We all know vitamins and minerals such as calcium are vital nutrients our bodies need to stay healthy. Magnesium, a versatile mineral, is often overlooked, yet it supports almost every function and tissue in the body, from our immune system to our heart health. A new Chinese study found magnesium in our diet can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

People who consumed the highest amount of dietary magnesium had a 10 percent lower risk of heart disease; 12 percent lower risk of stroke; and a 26 percent lower risk of Type 2 diabetes compared to those in the lowest category. Moreover, those who took an extra 100 mg per day could reduce their stroke risk by 7 percent, and Type 2 diabetes by 19 percent. This emphasizes the beneficial role of high dietary magnesium on our overall health.

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"The current health guidelines recommend a magnesium intake of around 300 mg per day for men and 270 mg per day for women. Despite this, magnesium deficiency is relatively common, affecting between 2.5 percent and 15 percent of the general population," said Dr Fudi Wang, lead author from the School of Public Health at Zhejiang University, in a statement.

Magnesium is essential for over 300 different chemical reactions in the body, including glucose metabolism, protein production, and synthesis of nucleic acids such as DNA. It helps to maintain normal nerve and muscle function, support a healthy immune system, keep the heart beat steady, and help maintain bone strength, according to Medline Plus. The latest study is evidence how dietary magnesium can prevent and manage disorders.

The researchers used databases, such as PubMed, EMBASE, and Web of Science, to analyze 40 studies covering a period from 1999 to 2016 to investigate several links between dietary magnesium and various diseases. Levels of dietary magnesium were determined using a self-reported food frequency questionnaire, or a 24-hour dietary recall. The researchers caution it is not possible to rule out the effect of other biological or lifestyle factors that could have influenced the results.

The link between magnesium and heart health has been established in previous research. In a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 13 women consumed an experimental diet low in magnesium. The findings revealed three of the women developed arrhythmias (atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter), in which the upper pumping chambers of the heart lose their normal beating pattern, and four had to begin taking magnesium again earlier than scheduled.

A deficiency in magnesium increases the risk of conditions such as endothelial dysfunction, hypertension, and cardiac arrhythmias because the mineral is essential for healthy control of blood vessel function, blood pressure regulation, and normal heart contractions.

Magnesium is not just a heart-friendly mineral. It can also ward away depression, migraines, and even PMS symptoms.

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Magnesium plays an important role in brain function and mood, and low levels are linked to an increased risk of depression. A study of over 8,800 people found that those under 65 years of age with low levels of the mineral had a 22 percent greater risk of depression. Some researchers believe a poor diet with low magnesium may be at the root of many cases of depression and mental illness. However, low magnesium-induced depression could be reversed. A separate study found 450 mg of magnesium improved the mood of depressed older adults as effectively as an antidepressant drug.


Migraine headaches can be painful and debilitating, and could be the result of a magnesium deficiency. Some studies suggest magnesium can prevent and even help treat migraines. One study found a one-gram supplement of magnesium provided relief from a migraine more quickly and effectively than a common medication. Magnesium-rich foods can also help reduce migraine symptoms.

PMS Symptoms

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a common disorder among women who menstruate. PMS symptom include water retention, abdominal cramps, tiredness, and irritability. Magnesium has shown to improve mood in women with PMS, while possibly reducing water retention, and other common symptoms. Magnesium supplements were used to boost levels in these women.

Magnesium may be the most overlooked mineral, but it is one of the most beneficial for our health.

Source: Fang X, Wang K, Han D et al. Dietary magnesium intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and all-cause mortality: a dose–response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. BMC Medicine. 2016.

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