Magnesium For Neuroprotection


Our body has a vast network of neurons, sometimes called nerves, that form the nervous system. The function of the nervous system is to carry chemical messages around the body.3 The term ‘neuroprotection’ means the recovery or regeneration of nerves in the nervous system.2

Magnesium is the fourth most common ion in the body, essential for many bodily functions such as neuronal health and development. Magnesium may be neuroprotective by reducing inflammation and, more specifically, decreasing the risk of preterm infants developing cerebral palsy.5,9 However, more clinical evidence is needed to confirm if magnesium is conclusively neuroprotective in adults.

This article will detail what the nerves are and what they do, what magnesium is used for, what neuroprotection is, and how magnesium increases neuroprotection.

The nervous system and neurodegenerative disease

The nervous system is a network of neurons that work together to carry out bodily functions. The role of the nervous system is to transmit signals between the brain and the body that allow us to breathe, move, think, and perform many other functions.3 Each neuron carries an electrical impulse and is usually divided into a sensor or a motor neuron. 

Neurodegeneration is the slow process of nerve function decreasing over time due to a loss of nerve cells, often caused by inflammation. When the nerves are damaged, it can lead to the development of many neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.2 Many of these conditions are untreatable and worsen over time.

How does magnesium affect neuroprotection?

Neuroprotection is a measure of how well the nerves are able to regenerate and recover. There are different methods that can increase neuroprotection, and using magnesium may potentially be effective in increasing nerve function. It has been suggested that magnesium deficiency can cause neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, migraines, strokes, and Parkinson’s disease.2

Magnesium is not only essential for our overall bodily health but also for our brain health.1 The brain and the spinal cord together form our central nervous system, and magnesium in the form of magnesium glycinate acts as an important neurotransmitter within it.7 Similarly, a deficiency in magnesium has been found to cause headaches and migraines. Further clinical studies found that individuals who were suffering from migraines had significantly lower magnesium levels.10

Magnesium, in the form of magnesium sulfate, has previously been supplemented preterm to enhance neuroprotection in the foetus, and reduce the risk of the infant being born with cerebral palsy.5 A preterm birth is classified as a baby born alive before 37 weeks. Antenatal magnesium sulfate is now routinely used for fetal neuroprotection. However, In a systematic review of magnesium sulfate for preterm births, controlled trial results were conflicting, with some data suggesting that antenatal magnesium sulfate had no effect on neuroprotection.11 

Recent clinical data has shown that magnesium may also increase neuroprotection by reducing inflammation of the nerves which in turn decreases the loss of nerve cells and also preserves nerve function.9

Which magnesium supplement is best for neuroprotection?

There are many different forms of magnesium, and the amount of magnesium absorbed from different supplements varies. Some of the most common types of magnesium supplements include:7

  • Magnesium Citrate
  • Magnesium Glycinate
  • Magnesium Oxide
  • Magnesium Sulfate
  • Magnesium Malate

The best supplement for neuroprotection is magnesium sulphate. This supplement has been used intravenously to prevent cerebral palsy at high dosages.5 A doctor or healthcare practitioner may recommend this treatment for women at risk of early preterm birth. For general magnesium deficiency, magnesium citrate is recommended.7

How much magnesium should I take for neuroprotection?

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for magnesium is around 350 mg daily for adults.6 However, in numerous clinical studies where magnesium was prescribed, dosages were very high and beyond recommended allowances.5,9,10,11 You should only take magnesium levels higher than the daily allowance if you are told to do so by your doctor. 

Side effects and other concerns

Magnesium is a common and safe dietary supplement and adverse effects are often not experienced in doses below 350 mg per day.6 However, for some individuals magnesium supplements may cause side effects, including:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Upset stomach
  • Nausea

These side effects are due to magnesium irritating the lining of the intestines and softening the stool, causing diarrhoea and sometimes cramping.6

Interactions with other medications

Magnesium may decrease the absorption and effectiveness of some medicines. Please speak to your GP or a healthcare professional before taking magnesium supplements if you take any of the following medications:8


Neurons make up the nervous system and nerve damage can cause many neurodegenerative diseases. Magnesium is an essential ion required for nerve health and function. Antenatal magnesium sulphate is used in preterm birth to reduce the risk of a preterm infant being born with cerebral palsy, and magnesium supplements may decrease inflammation of the nerves, increasing neuroprotection. More information and clinical data are needed to confirm if magnesium is truly neuroprotective.


  1. Yamanaka R, Shindo Y, Oka K. Magnesium is a Key Player in Neuronal Maturation and Neuropathology. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 2019; 20(14): 3439. 
  2. Vajda FJE. Neuroprotection and neurodegenerative disease. J Clin Neurosci, 2002; 9(1):4-8. 
  3. National Institute of Health. What are the parts of the nervous system? 2018. Available from:,see%2C%20think%2C%20and%20more. [Accessed 13/01/2023]
  4. Slutsky I, Wu, L, Huang C, Zhang L, Li B, Zhao X, Govindarajan A, Zhao X, Govindarajan A, Zhao M, Zhuo M, Tonegawa S, Liu G. Enhancement of Learning and Memory by Elevating Brain Magnesium. Neuron, 2010; 65(2): 165-177. 
  5. Shennan A, Suff, N, Jacobsson B. FIGO good practice recommendations on magnesium sulfate administration for preterm fetal administration. International Journal of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, 2021; 155(1): 31-33. 
  6. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. Magnesium, 2022. Available from: [Accessed 13/01/2022]
  7. Holland & Barrett. Guide to the different types of magnesium, 2021. Available from: [Accessed 13/01/2023]
  8. St. Luke’s Hospital. Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Possible Interactions with: Magnesium, 2007. Available from: [Accessed 13/01/2023]
  9. Lingham I, Robertson NJ. Magnesium as a Neuroprotective Agent: A Review of Its Use in the Fetus, Term Infant with Neonatal Encephalopathy, and the Adult Stroke Patient. Dev Neurosci, 2018; 40: 1-12. 
  10. Cete Y, Dora B, Ertan C, Ozdemir C, Oktay C. A randomized prospective placebo-controlled study of intravenous magnesium sulphate vs. metoclopramide in the management of acute migraine attacks in the Emergency Department. Cephalalgia, 2005; 25(3): 199-204. 
  11. Galinsky R, Dean JM, Lingam I, Robertson NJ, Mallard C, Bennet L, Gunn AJ. A Systematic Review of magnesium Sulfate for Perinatal Neuroprotection: What Have We Learnt From the Past Decade? Sec. Pediatric Neurology, 2020; 11. 
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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Laura Preece

BSc Pharmaceutical Sciences and MRes Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
I am a researcher and medical writer with a passion for pharmaceutics, disease and biological sciences. I am currently researching cellular and molecular biology, investigating the use of vitamin C as an adjunctive therapy for diabetes mellitus.

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