- Magnesium is an essential mineral found in nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, and leafy greens. It has many roles in the body, including blood sugar regulation and bone health.
- Magnesium deficiency has been linked with the development of obesity. There’s conflicting evidence regarding whether magnesium supplementation can help with weight management.
- A diet with adequate magnesium is associated with other benefits, including protection against type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and heart disease.
If you’re considering supplements to support your weight management journey, you may have come across magnesium.
Magnesium is a vital mineral involved in many metabolic processes, including blood sugar and insulin regulation.
Magnesium is found in many plant foods, but over half of Americans don’t get enough magnesium in their diets.
Magnesium deficiency is associated with conditions like obesity and type 2 diabetes, which has raised interest in supplementing magnesium for weight loss.
Continue reading to learn more about this essential mineral and how magnesium may play a role in weight management and other chronic conditions.
What is Magnesium?
Magnesium is an essential mineral in the body that plays a role in many different enzyme reactions. Its important functions include:
- Blood sugar regulation.
- Muscle and nerve function.
- Bone health.
- Blood pressure regulation.
- DNA synthesis.
Most of the magnesium in the body is stored in your bones, contributing to bone formation and bone mineral density.
Magnesium is found in food, and it’s also available in supplement form and is an ingredient in certain medications.
The Connection Between Magnesium and Weight
Studies have shown that magnesium deficiency may be a factor involved in the development of obesity in some instances.
Because of this evidence, researchers are exploring whether magnesium supplements may be effective in preventing or treating weight concerns.
A systematic review from 2020 found that magnesium supplementation was associated with a lower BMI (body mass index).
However, it did not find a significant improvement in body weight, waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio, or fat mass.
The same study found that specific populations did experience weight loss when taking magnesium supplements, including those with:
- Insulin resistance.
- Magnesium deficiency.
The researchers also identified that females were more likely to lose weight on magnesium.
However, there’s conflicting evidence on the subject.
Other studies have found no link between magnesium and weight loss, making it a controversial topic that is not fully understood.
How Does Magnesium Contribute to Weight Loss?
Magnesium is thought to help with metabolism and weight management in a few ways.
First, inadequate magnesium intake is linked with increased inflammation markers in the body, and chronic inflammation is associated with obesity.
Second, magnesium plays an important role in blood sugar control and insulin function.
Additionally, magnesium can bind with fat in the digestive tract, helping eliminate it.
This may reduce the amount of calories that are absorbed and benefit weight management as a result.
Overall, more research is needed to understand this link and how it can be applied to treating weight-related conditions.
Recommended Intake of Magnesium for Weight Loss
Because research has not identified a consistent link between magnesium supplements and weight loss, there is no specific dosage recommendation for this.
Instead, you can look to the RDA (recommended dietary allowance).
The RDA tells you how much of a vitamin or mineral should be consumed each day (between diet and supplements) to meet your nutritional needs.
The RDA for magnesium in adults ranges from 310-420 milligrams per day, depending on age, sex, and whether a person is pregnant or lactating.
Talk to your doctor or dietitian for guidance on the appropriate magnesium intake for you.
Other Benefits of Magnesium Beyond Weight Loss
A low intake of magnesium over time may increase a person’s risk of developing certain conditions, like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis.
Type 2 Diabetes
However, there isn’t enough evidence to recommend magnesium supplements for blood sugar management in people with diabetes.
Research shows that magnesium deficiency may increase the risk of osteoporosis.
Preliminary studies have found that a higher magnesium intake may support bone mineral density in older women with osteoporosis.
Research also shows that magnesium supplements may result in a small improvement in blood pressure.
Sources of Dietary Magnesium
Magnesium is present in many foods, including plant foods and some animal products.
A good rule of thumb is that many high-fiber foods are a good source of magnesium.
Some foods are also fortified with magnesium, meaning it’s added during processing, like breakfast cereal.
High magnesium foods include:
- Seeds, like chia and pumpkin seeds.
- Nuts, like almonds, cashews, and peanuts.
- Breakfast cereal (whole wheat or fortified with magnesium.)
- Potatoes (with the skin.)
- Brown rice.
Refined grains like white flour lose much of their magnesium when the outer layer of the grain is removed.
While iron and certain B vitamins are added back in during processing, magnesium is generally not included.
Magnesium can also be present in both tap and bottled waters, but this varies greatly depending on where the water is from.
How To Incorporate Magnesium Into Your Diet for Weight Loss
You can start increasing your magnesium intake by focusing on the healthy plate method, which recommends filling half of your plate with vegetables, a quarter with whole grains, and a quarter with protein.
Emphasize magnesium-rich plant proteins like nuts and legumes, and include dark leafy greens often.
A diet rich in these high-magnesium plant foods has been linked with lower body weight due to fiber and other nutrients they contain.
Risks and Side Effects of Too Much or Too Little Magnesium
Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about your magnesium intake.
Getting too much or too little of this mineral can result in health complications.
Though magnesium deficiency is uncommon, certain health conditions and medications can deplete a person’s magnesium stores, resulting in symptoms like:
- Appetite loss.
- Nausea and vomiting.
In severe cases of magnesium deficiency, a person may experience numbness, seizures, and cardiac issues.
Populations at a higher risk of magnesium deficiency include those with:
- Digestive diseases.
- Type 2 diabetes.
- Older age.
Because magnesium has a laxative effect, taking too much of the mineral in supplement form can cause digestive cramping and diarrhea.
Magnesium toxicity can occur in rare cases when a person takes very high doses of medications that contain magnesium.
For reference, taking more than 5,000 milligrams of magnesium in a day can cause this.
The safe upper limit of magnesium from supplements and medications for adults is 350 milligrams per day.
This doesn’t include magnesium from food intake, which is unlikely to result in an excess.
Tips for Choosing a Magnesium Supplement
Surveys have found that almost half of Americans don’t get enough magnesium in their diet.
Some people may benefit from taking a magnesium supplement to help meet their needs.
There are a few different forms of magnesium found in supplements, and some are more easy for the body to absorb than others.
The most absorbable forms include:
- Magnesium aspartate.
- Magnesium citrate.
- Magnesium lactate.
- Magnesium chloride.
Certain medications include magnesium as an ingredient, such as some laxatives and antacids.
Some of these can exceed the RDA for magnesium, making an additional magnesium supplement unnecessary.
Because the FDA doesn't regulate dietary supplements, it’s important to look for supplement brands that undergo voluntary third-party testing for quality.
You can identify this by checking the label for quality seals from companies like Consumer Lab, NSF, or USP.
Talk to your doctor or dietitian for guidance if you don’t consume enough of this essential mineral.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a role in several metabolic processes.
Because of its supportive role in blood sugar regulation and inflammation, researchers are studying how magnesium supplements may help with weight management.
However, results are mixed, with some studies showing a decrease in BMI or body weight in certain populations and others showing no change.
You can increase the magnesium in your diet by focusing on plant foods like nuts, seeds, legumes, and dark leafy greens.
Managing Weight with an RD
Weight management is complex and can involve multiple interventions, including diet and lifestyle changes, medications, and supplements.
A registered dietitian can evaluate your diet for vitamin and mineral deficiencies, like magnesium, that may impact your weight.
They can also help you set sustainable goals for a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.
Frequently Asked Questions
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