Lesson 11: Magnesium


Magnesium is a cofactor in the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) via ATP synthase.We think of the Krebs cycle as a pathway for the breakdown of glucose but it takes pyruvate from the glycolysis cycle and makes ATP energy molecules.

Magnesium plays an essential role in skeletal development, protein synthesis, muscle contraction and neurotransmission. Magnesium is a mineral that, among other things helps turn the food we eat into energy and helps to make sure the parathyroid glands, which produce hormones that are important for bone health, work normally. Magnesium plays an essential role in skeletal development, protein synthesis, muscle contraction and neurotransmission. Magnesium is a critical mineral needed for a variety of normal health functions. Headaches, insomnia, irregularity, moodiness, fatigue, general sadness or a lack of motivation, and even cramps or joint pain are said to be caused, by a lack of magnesium. The critical mineral is found abundantly in plants and it’s also the first that’s depleted by stress, fatigue, or too much calcium in the body. Calcium and magnesium both compete for absorption, and if one is out of balance, the other is as well. This may be one reason why excess dairy in a person’s diet leads them to experience more muscle fatigue, inflammation, nervousness or anxiety, and can even lead to constipation or worse, osteoporosis. Dairy milk may actually deplete calcium from the bones, along with other critical minerals such as magnesium, making it an unsafe source to depend on for our nutrient needs. Luckily, magnesium is found in so many delicious plant foods, while animal foods have little to no magnesium at all.  If you fill up your plate with more magnesium-rich foods that also happen to be high in plant-based calcium, you can be sure you’re giving your body what it needs through your diet. Still, some people may find that if they work out a lot or suffer other forms of stress, an additional supplement of magnesium may provide benefits. 

Good sources of magnesium

Magnesium is found in a wide variety of foods, such as green leafy vegetables – such as spinachnuts, seeds, bananas, brown rice and Raw Dark Sugar Free Chocolate

How much magnesium do I need?

Everyone needs varying levels of magnesium, with a minimum of 400 milligrams per day.  Depending on how active you are or how much stress you suffer, you could need more since magnesium is quickly depleted in the body during mental or physical stress (such as exercise). Luckily, plant-based foods are packed with magnesium, making it easy to get enough. However if you’re not eating a balanced diet and finding yourself fatigued, irritable and suffering irregularity or insomnia, you may want to consider a supplement. If you need to supplement, be aware that some forms of magnesium may make you sleepy, which include magnesium citrate and magnesium oxide, though these both aid in regularity. Some people take magnesium at night before they go to sleep to further aid sleep health and also increase regularity in the morning, along with energy and focus. A 400 milligram supplement is enough for most people who are eating enough whole, plant-based foods.

To ensure you are getting the 400g of magnesium it is best to consume about 800mg from organic produce to account for maximum absorption. So 100g of cacao is about 500mg, 1 cup of spinach is about 157mg, 1 Banana has 33mg, 1 cup of almonds has 105 mg, Beetroot has 31mg, slow cooked oatmeal has 57mg and 1 cup of sunflower seeds or sunflower cheese is 500mg

Magnesium sulfate – To Soothe Sore Muscles

This one is basically the athlete’s magnesium. Although it has two standard uses, it’s known by most people as Epsom salt. Athletes and sore gym-goers add them to baths in order to ease sore muscles and muscle cramps. But it’s also used in hospitals by healthcare professionals who administer it as an injection or IV. It’s used to treat kidney problems in kids and prevent preterm labor and seizures in some cases of severe pregnancy complications. It’s also used by healthcare professionals to treat hypomagnesemia, or low magnesium levels, in a hospital setting. This form of magnesium can also be used as a natural laxative.

Magnesium citrate – To improve your Digestion

We can’t always absorb minerals efficiently, even if we’re taking in enough through diet or supplements. This form of magnesium, which is magnesium bound to citric acid, is one of the better absorbed forms of magnesium (Walker, 2003). But there is one downside: it can cause a laxative effect at high doses. Aside from oral magnesium intended to boost daily intake, the most common use of this particular form of the mineral is as stool cleaning preparation for surgery or bowel procedures such as colonoscopies. You should talk to a medical professional about whether you need magnesium supplementation to meet your reference dietary allowance (RDA) and whether magnesium citrate is a good form for you. It may take a trial to test your tolerability to this form of the mineral.

Magnesium lactate

This common form is used for general treatment to correct or prevent magnesium deficiency. You’ll find magnesium lactate in health or supplement stores or online as oral magnesium that can be used as part of your supplement plan. This is also a form of magnesium that’s used as a food additive in fortified or enriched foods. People who struggle to hit their RDA through dietary sources, such as vegans, may want to turn to this form in several ways to help boost their magnesium intake. Oral supplements can help, but may not be necessary if fortified foods such as certain breakfast cereals are included in your daily diet in order to get enough.

Magnesium chloride – To Soothe Skin Issues

You’ll frequently see this type of magnesium sold as a dietary supplement to boost your daily intake and help with bone health. The form itself is a magnesium salt bound with chlorine, which makes for a supplement that’s pretty easy for your body to absorb. You’ll generally find magnesium chloride in the form of tablets and capsules, though there are also topical treatments such as lotions that use this form.

Magnesium malate

This form of the trace element combines magnesium with malic acid, a substance found naturally in fruits that is sometimes also used as a food additive. One animal-based study found that magnesium malate was the most bioavailable form of the mineral, which means these supplements may be able to offer the most health benefits (Uysal, 2019). But more work needs to be done to see if that holds true in humans.

Magnesium malate is often recommended for people with fibromyalgia as a treatment for the fatigue and stiffness characteristic of this chronic illness. Unfortunately, a meta-analysis of 11 studies didn’t find any evidence to support these claims. However, magnesium is involved in over 300 chemical reactions in the body, several of which help give you energy (Ferreira, 2019). This mineral is also essential to energy production, so supplementation may help with feelings of fatigue.

Magnesium taurate

This combination of magnesium and the amino acid taurine may be beneficial for those seeking the heart health-boosting benefits of the essential mineral. Taurine’s health benefits reportedly parallel some of those of magnesium, so you’re potentially getting two ingredients that impact cardiovascular health (McCarty, 1996). Many studies that shape what we know about blood pressure and low levels of magnesium are done in rats, not people. These studies indicate that magnesium deficiency contributes to high blood pressure, which may up the odds of developing heart disease (Laurant, 1999). So more research needs to be done on whether this holds true in humans, but a meta-analysis of studies on magnesium found that supplements of this important mineral can successfully lower blood pressure (Zhang, 2016).

It’s not just your heart that may benefit from magnesium supplementation with this specific type, either. This form of magnesium has also been found to help slow or prevent the onset of cataracts (Agarwal, 2013).

Magnesium oxide – To Treat Heartburn

You might know this form best as milk of magnesia. When combined with water, magnesium oxide turns into magnesium hydroxide, so these forms have essentially the same health benefits. They’re well known for their ability to promote digestion and ease heartburn. It may also help with anxiety. A meta-analysis looked at 18 studies on how magnesium affects anxiety and found that the overarching pattern was that supplementation could indeed help with subjective anxiety, though more research is needed (Boyle, 2017). Across the 18 studies, magnesium oxide was the second most commonly used form of this mineral.

Potential side effects

When you eat a lot of food sources of magnesium, your body is able to excrete the excess through urine (Musso, 2009). We only absorb roughly 50% of the magnesium content of the foods we eat (Institute of Medicine, 1997). That isn’t the case with supplements, which is why following medical advice about dosing is crucial. High doses may lead to magnesium poisoning, though this is usually caused by a combination of kidney insufficiency and excess magnesium intake (Musso, 2009). For that reason, people with kidney disease are at a greater risk of hypermagnesemia (too much magnesium).

Although some forms of magnesium have a more pronounced effect than others, all of them may cause digestive issues or gastrointestinal discomfort from bloating and gas to loose stools. The amount of magnesium considered the upper limit for supplements is 350 mg, which means the rest is supposed to come from the diet (Office of Dietary Supplements, 2019). High doses above this mark may lead to side effects, but large doses may be given in the short term under medical supervision to correct a deficiency quickly.