Magnesium is an essential mineral involved in metabolic activity and is intimately associated with calcium metabolism. Magnesium helps keep the heart healthy and maintains normal levels of :

  • Phosphorus.
  • Potassium.
  • Adrenaline.
  • Insulin.
  • Calcium which keeps the bones strong (helps prevents calcium from being pulled from bones and reduces risk of osteoporosis).

It is naturally found present in a wide variety of foods but can be taken as a supplement.

An example of foods and their Magnesium levels:

PRODUCT AMOUNT MAGNESIUM (approx.)
Milk 100ml 10mg
Raw broccoli 100g 20mg
Banana 100g (medium) 30mg
Lentils 100g 35mg
Brown rice 100g 45mg
Baked potato 100g (medium) 50mg
Spinach 100g 75mg
Barley 100g 80mg
Whole wheat flour 100g 140mg
Tofu 100g 150mg
Halibut 1/2 fillet 170mg
Oats 100g 235mg
Buckwheat flour 100g 250mg
Cashew nuts 100g 280mg
Brazil nuts 100g 390mg

Many people’s intake of Magnesium is too low e.g. USDA surveys reveal that for the age group 19-50 years, the average magnesium intake for women is 74% RDA and 94% RDA for men.

Magnesium deficiencies can result from taking certain medications e.g. digoxin, diuretics, cisplatin as well as from conditions such as diabetes, alcoholism and poor diet.

For reasons not fully understood, it appears that up to 85% of migraineurs have a Magnesium deficiency.

The chart below shows the recommended daily amount (RDA) of Magnesium for the general population:

CATEGORY AGE MAGNESIUM
CHILDREN 1-3 years old 80 mg
4-8 years old 130 mg
9-13 years old 240 mg
14-18 years old (girls) 360 mg
14-18 years old (boys) 410 mg
ADULTS Females 310 mg
Pregnancy 360 – 400 mg
Breastfeeding 320 – 360 mg
Males 400 mg

Magnesium Advantages

  • Based on research from the late 1980’s, raising and maintaining Magnesium levels to 200-400 mg/day during headache episodes may help reduce headache frequency.
  • A study from 2003 showed that treatment with oral Magnesium (9 mg/kg per day by mouth divided 3 times a day with food) lead to a statistically significant reduction in both frequency and severity of migraines in children. The test group involved children aged 3-17 years of age over a 16 week period.
  • Recent research indicates up to 800 mg/day reduces the frequency and severity of migraines and, in particular, Barometric Pressure Headaches.

The mechanism by which Magnesium helps to reduce headaches/migraines is not clear at present, although it may involve a process where Magnesium binds and ‘calms down’ specific receptor sites leading to reduced attacks.

Magnesium Disadvantages

Magnesium supplements taken in too high doses may cause:
  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Nausea.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Diarrhea.

The form of Magnesium present in supplements and salts varies greatly e.g. Magnesium Oxide, Magnesium Chloride, Magnesium Carbonate, Magnesium Citrate, Magnesium Lactate, Magnesium Apartate, Magnesium Glycinate, Magnesium Malate, Magnesium Succinate. There is much debate and disagreement amongst Magnesium supplement users as to the best option regarding the advantages:disadvantages:price ratio. For example, Magnesium Oxide is cheaper to produce than Magnesium Citrate but is less readily taken up (‘absorbed’) by the body and because 96% of it stays in the intestines, there is a greater risk of it having a laxative effect compared with Magnesium Citrate.