Magnesium has its hand in over 300 different roles throughout the body:

Needless to say it is quite important! The heart, muscles, and kidneys require magnesium for proper functioning. It also helps provide structure to bones and teeth. Energy production requires magnesium as well as blood pressure regulation, blood glucose control, and muscle and nerve function. It is also required to create protein, DNA, and RNA.

Magnesium deficiency is linked with the following:

• Gastrointestinal diseases (like Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, IBS, and celiac disease)
• Type 2 diabetes
• Pancreatitis
• Hyperthyroidism
• Kidney disease
• Taking diuretics, antibiotics, corticosteroids, asthmatic medications, and laxatives
• Long term alcoholism
• Being elderly 
Other factors that may contribute to magnesium deficiency include drinking too much coffee, alcohol, and soda, eating too much sodium, excessive sweating, prolonged stress, and those with heavy menstrual periods.

Symptoms of magnesium deficiency may include:

• Loss of appetite • Nausea • Vomiting
• Fatigue • Weakness • Headache
• Easily frightened/spooked • Sensitivity to noise • Agitation & anxiety
• Restless Leg Syndrome • Sleep disorders • Irritability
• Abnormal heart rhythms • Low blood pressure • Confusion
• Muscle spasms & weakness • Hyperventilation • Insomnia
• Poor nail growth • Seizures

Food sources of magnesium:

FoodMagnesium (mg)Percent (%)

Daily Value

Pumpkin Seeds, dried, shelled, ¼ cup190.9248
Swiss Chard, chopped, boiled, 1 cup156.639
Sunflower Seeds, dried, ¼ cup113.7528
Almonds, dry roasted, 1 ounce8020
Spinach, boiled, ½ cup7820
Cashews, dry roasted, 1 ounce7419
Peanuts, oil roasted, ¼ cup6316
Soymilk, plain or vanilla, 1 cup6115
Black Beans, cooked, ½ cup6015
Edamame, shelled, cooked, ½ cup5013
Peanut Butter, smooth, 2 tablespoons4912
Bread, whole wheat, 2 slices4612
Avocado, cubed, 1 cup4411
Potato, baked with skin, 3.5 ounces4311
Rice, brown, cooked, ½ cup4211
Kidney Beans, canned, ½ cup359
Banana, 1 medium328
Salmon, Atlantic, farmed, cooked, 3 ounces267
Milk, 1 cup24-276-7
Halibut, cooked, 3 ounces246
Raisins, ½ cup236
Chicken Breast, roasted, 3 ounces226
Beef, ground, 90% lean, pan-broiled, 3 ounces205
Broccoli, chopped and cooked, ½ cup123
Rice, white, cooked, ½ cup103
Apple, 1 medium92
Carrot, raw, 1 medium72

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for magnesium differs based on age, gender, and lifecycle phase.

  • For adults ages 19-30, the RDA for men is 400 mg and for women is 310 mg.
  • For adults ages 31 and older, the RDA for men is 420 mg and the RDA for women is 320 mg.

Magnesium supplementation may be helpful, with conventional treatment, for the following conditions:

  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Noise-related hearing loss
  • Arrhythmia & heart failure
  • Hypertension
  • Migraine headache
  • Osteoporosis
  • Preeclampsia & Eclampsia
  • Premenstrual Syndrome
  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Constipation
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dysmenorrhea

Magnesium supplements are available in many different forms including magnesium oxide, gluconate, chloride, citrate salts, etc. Each form of magnesium is used for specific purposes and each vary in their absorption, dosing, and therapeutic impact (i.e. relieving constipation or improving sleep).

Magnesium hydroxide (think milk of magnesia products) is often recommended for laxative or antacid use. Magnesium sulfate is also used for laxative purposes and is commonly found in multivitamins or epsom salts. Bath salts/lotions/sprays that contain magnesium allow its absorption through the skin, which may be a useful alternative for those not wanting to take pills or with poor gut absorption. Magnesium aspartate and malate are commonly recommended for those with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia and they may also help improve energy production. Lastly, and one of my personal favorites, is magnesium glycinate that has a calming/relaxing effect and can help with insomnia. Each form of magnesium has specific dosing instructions, but most range from 200 to 800mg.

For more information about magnesium, visit:


McGuire, M. & Beerman, K. A. (2013). Nutritional Sciences: From Fundamentals to Food. 3rd ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
MUIH NUT 612: Human Nutrition II: Micronutrients with Bryan Walsh, ND, Fall, 2013, Class notes and PowerPoint