Magnesium plays a role in over 300 enzyme reactions that occur in the human body. It’s a mineral and an electrolyte which supports the immune system, our muscle and nerve function (regulates neurotransmitters) and also helps to regulate our blood pressure. Magnesium can also be used to reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety as well as control muscle contraction and relaxation. It also regulates our heart rhythm. Studies have found around 50% of people in the USA and Europe receive lower levels than the recommended daily intake of magnesium.
Magnesium’s ability to relax our muscles and our nervous system can also help to improve our sleep quality allowing us to fall asleep more soundly. A study on 46 elderly subjects revealed that those who took magnesium daily fell asleep faster. Their sleep quality also improved and insomnia decreased. Studies also confirmed that magnesium regulates the production of melatonin (sleep hormone) which guides the body’s sleep – wake cycle.
Low GABA (gamma-aminobutyric receptors) levels in the body can make it difficult to relax. The hormone GABA helps to calm nerve activity which assists in more sound sleep.
Low levels of magnesium have been linked with depression. A study on 8,800 people discovered that adults aged 65 and under who didn’t receive a sufficient dose of magnesium had a 22% greater risk of suffering from depression.
Magnesium regulates brain function and mood and therefore scientists believe there is a promising link between magnesium and depression, although further studies are needed to develop the thesis. Supplementation with magnesium affects brain function by helping to lower stress and move our body into the ‘rest and digest’ state and by activating the parasympathetic nervous system.
Trials on older subjects with depression revealed that supplementing 450mg of magnesium daily can improve mood and symptoms of depression as effectively as antidepressants.
Some premenstrual symptoms can also be alleviated with the supplementation of magnesium. Water retention, abdominal cramps, tiredness and irritability are the most common symptoms in women of childbearing age. Interestingly a study suggests that magnesium relieves premenstrual mood changes and fluid retention.
Various studies have also shown that patients with a chronic fatigue conditions linked to stress-related fibromyalgia suffered with low magnesium levels that are correlated with total antioxidant capacity of blood and Glutathione concentrations, but not with lipid peroxidation (oxidative degradation of lipids). According to Nottingham health profile score weekly intramuscular injections with one gram of magnesium resulted in a significant improvement in energy levels, pain, and emotional reactions in patients with fibromyalgia (9). This suggests that magnesium depletion can be associated with disfunction of the biological clock resulting in fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
The benefits of magnesium supplementation are ongoing however we now understand it is critical for many of the bodies functions. Achieving your daily intake of magnesium from food is best, however supplementation may be required where this cannot be reached. Magnesium is found naturally in foods such as green leafy vegetables (spinach, swiss chard), whole grains, nuts (almonds, cashews), seeds (pumpkin seeds) and dark chocolate. According to studies only 30% to 50% of the magnesium that we ingest is absorbed by the body. For that reason, many of us choose to supplement to ensure that our daily needs are met.
Talk to your medical practitioner to find out what’s best for your needs.