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Magnesium: An Essential Mineral for Good Health
Feb 09, 2022
There has been increased attention and research focus on magnesium recently due to its role in many vital biological functions such as heartbeat regulation, muscle contraction and relaxation nerve transmission as well as protein synthesis.1,2 Magnesium is the 4th most abundant mineral in the body with 50-60% stored in our bones and teeth1% found in our blood and remaining magnesium is stored in cells and tissues.3 Despite the importance of magnesium, many American adults fail to consume the recommended daily amount (RDA) and about 54% of Americans have usual intake below their recommended levels.4 A magnesium supplement may help fill nutrient gaps for this essential mineral.
How Magnesium Works in the Body
Magnesium helps support nerve, muscle and heart function and is involved in over 300 reactions in the body.3,5† Magnesium helps to maintain a normal and healthy heartbeat by working synergistically with calcium to stimulates muscle fibers in the heart to contract. Magnesium balances the effect of calcium, by helping cells in the heart to relax.6 This key mineral also plays a role in energy metabolism support, specifically in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) or cellular energy, for our body.† By increasing cellular energy you help provide your body with the energy it needs to get through the day. Magnesium also supports healthy bones and teeth.†
Dietary Magnesium Requirements
The US Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) recommends a daily magnesium intake of 310–320 mg for American females (≥19 y) and 400–420 mg for American males (≥19 y).3
The table below outlines the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for magnesium for all age groups as well as different life stages including pregnancy and lactation.
Food Sources Of Magnesium
Magnesium is found in a variety of foods but at varying levels.1,7 Foods that are good sources of magnesium include dark green vegetables, beans and peas, whole grains, as well as nuts and seeds. It is important to include magnesium-rich foods in the diet when possible to help meet individual daily requirements. To meet the RDA for magnesium, you must consume 4–8 servings of magnesium-rich foods daily.
The table below provides a list of magnesium rich foods.8
Cereal, oat bran, raw
Almonds, dry roasted
Spinach, frozen, chopped, cooked
Cashews, dry roasted
Soy Milk, plain or vanilla
Black beans, cooked
Edamame, shelled, cooked
Peanut butter, smooth
Rice, brown, cooked
When Do I Need a Magnesium Supplement?
More than half (53.4%) of American adults (>19 y) are not meeting their magnesium requirements from diet alone.4 If a diet is lacking in magnesium rich foods, you may want to determine an appropriate supplement regimen to help you fill in the gap from your dietary intake. There are various forms of magnesium available such as: magnesium oxide (most common form), magnesium citrate (highly absorbable form9,10)‡, and magnesium glycinate (highly absorbable and gentle on the stomach11)‡. If additional magnesium is warranted, different strengths of magnesium supplements are offered for the varying needs of consumers. Some individuals may experience mild transient gastrointestinal discomfort (e.g. diarrhea) with use of some forms of magnesium supplements, especially at higher doses, and if so, magnesium glycinate could be considered. The FNB has set a tolerable upper limit (UL) of ≤ 350 mg for daily magnesium intake from supplements for healthy adults as higher amounts may cause unwanted gastrointestinal side effects.7 However, magnesium needs and response to magnesium salts may vary within individuals, particularly those with certain conditions that may need higher levels.
Factors Affecting Magnesium Status
A variety of factors can affect one’s magnesium status including: age, health conditions, lifestyle factors, nutrient interactions, and medication use.
Age: Mature adults tend to consume less dietary magnesium12, and magnesium absorption decreases while urinary magnesium excretion tends to increase with age.3
Health Conditions: Gastrointestinal disorders (Crohn’s disease, malabsorption syndromes, celiac disease, bariatric surgery, and/or any surgical removal of the intestine or intestinal inflammation due to radiation) may lead to magnesium depletion. Renal disorders and long-term use of certain diuretics may result in increased urinary loss of magnesium.1,7
Lifestyle Factors: Poor dietary intake and gastrointestinal issues from chronic alcoholism also leads to increased urinary loss of magnesium.3,7 Chronic stress is associated with lower magnesium in the body which may reduce tolerance to stress and negatively affect health.13
Nutrient Interactions: High intakes of phosphorus may cause an increase in magnesium excretion, and therefore, a decrease in intestinal magnesium absorption.3
Medication Interactions: There are some medications that may deplete magnesium from the body including: acid suppressing drugs (i.e. proton pump inhibitors), antibiotics, anti-neoplastic agents, diuretics, oral contraceptives and corticosteroids.1,7,14–21 If individuals have impaired kidney function and/or are taking medications, they should use caution with magnesium supplements and consult their healthcare professional before use as magnesium may affect the effectiveness of certain medications. For example, it is important to take magnesium supplements two hours apart from bisphosphonates as magnesium may affect absorption of bisphosphonates.14
Should I Take a Dietary Supplement?
It’s important for patients to communicate with their healthcare professionals about any changes to their daily regimen including dietary supplements. Work together to understand personal nutrition needs as well as current dietary patterns to identify nutrient gaps. For those who are still unable to meet their nutrient needs from diet alone, it’s important to discuss the need to fill any potential nutrient gaps with dietary supplements, as a safe and effective way to ensure adequate intake of all essential nutrients.
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These materials are intended for educational purposes only.
‡Magnesium citrate is a more highly absorbable form than other magnesium forms such as magnesium oxide.†
‡Magnesium glycinate is more highly absorbable and better GI tolerance than other magnesium forms such as magnesium oxide.
*Based on U.S. News & World Report - Pharmacy Times Survey, 2021.
†These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Rude RK. Magnesium. 11th ed. In: Ross, AC, Cabellero B, Cousins RJ, Tucker KL, Ziegler TR, eds. Modern nutrition in health and disease. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 2014:390-98.
Office of Dietary Supplements. Magnesium Health Professional Fact Sheet. Updated July 2019; https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/
Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Fluoride. National Academy Press. Washington, D.C. 1997.
Reider, Carroll A et al. “Inadequacy of Immune Health Nutrients: Intakes in US Adults, the 2005-2016 NHANES.” Nutrients vol. 12,6 1735. 10 Jun. 2020, doi:10.3390/nu12061735
EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA). EFSA Journal 2010:8(10):1807.
Magnesium: Are We Consuming Enough Nutrients. Nutrients Dec 2018; 10(12): 1863
Vormann J. Magnesium. 3rd ed. In: Stupank MH, Caudill MA, eds. Biochemical, Physiological, and Molecular Aspects of Human Nutrition. St. Louis: Elsevier Saunders. 2013:747-58.
S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central, 2019
Lindberg JS, et al. Magnesium bioavailability from magnesium citrate and magnesium oxide. J Am Coll Nutr 1990; 9: 48-55.
Walker AF, et al. Mg citrate found more bioavailable than other Mg preparations in a randomised, double-blind study. Magnes Res 2003; 16:183-191. 2015; http://www.ars.usda.gov/ba/bhnrc/ndl
Siebrecht S. Magnesium Bisglycine as safe form for mineral supplementation in human nutrition. OM & Ernahrung. 2013; 144:1-16.
Moshfegh A, et al. What We Eat In America, NHANES 2005-2006: Usual Nutrient Intakes from Food and Water Compared to 1997 Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D, Calcium, Phosphorus and Magnesium. US Department of Agriculture. 2009; http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/12355000/pdf/0506/usual_nutrient_intake_vitD_ca_phos_mg_2005-06.pdf, Accessed on 30 July 2021
Cuciureanu MD, et al. Magnesium and stress. In: Vnk R, Nechifor M, editors. Magnesium in the Central Nervous System. Adelaide (AU): University of Adelaide Press; 2011.
National Institute of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-Consumer/#h9 Accessed on 11 August 2021.
Danziger J, et al. Proton-pump inhibitor use is associated with low serum magnesium concentrations. Kidney Int. 2013; 83(4):692-9.
US Food and Drug Administration. Proton Pump Inhibitor drugs (PPIs): Drug Safety Communication—Low magnesium levels can be associated with long-term use. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, March 2, 2011. Internet: https://www.fda.gov/ drugs/drug-safety-andavailability/fda-drug-safetycommunication-lowmagnesium-levels-can-be-associated-longtermuse-proton-pump, Accessed on 27 July 20212015
Mackay JD, Bladon PT. Hypomagnesaemia due to proton-pump inhibitor therapy: a clinical case series. QJM 2010; 103(6):387-95.
Elliot C, et al. Gentamicin effects on urinary electrolyte excretion in healthy subjects. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2000; 67(1):16-21.
Lameris AL, et al. Drug-induced alterations in Mg2+ homoeostasis. Clin Sci (Lond). 2012; 123(1):1-14.
Stanton MF, Lowenstein FW. Serum magnesium in women during pregnancy, while taking contraceptives, and after menopause. J Am Coll Nutr 1987;6:313-9.
Meletis CD & Zabriskie N. Common nutrient depletions caused by pharmaceuticals. Alt Comp Ther 2007;13(1):10-17.
Lisa Beach is a seasoned journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Eating Well, Parents, AARP’s Disrupt Aging, Optimum Wellness, and dozens more. She also writes for a variety of health/wellness-focused brands. Check out her writer’s website at www.LisaBeachWrites.com.
Melissa is a registered dietitian (RD) and works in our Medical and Scientific Communications department as a Science and Health Educator. She has worked for Pharmavite for over 20 years educating consumers, healthcare practitioners, retailers and employees about nutrition, dietary supplements and overall wellness. Prior to joining the Medical and Scientific Communications team, Melissa launched and managed Pharmavite’s Consumer Relations department. Melissa received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Science, from the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, and completed her dietetic internship at Veterans Affairs Medical Center in East Orange New Jersey.
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