The mineral magnesium is used as a cofactor in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. It plays a critical role in energy production in the body’s cells, protein synthesis, nerve transmission, muscular contraction, DNA and RNA synthesis (for growth and repair), and glucose and insulin metabolism, amongst others.[43]

Physical exercise may deplete magnesium, both through use consumption and also through loss in the sweat and urine. This can then impair energy metabolism and affect muscle function and exercise performance[44,45]. Intake of magnesium in the Western diet can also be below recommended levels, partly because meat, dairy foods and refined flour contain less magnesium than green vegetables and whole plant foods[45]. This combination of factors means that supplementary magnesium could be helpful for many people, and especially for those engaged in sporting activities or exercise programmes.

Magnesium may be beneficial for sleep too. In an article from the Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients (2004), the author discusses how depletion of magnesium may disrupt sleep cycles and affect the body’s biological clock. It’s thought that magnesium may stimulate inhibitory (i.e. calming) neurotransmitter systems such as GABA, and adequate levels may be necessary for proper function of the pineal gland, which secretes melatonin. Taking magnesium supplements in a dosage of 200–300mg in the evening is said to improve sleep quality.[46] There seems to be little in the way of clinical trials on humans to back up this effect, but studies in mice and rats have found that higher levels of magnesium in the brain promotes sleep quality[47] and that a magnesium-deficient diet correlated with disorganised, light sleep[48].

There is also a possible link between magnesium and serotonin levels. Magnesium has been investigated for its effects on mood, and as a potential treatment for those with depression and other affective disorders[e.g. 49,50]. A review from 2010 included the suggestion that inadequate brain magnesium appears to reduce serotonin levels, and so supplementing magnesium could help to normalise levels and relieve depression.[50]



43. Volpe SL. Magnesium in disease prevention and overall health. Adv Nutr. 2013 May 1;4(3):378S-83S. 

44. Bohl, C. H., et al. Magnesium and exercise. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 42(6):533-563, 2002.

45. Natura Foundation. MAGNESIUM. Available: Last accessed 26th March 2015.

46. Barker, J. Insomnia options; natural medicine choices. Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients. April 2004

47. Chollet, D., et al. Blood and brain magnesium in inbred mice and their correlation with sleep quality. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 279(6):R2173-8, 2000.

48. Deepoortere, H., et al. Effects of a magnesium-deficient diet on sleep organization in rats. Neuropsychobiology. 27(4):237-245, 1993.

49. Murck, H. Magnesium and affective disorders. Nutr Neurosci. 5(6):375-389, 2002.

50. Eby GA 3rd, Eby KL. Magnesium for treatment-resistant depression: a review and hypothesis. Med Hypotheses. 2010 Apr;74(4):649-60.






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