Authored by Sumeet Sharma • 
November 19, 2017
 • 2 min read

Take Home Points

  • Magnesium is an essential mineral for health.
  • Magnesium deficiency is common in the United States, with an estimated 68% of the population not meeting the FDA recommended daily intake of magnesium.
  • Magnesium supplementation can improve sleep quality, reduce stress, and increase attention.


Magnesium can be obtained from various natural sources, including leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds, fish, beans, lentils, avocados, bananas, fruits, and dark chocolate1,2,3.


  • Magnesium is a base element.
  • Magnesium bound to citrate appears to have a higher bioavailability at around 25-30%, probably due to its increased water solubility.
  • Magnesium plays an important role in vitamin D pathways, and magnesium deficiency has been shown to reduce vitamin D absorption4.
  • Magnesium excretion is also increased by insulin. Thus, magnesium deficiency is commonly observed in diabetic, atherosclerotic, hypertensive, and obese individuals5.

Effects on Cognition

  • Magnesium is used in the body primarily as an electrolyte and a mineral cofactor for over 300 enzymes. Magnesium is involved in the enzyme systems for ATP and Adenyl Cyclase and is required for the activation of creatine kinase and enzymes in the glycolysis pathway.
  • Magnesium acts as an antagonist at NMDA receptors, which drive increases in neuronal firing, thus magnesium reduces the firing of some excitatory neurons.
  • Magnesium also acts as an agonist at GABA receptors, increasing the firing of these inhibitory neurons,6,7,8,9,10. Together with the first point, this suggests that magnesium has an overall inhibitory effect on neuronal firing11.


  • Magnesium, taken in an increasing dose for 20 days (from 246 mg to 738 mg), was effective in improving sleep. Those individuals that consumed magnesium exhibited a significant increase in slow wave sleep.
  • Magnesium taken in increasing doses for 20 days from 246 mg to 738 mg was effective in improving sleep in 12 individuals. This was associated with significant increase in slow wave sleep.


  • Magnesium supplementation improved various markers of stress, particularly cortisol levels, in a study of individuals ages 51 and older12.
  • Magnesium has been associated with suppression of ACTH secretion at night13. ACTH drives cortisol, also known as the stress hormone.

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

  • Magnesium levels were lower than normal in >95% of 116 children aged 9-12 with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder14.
  • A magnesium-vitamin B6 hybrid supplement for eight weeks was effective in decreasing the symptoms of ADHD in 40 children with ADHD. In particular, hyperactivity and hyper-emotivity/aggressiveness were significantly ameliorated in children that took this supplement15.
  • Magnesium may assist with ADHD therapy as an adjunct to FDA-approved medical treatment.

How to Take

Take a dosage of 200 mg of Magnesium per day.

Consider taking Magnesium at bedtime, in a sleep-promoting stack, as magnesium supplementation is associated with optimal sleep.

Side Effects

The most common side effects of ingesting Magnesium is gastrointestinal upset, including diarrhea.


Magnesium is approved as a dietary supplement component under provisions of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994. It is classified as generally recognized as safe (GRAS).

Scientific Citations

1.Charlton, K. E., Steyn, K., Levitt, N. S., Zulu, J. V., Jonathan, D., Veldman, F. J., & Nel, J. H. (2005). Diet and blood pressure in South Africa: intake of foods containing sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium in three ethnic groups. Nutrition, 21(1), 39-50.
2.Abrams, S. A., & Atkinson, S. A. (2003). Calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin D fortification of complementary foods. The Journal of nutrition, 133(9), 2994S-2999S.
3.Jodral-Segado, A. M., Navarro-Alarcon, M., de la Serrana, H. L. G., & Lopez-Martinez, M. C. (2003). Magnesium and calcium contents in foods from SE Spain: influencing factors and estimation of daily dietary intakes. Science of the total environment, 312(1), 47-58.
4.Deng, X., Song, Y., Manson, J. E., Signorello, L. B., Zhang, S. M., Shrubsole, M. J., . . . Dai, Q. (2013). Magnesium, vitamin D status and mortality: results from US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001 to 2006 and NHANES III. BMC Med, 11(1), 187. doi:10.1186/1741-7015-11-187
5.Djurhuus, M. S., Skøtt, P., Hother-Nielsen, O., Klitgaard, N. A. H., & Beck-Nielsen, H. (1995). Insulin Increases Renal Magnesium Excretion: A Possible Cause of Magnesium Depletion in Hyperinsulinaemic States. Diabetic Medicine, 12(8), 664-669. doi:10.1111/j.1464-5491.1995.tb00566.x
6.Horne, A. L., Harrison, N. L., Turner, J. P., & Simmonds, M. A. (1986). Spontaneous paroxysmal activity induced by zero magnesium and bicuculline: Suprression by NMDA antagonists and GABA mimetics. European journal of pharmacology, 122(2), 231-238.
7.Nowak, L., Bregestovski, P., Ascher, P., Herbet, A., & Prochiantz, A. (1984). Magnesium gates glutamate-activated channels in mouse central neurones.
8.Stevens, D. R., McCarley, R. W., & Greene, R. W. (1992). Excitatory amino acid-mediated responses and synaptic potentials in medial pontine reticular formation neurons of the rat in vitro. The Journal of neuroscience, 12(11), 4188-4194.
9.Schwartz, R. D., Wagner, J. P., Yu, X., & Martin, D. (1994). Bidirectional Modulation of GABA_Gated Chloride Channels by Divalent Cations: Inhibition by Ca2+ and Enhancement by Mg2+. Journal of neurochemistry, 62(3), 916-922.
10.Schneiderman, J. H., Arnold, D., & Advani, A. (1990). Different changes in spontaneous field potential oscillations precede epileptiform bursting in hippocampal slices perfused with penicillin or reduced magnesium. Brain research, 533(2), 275-285.
11.Reynolds, I. J. (1998). Intracellular calcium and magnesium: critical determinants of excitotoxicity? Prog Brain Res, 116, 225-243.
12.Nielsen, F. H., Johnson, L. K., & Zeng, H. (2010). Magnesium supplementation improves indicators of low magnesium status and inflammatory stress in adults older than 51 years with poor quality sleep. Magnesium Research, 23(4), 158-168.
13.Murck, H., & Steiger, A. (1998). Mg2+ reduces ACTH secretion and enhances spindle power without changing delta power during sleep in men - possible therapeutic implications. Psychopharmacology, 137(3), 247-252.
14.Kozielec, T., & Starobrat-Hermelin, B. (1997). Assessment of magnesium levels in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Magnesium research: official organ of the International Society for the Development of Research on Magnesium, 10(2), 143.a
15.Mousain-Bosc, M., Roche, M., Polge, A., Pradal-Prat, D., Rapin, J., & Bali, J. P. (2006). Improvement of neurobehavioral disorders in children supplemented with magnesium-vitamin B6. I. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorders. Magnesium research: official organ of the International Society for the Development of Research on Magnesium, 19(1), 46-52.
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