is involved in the regulation of protein synthesis 19
  • magnesium ions regulate cell membrane stability and permeability 20 21

Preventive Effects of Magnesium

The mineral substance has been associated with a slowed aging process according to studies 22. Magnesium reduces the damage caused by inflammatory processes and free radicals through its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress have been identified by scientists as factors in aging and age-related diseases.

A meta-analysis, which summarizes the results of several studies on a specific topic, suggests a lower susceptibility to metabolic syndrome with dietary magnesium 23. Metabolic syndrome describes a group of risk factors (elevated cholesterol levels, body fat percentage, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure) that can lead to health problems such as heart failure and diabetes. In the summary of the studies, 24,473 people with high and low magnesium intake were compared, of whom 6,311 had metabolic syndrome. For every 100 mg of magnesium consumed per day, the overall risk of metabolic syndrome was reduced by 17%.

According to other study findings from 2014, magnesium can be inversely associated with coronary artery calcification, potentially playing a protective role against stroke and fatal coronary heart disease. 24. Increasing magnesium intake by 50 mg led to a 22% reduction in coronary artery calcification and a 12% lower calcification of the abdominal aorta. Other study findings also demonstrate this positive effect of magnesium on reduced stroke risk. 25.

In addition, daily magnesium consumption is associated with a reduced risk of mortality in people at higher risk of cardiovascular disease. 26. Compared to participants with lower magnesium intake, those with the highest intake had a 34% lower risk of mortality. Other scientists associate higher magnesium levels with a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, especially ischemic heart diseases caused by reduced blood flow to the heart muscle. 27 28 29.

According to study results from 2014, scientists also observe a correlation between higher magnesium intake and a reduced risk of strokes 30. Over the 12-year follow-up period, 631 strokes occurred among 36,094 participants aged 21 to 70 years. By consuming 100 mg of magnesium per day, the risk was reduced by 20%. A study summary from 2012 also supports an 8% lower risk by increasing magnesium intake by 100 mg per day 31. Higher intake of magnesium and potassium is also associated with a significantly reduced risk of stroke in women, according to another study summary from 2015 32.

A 2014 study summary with over 1.2 million participants suggests that magnesium appears to have a significantly protective effect against colorectal cancer, especially in women. 33 Other study findings also suggest that magnesium possesses anti-bone cancer properties. 34 Scientists are optimistic about the use of biomedical magnesium for the repair of bone defects, prevention of bone cancer, and prevention of bone cancer relapse in patients. Magnesium may also be beneficial in preventing pancreatic cancer. 35 A 24% increase in pancreatic cancer incidence was observed with a reduction of 100 mg of magnesium intake per day. Other scientific findings indicate that higher magnesium intake levels may be associated with a 13% lower risk of colorectal adenomas and a 12% lower risk of colorectal cancer. 36.

Magnesium is also used as an anti-stress mineral. It inhibits the release of catecholamines 37 38. The stress hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline belong to this group, and their secretion is reduced by an adequate intake of magnesium.

A magnesium-rich diet can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a 2007 summary of studies 39. A newer summary from 2011 provides further evidence of a significantly inverse effect of magnesium on the risk of type 2 diabetes 40. According to the study, the risk decreased by 14% for every 100 mg of magnesium per day. According to a 2013 study from Japan, increasing magnesium intake could be an important protective factor against the occurrence of type 2 diabetes in the population 41.

Higher intake of magnesium appears to reduce symptoms of depression and be effective in treatment. 42 43 44 45. However, the data is not yet conclusive. The same applies to the potential reducing effect of magnesium on fatigue and migraines. 46 47.

In addition, magnesium may also play a role in the development and exacerbation of cataracts (clouding of the eye lens) 48.

It is important not to overdo magnesium consumption but rather to adhere to the general daily intake recommendations. For a table of magnesium-rich foods, click here.

Magnesium for Athletes

Magnesium is also one of the most important minerals for athletes. It is involved in numerous processes related to fitness, including muscle function, oxygen uptake, energy production (maintenance of blood sugar levels), and electrolyte balance 49 50. Maintaining balanced electrolyte levels is key to optimal performance. If the electrolyte balance is disrupted, it can lead to performance impairments such as side stitches, cramps, and muscle fatigue.

Scientists associate magnesium with enhancing athletic performance in professional athletes 51. According to researchers, these results could be attributed to the importance of magnesium in energy metabolism, transmembrane transport (the transport of ions and molecules across the biomembrane), and muscle contraction and relaxation.

A study found that the use of magnesium supplements resulted in an increase in testosterone levels. The increase is higher in athletes compared to individuals with little physical activity 52. According to another study involving older men, magnesium levels are associated with anabolic hormones such as testosterone and IGF-1 53. Studies have shown that magnesium intake affects the release of IGF-1 and leads to increased testosterone bioactivity.

In general, supplementation with magnesium has not shown to have an impact on improved athletic performance in well-nourished athletes, except for a study from 2014 (improved plyometrics and increased maximum oxygen uptake - VO2max) 54 55 56.

Improving Magnesium Absorption from Food

In the small intestine, approximately 30 to 50% of the magnesium present in foods is absorbed 57.

By means of vitamin D, absorption can be increased in healthy individuals in the small intestine 58. In vegan nutrition, mushrooms are particularly important foods rich in vitamin D. In summer, it is important to expose the skin to short-term sunlight (10 to 15 minutes daily) without sunscreen creams, so that the body can produce sufficient vitamin D through the skin.

Soluble fibers such as inulin, oligosaccharides, and oligofructose, known as prebiotics, improve the bioavailability of magnesium. 59 60 61. Check out the fiber-rich foods (fiber table) here.

Impairment of Magnesium Absorption

Insoluble fibers, on the other hand, can negatively affect absorption 62. However, foods usually contain a mix of both types of fiber. What's more important is not to consume too many fibers. Because absorption of magnesium is reduced when the intake exceeds 50 grams per day 63.

Proteins also appear to have a negative impact on magnesium absorption from food. According to results, magnesium absorption decreases when protein intake is below 30 grams per day in adolescent boys 64. Furthermore, with a protein intake exceeding 94 grams per day, magnesium excretion through the kidneys may increase.

A high intake of zinc has a negative influence on the absorption of magnesium from food 65.

Other factors that can hinder the absorption of magnesium from food include foods with a high content of phytic acid (mostly found in seed hulls, grains, and legumes) 66. Cooking can reduce the negative effect of these acids.

Do vegans need to consider anything?

With a balanced vegan diet, there are usually no issues with sufficient magnesium intake among vegans. In general, vegans have higher magnesium levels, as indicated by 67.

According to research findings, vegans have the highest magnesium intake based on a large British study, with an average of 505 mg of magnesium per day 68. Furthermore, a Danish study found that vegans consume more magnesium than the general population 69. Additionally, scientists recommend a plant-based diet for magnesium supplementation during pregnancy 70.