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, reviewed by
Kimberly Langdon M.D.
Getting a good (or bad) night of sleep affects everything from how your body processes food to how it regulates blood sugar, remembers information, controls inflammation, and more. The thyroid functions best when your body is well-rested. Changes in magnesium concentration may cause sleep problems, including occasional sleeplessness or insomnia. A 2012 study evaluated the effectiveness of magnesium supplementation to improve insomnia in older adults. Compared to the placebo group, those who received 500mg of magnesium daily experienced improvements in sleep efficiency and increased concentrations of renin, cortisol, and melatonin.
Headaches or migraine headaches may be a symptom of hypothyroidism. A study in the Pan African Medical Journal evaluated 50 people with a history of migraines and a control group of 50 people without any family history or evidence of migraines to determine the magnesium levels in patients within and between headaches. Results show that magnesium levels are much lower in patients with migraines compared to the healthy group. Another study in an international journal of headaches shows that supplementing with magnesium may lower the frequency of migraine headaches.
Secondary hypertension (or secondary high blood pressure) is high blood pressure that's caused by another medical condition. When the thyroid gland doesn't produce enough thyroid hormone, high blood pressure can result. A study in an American Heart Association journal synthesized results from 34 different clinical trials to quantify the effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure. Results show that magnesium supplementation for one month is sufficient to elevate magnesium levels in the body and reduce blood pressure.
Getting too much magnesium from food doesn't pose a risk in healthy people because the kidneys eliminate any excess in the urine. However, high doses of magnesium from supplements or medications may results in diarrhea, accompanied by nausea or abdominal cramping.
Laxatives (to loosen stools and increase bowel movements) and antiacids (to relieve heartburn, indigestion, or an upset stomach) that contain magnesium may cause magnesium toxicity when taken in very large doses (more than 5,000 mg/day). Magnesium toxicity symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, facial flushing, urine retention, depression, and lethargy before progressing to worse symptoms.
The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL)—defined as the highest daily intake level that is likely to pose no adverse health effects—for adults is 350mg per day for adult men, adult women, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Magnesium does have the potential to interact with certain medications, and some medicines may affect magnesium levels. Magnesium-rich supplements should be taken two hours apart from oral bisphosphonates (used to treat osteoporosis) and 4–6 hours apart from some antibiotics. Taking loop diuretics can increase the loss of magnesium in urine or lead to magnesium depletion. Similarly, proton pump inhibitors can cause hypomagnesemia. People who take any of these medications regularly should talk to their doctor about magnesium supplementation.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of magnesium—or, the average daily level of intake sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all healthy individuals—is 400 mg for adult men and 310 mg for women ages 19 to 30. People over the age of 31 are recommended 420 mg daily for men and 320 mg for women. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding between the ages of 14 to 18 should take 400 mg or 360 mg, respectively. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding between the ages of 19 to 30 should take 350 mg or 310 mg, respectively. And women who are pregnant or breastfeeding between the ages of 31 to 50 should take 360 mg or 320 mg, respectively.
Diets high in magnesium may be associated with a lower risk of diabetes, possibly because of magnesium's important role in glucose metabolism. A meta-analysis of seven extensive studies found that a 100 mg/day increase in magnesium intake decreased the risk of diabetes by 15%.
Magnesium plays a vital role in bone formation. It also affects the concentrations of parathyroid hormone and vitamin D, which help regulate bone homeostasis. Several studies find positive associations between the intake of magnesium and bone mineral density in both men and women. Additional research finds that women with osteoporosis (a condition in which bones become weak and brittle) have lower magnesium levels than women who do not have.
Magnesium is in green leafy vegetables like spinach, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Generally speaking, foods containing dietary fiber provide magnesium. Tap, mineral, and bottled waters can also be magnesium sources, but the amount varies by source and brand.