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Are you getting enough magnesium?

Jane Murphy / 06 October 2017

It helps lower blood pressure, promotes good sleep and improves bone health – and that's not all. Find out why you should add more magnesium to your diet.

Sources of magnesium
If you feel like you're running on empty, low magnesium levels could be to blame.

A daily 300mg dose of magnesium could be enough to significantly reduce high blood pressure and increase blood flow, says a brand new study from the University of Indiana. And that's just the latest in a long list of health benefits associated with this essential mineral. 

Discover more ways to lower your blood pressure

Informative, in-depth and in the know: get the latest health news and info with Saga Magazine. Find out more

However, it seems many of us aren't consuming anywhere near enough. Nearly seven out of 10 Americans fall short of the US recommended daily allowance (RDA), according to a 2014 survey by Prevention and Centrum. And 57 per cent say they have 'no idea' how magnesium keeps them healthy. Figures for the UK population are thought to be similar, partly due to our increasing love of nutrient-poor processed foods and takeaways. 

Learn more about magnesium’s health properties

Why does magnesium do? 

First and foremost, magnesium helps turn the food we eat into energy. Ready for the science bit? It binds itself to a substance called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in order to provide fuel for every single cell in the body. So if you feel like you're running on empty, low magnesium levels could be to blame.

Seven ways to increase your energy levels

How magnesium boosts bone health

It's vital for bone health, too. Magnesium helps the parathyroid glands – four tiny glands in the neck, which control the body's levels of bone-strengthening calcium – to function normally. There's also evidence to suggest it can help prevent bone fractures. A recent study from the Universities of Bristol and Eastern Finland followed 2,245 middle-aged men over a 20-year period. Those with lower blood levels of magnesium had a significantly higher risk of fracture. 

Hip fracture: 20 ways to cut your risk

How magnesium helps keep you on an even keel 

Magnesium plays a major role in mood regulation. A daily dose can help ease symptoms of mild to moderate depression after just two weeks, according to new research from the University of Vermont. It's thought this effect may be partly due to the mineral's anti-inflammatory properties.

How magnesium helps regulate blood sugar

A large body of research suggests magnesium encourages blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity, which means it can help stave off type 2 diabetes. People who consume the most magnesium are 51 per cent less likely to develop the disease, according to a seven-year study published in the US journal Diabetes Care.

8 foods that help regulate blood sugar

Various studies have demonstrated a link between low magnesium levels and migraine, according to The Migraine Trust – and some experts even advocate taking a magnesium supplement to prevent headaches.

What you need to know about migraines

And because magnesium helps control our body's natural rhythms, it also plays a key role in promoting deep, restful sleep, say researchers at the University of Edinburgh and Cambridge. Understand your body clock

What are the best sources of magnesium? 

Magnesium is found in good supply in green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale, nuts, brown rice, wholegrain bread, fish and dairy foods.

What is the RDA for magnesium in the UK?

The current UK recommended daily allowance for adults aged between 19 and 64 is 300mg for men and 270mg for women. An 100g serving of spinach contains around 80g magnesium, while 100g almonds contains approximately 270mg.

Find all our tasty spinach recipes in one place

Should I take a magnesium supplement? 

The jury's out on this one – but it really depends on your diet. According to the Department of Health, you should be able to get all the magnesium you need from a healthy, balanced diet. The only problem? Far too many of us fail to do this.

It's also worth noting that our bodies find it harder to absorb magnesium as we age – so you may need to increase the amount you eat in order to see the same benefits. Speak to your GP if you think this may apply to you.

Is it possible to have too much magnesium? 

Yes – although it would be pretty difficult to do this. High daily doses of more than 400mg could cause diarrhoea.

In very rare cases, long-term high doses can lead to a condition called hypermagnesemia, which can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness and urine retention. People with kidney problems are at increased risk of hypermagnesemia as the kidneys are less equipped to cope with an excess of magnesium in the blood.

Non-dietary sources of magnesium

You don't have to rely solely on your diet to reap the benefits of magnesium. Add some Epsom salt – magnesium sulphate – to your foot spa or bath to soothe tired muscles or combat arthritis pain. Try The Eco Bath Epsom Salt Bath Soak for Muscle & Joint Pain.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.