Magnesium For Brain Health


The brain is the central organ in our body that controls every bodily function as well as, including thought, memory, emotion, touch, motor skills, vision, respiration, temperature, and hunger. To keep these functions going smoothly, we need to supplement our bodies with the required nutrients. Magnesium is one such important nutrient that plays a role in making protein, bone, and DNA, as well as controlling blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and muscle and nerve function. Magnesium is very important in maintaining brain health and all the subsequent process it does throughout the body.  

This article focuses on how to incorporate magnesium into your diet, how to safely consume it, and the benefits it has on brain health and the overall body.

Benefits of magnesium for brain health

Magnesium plays a crucial role in the nervous system's optimum neuronal conduction (electric signals carried throughout the body by nerve cells), neuromuscular coordination, and excitotoxicity defence (excessive excitation of neurotransmitters leading to cell death). Magnesium has a protective role on neurons to help them maintain their normal role and balance the communication (signalling) of brain cells with each other and the rest of the body. The neurotransmitters glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, are involved in carrying the signals from the brain throughout the body via cells. These neurotransmitters work depending on the levels of magnesium.1,2

Magnesium plays a primary role in blocking glutamatergic neurotransmission, which causes oxidative stress to nerve cells leading to their death. Hence low levels of magnesium in our body can cause glutamatergic neurotransmission to occur and lead to various neurological conditions, such as migraine, chronic pain, epilepsy, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and stroke, which often coexist with anxiety and depression.1

The well-known benefits of magnesium for brain health:1,2,3

  • Cognitive function (memory, learning, reasoning) was seen to be improved in adults when magnesium levels were increased along with appropriate levels of vitamin D. Studies show higher levels of magnesium in the brain can improve several aspects of learning and memory.
  • Migraines are linked to low levels of magnesium as magnesium helps to block any pain-transmitting receptors in our body. Across five clinical trials from 1990-2016 established a daily intake of 600mg of magnesium was safe and effective to protect individuals from migraines. 
  • Neurodegenerative disorders: A degenerative neurological condition called Alzheimer's disease (AD) is characterised by nerve cell loss and cognitive deficits, such as a decrease in learning and memory. Studies showed AD patients with lower magnesium had mild cognitive impairment. Magnesium is recommended to be used as an adjunct treatment for AD and other disorders, such as dementia to maintain cognitive functions.
  • Parkinson's disease (PD): It is a neurological condition that causes cognitive impairment, delayed body movements, resting limb tremors, and loss of balance that is brought on by a selective loss of dopamine in the basal ganglia. Research showed there is increased excitotoxicity in PD, leading to increased nerve cell death. A study in Japan showed that increased magnesium intake showed a decreased risk of PD. More studies are being done to establish the needed concentration of magnesium levels in PD patients. 
  • Brain injury recovery: A quick decrease in magnesium levels is observed in an individual after a traumatic brain injury. Studies show an increase of glutamate in the brain after an injury-causing secondary brain damage (increased nerve cell death). A study demonstrated that patients with head (closed) injuries were given magnesium sulfate within 12 hours of the injury and had reduced swelling. In addition, magnesium helps to relax blood arteries, which increases cerebral blood flow. Magnesium supplementation may help with the reduced cerebral blood flow caused by brain damage.4,5

Further, there are ongoing studies to establish the protective role of magnesium in stroke, epilepsy, anxiety and depression. Studies to date have established that low magnesium status is increasingly linked to disease risk, including neurological and psychiatric disorders and that adequate magnesium levels appear to be protective against chronic disease and supportive of brain health.6

Other health benefits of magnesium

Magnesium is one of the important minerals in our body as it is involved in various bodily functions. Magnesium is involved in converting the food we eat into energy to maintain our physical and mental health.4 It helps with the normal production of hormones for bone health and normal blood glucose levels. The NHS recommends a daily magnesium intake of 300mg in men and 270mg in women for maintaining normal body functions.

The prominent health benefits of magnesium are:4,7

  • Improve cardiovascular health: Studies showed magnesium maintains a healthy heartbeat as it competes with calcium to produce normal heart muscle contraction. 
  • Help with healthy blood sugar levels: Magnesium is needed for cells in our body to properly utilise insulin. Lower magnesium levels are often observed in people with type 2 diabetes, and magnesium supplementation might help with blood sugar reduction and also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in some individuals. 
  • Maintain blood pressure: A reduction in blood pressure was observed in individuals with existing higher blood pressure upon magnesium consumption. 
  • Bone health: The majority of the magnesium in the body is stored in the bones. Studies have shown that eating a diet high in magnesium contributes to higher bone mineral density.
  • Elevate mood: The regulation of hormones like serotonin (happy hormone) and melatonin (sleep hormone) is caused by magnesium, and it has been associated with enhanced mood and improved sleep. A study in 2020 revealed that persistent stress and anxiety decrease the body's stores of magnesium, making us less able to handle stress. Getting enough magnesium can improve your ability to manage stress.
  • Help with chronic pains: Studies showed magnesium helps with muscle relaxation and contraction. It is also seen to play a role in blocking pain receptors throughout the body. 
  • Anti-inflammatory: Magnesium can enable your blood vessels to relax and has potent anti-inflammatory effects. It may also prevent blood clotting. It can help with asthma, chronic inflammation diseases, and ageing. 
  • PMS symptoms: Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is seen in menstruating women. It frequently results in symptoms including fatigue, irritation, water retention, and stomach cramps. According to a study, taking magnesium supplements may with menstrual cramps and migraines as well as PMS symptoms. This might be because, in people who are deficient in magnesium, the fluctuating levels that occur during the menstrual cycle can make PMS symptoms worse. As a result, magnesium supplements could lessen the severity of symptoms, such as migraines during menstruation.

As magnesium is associated with various health benefits and as well as disease prevention, it is ideal to include magnesium-rich foods in your diet. Talk to your GP to find out the magnesium levels in your blood and if an extra supplement is needed. 

Natural food sources of magnesium

Magnesium is found in a variety of food sources. It is vital to include magnesium-rich food in your everyday diet so that can achieve the daily required intake.

Food sources rich in magnesium:6,8,9

  • Vegetables, fruits and leafy greens: Vegetables such as white potato with skin, peas, avocados, corn, and carrots contain a moderate amount of magnesium. However green leafy vegetables are a greater source of magnesium. Kale contains 23.4 mg of magnesium per cup when cooked, compared to roughly 41 mg in savoy cabbage and 157 mg in spinach. Fruits such as medium-sized apples and bananas contain around 9-32 mg of magnesium. 
  •  Seeds and Nuts: Pumpkin seeds, chia, and flaxseeds are rich sources of magnesium. Almonds, cashews, peanuts, and peanut butter are good to snack on while you can gain around 50-80mg of magnesium.  
  • Legumes: Red and black beans, edamame, and lima beans when boiled and consumed are good sources of magnesium.
  • Whole grains: Oats, brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread and cereal.  
  • Chicken, fish and beef: A chicken breast contains roughly 22mg of magnesium for an 85g serving. Salmon is a rich source of magnesium as well as lean ground beef.
  • Soy/dairy products: Tofu, soybean, and soy milk are great alternatives of magnesium sources for vegetarians and vegans. Yoghurt (plain/low-fat), cheese and low-fat milk included in the everyday diet are a constant source of magnesium. 
  • Dark chocolate: 60-70% dark cocoa contains around 50-60 mg of magnesium per 28g serving. 

Fortunately, there are plenty of food sources to naturally balance the magnesium levels in our bodies. It is crucial to create a balanced diet incorporating the food sources mentioned. 

Side effects and other concerns

Although magnesium is important and protects us from various diseases, an excess intake of it might result in certain side effects. Different types of over-the-counter magnesium supplements, such as liquid forms, such as magnesium citrate or magnesium chloride and solid tablets, such as magnesium oxide and magnesium sulfate, are prescribed in case of deficiency. But in certain instances, a high intake of magnesium might have a laxative effect.8 

Risks associated with increased magnesium intake:4,8

  • Gastrointestinal problems: Cramping, nausea and diarrhoea. 
  • Toxicity caused by extremely high doses: People with kidney diseases are at risk for toxicity as their kidneys can not flush out the excess magnesium.
  • Urine retention
  • Heart and kidney problems: Higher doses can cause heart attacks and kidney damage.
  • Lethargy
  • Low blood pressure

An oral magnesium supplement is comparatively safer than an injection if it does not exceed the recommended dosage. If you have pre-existing conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, or bleeding avoid magnesium supplements. Talk with your GP before taking any supplements, as it is important to check your magnesium levels before consumption. If you are taking any medication for a pre-existing condition, consult your doctor to see if magnesium could have a drug interaction.    


Magnesium is an important mineral that is needed for various processes in our body, including the synthesis of DNA, bone, and protein, as well as in the regulation of blood pressure, blood sugar, and muscle and nerve activity. There are studies proving magnesium's significance in migraine and diseases, including chronic pain as well as frequently coexisting psychological problems like anxiety and depression. Clinical trials showed magnesium's effects on neurological illnesses like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and epilepsy when used as an adjunct therapy. In addition, findings pointed to the protective effects of magnesium in traumatic brain injury and preventive effects for various other diseases. 

The various natural foods are a source to meet the daily required magnesium intake. However, large doses of magnesium intake are linked with various devastating side effects. Hence it's important to discuss with your GP before consuming magnesium supplements to avoid any future implications.  


  1. Kirkland AE, Sarlo GL, Holton KF. The role of magnesium in neurological disorders. Nutrients. 2018 Jun 6;10(6):730.
  2. matchbox. Magnesium and brain health [Internet]. Human Nutrition and Health. 2021. Available from: 
  3. Tao MH, Liu J, Cervantes D. Association between magnesium intake and cognition in US older adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2011 to 2014. Alzheimer's & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions. 2022;8(1):e12250.
  4. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Nutrition T, Erdman J, Oria M, Pillsbury L. Magnesium [Internet]. National Academies Press (US); 2011. Available from: 
  5. Magnesium for brain injury recovery: can it promote healing? [Internet]. Flint Rehab. 2021. Available from: 
  6. Why magnesium is good for brain health [Internet]. Available from: 
  7. published LM. Nine benefits of magnesium [Internet]. 2022. Available from: 
  8. Boston 677 Huntington Avenue, Ma 02115 +1495‑1000. Magnesium [Internet]. The Nutrition Source. 2019. Available from: 
  9. Magnesium-rich food information [Internet]. Cleveland Clinic. Available from: 
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Jeffy Joseph Vinohar

MSc. Oncology, University of Nottingham, England

Jeffy is an aspiring academic scientist with a bachelors in Biomedical sciences, Biotechnology with a keen interest in cancer studies. During her masters she aimed to learn more about making healthcare accessible and solutions to reduce healthcare inequalities in the field of oncology.
She currently interested in paediatric neuro-oncology and developing less invasive therapeutics for it by obtaining a PhD in coming years, while being involved with simplifying scientific research into health awareness articles.

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