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What Does Magnesium Do for the Body? Benefits for Men and Women

Getting enough magnesium is key for optimal health and wellness—here's exactly what to know to ensure you're meeting your needs!


Although relatively abundant in the body, did you know magnesium is often called "the forgotten electrolyte?"

Many people living in the United States do not get enough of this mineral and face low magnesium risks, even though it’s available in a variety of foods and supplement forms. Since there are benefits of magnesium for women and magnesium benefits for men, it’s an important mineral to be in the know about. 

Keep reading if you’re wondering, "What does magnesium do for the body?" You’ll also get answers about how much magnesium per day is recommended and how much is too much. 

What Does Magnesium Do for the Body?

Magnesium is vital in many body functions as one of the most relied-upon minerals. The health benefits of magnesium are extensive and include, but aren’t limited to, the following functions. 

Electrolyte Balance 

As an electrolyte, magnesium helps the body with many chemical reactions. Electrolytes support many body functions, including fluid balance and metabolism. 

Magnesium may have a synergistic effect with other electrolytes, like potassium and calcium, meaning it can help these other minerals operate more efficiently. This may be evidenced by the fact that low magnesium is often seen in combination with low calcium and potassium levels. 

Muscle & Bone Health 

The muscles in the body rely on magnesium to function properly. Magnesium is involved in the process that helps muscles to contract correctly. 

One little-known fact about magnesium is that it’s also an essential component of bone. Much of the body’s magnesium is stored in bone, which assists in bone-building and calcium-regulating activities. 

Heart Health

Although it helps out all over the body, magnesium plays a crucial role in heart health. Since the heart is a muscular organ, magnesium supports correct muscle contraction for this all-important body part. Additionally, magnesium assists other electrolytes—like potassium and calcium—at the cellular level to ensure the heart has the minerals it needs to function correctly.

Helping to regulate blood pressure, magnesium may help to reduce one of the most significant factors for heart disease. Although more research is needed, it’s believed that magnesium supplements may help to reduce high blood pressure slightly. What is known is that people who obtain adequate amounts of magnesium in their diets tend to have a reduced risk for heart disease and stroke. 

Other Functions

In addition to the roles of magnesium listed above, this mineral is also vital to enzyme function. Enzymes are particular types of proteins that help to bring about chemical reactions in the body. As part of enzyme function, magnesium helps ensure energy production, building proteins, and muscle contraction are running smoothly.

Additionally, magnesium contributes to the processes that regulate: 

• Nerve health
• Blood sugar levels
• Blood pressure 

Magnesium has many talents needed for optimal health, all the way down to the cellular level. 

Magnesium Benefits for Men

Magnesium may benefit men in different ways than it benefits women. It’s especially needed for men over 70 years old, who may even be more likely to develop magnesium deficiency than other demographics. 


In regards to hormone status, magnesium fulfills a unique role by supporting the production of testosterone. This can be especially crucial for men since testosterone is the primary male sex hormone. 

Bone Health 

Along with calcium, magnesium promotes bone health. Individuals with elevated intakes of magnesium tend to have a higher bone mineral density, which is a measure that indicates the strength of bones. 

However, measure your magnesium intake with caution. A recent study of magnesium in men found that excessive intake may be associated with a higher risk for fractures in weak bones.

Heart Health

Although heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States, it accounts for a higher percentage of deaths in men than it does in women. Recent research suggests that diets with more magnesium help to reduce the risk of heart disease. 

Getting enough magnesium as part of a well-balanced diet may help reduce the risk of heart disease. Supplementation may also play a key role, with some studies suggesting that higher levels of magnesium in the blood help lower the risk of factors related to heart disease.

Magnesium Benefits for Women

Magnesium is vital for women, even recommended by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as a mineral for women’s health.

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Surprisingly, magnesium may benefit women experiencing PMS. Studies suggest a combination of magnesium and vitamin B6 may help relieve common PMS symptoms, such as stress.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) 

PCOS comes along with a lot of troubling symptoms and is said to affect about 1 in 10 women in their childbearing years. It can cause infertility and other issues that make the day-to-day difficult. 

While magnesium can’t wholly reverse these problems on its own, recent research suggests magnesium supplements may be able to have a significantly positive effect in improving the quality of life in women who struggle with PCOS complications. 

Certain Problems in Pregnancy 

Although research is in the relatively early stages, some studies are introducing magnesium supplements as a solution for pregnancy-induced leg cramps. Since there is currently no standard treatment for this common pregnancy problem, magnesium presents a novel treatment with lots of potential. 


Obtaining enough magnesium may reduce the risk of osteoporosis. This is especially important for women since women face an increased risk of developing osteoporosis due to hormonal shifts that occur around the time of menopause.

Moreover, according to one study, meeting the dietary recommendation for magnesium intake is associated with better physical performance in aging women.


Migraines tend to be more frequent for women than for men. Interestingly, people who have migraines more frequently also tend to have lower levels of magnesium. Ensuring adequate magnesium intake through diet or supplementation is emerging as a novel approach to migraine management that may benefit women (although more research is needed). 

How Much Magnesium Per Day?

The amount of magnesium you need depends on several factors, such as age and gender. Life stages, like pregnancy or aging, may also affect the amount of magnesium recommended for you. Typically, men need about 400 to 420 milligrams per day of magnesium, and non-pregnant women need about 310 to 320 milligrams per day

Additionally, your health status may affect your magnesium requirement. Some diseases or disorders (like celiac disease or type 2 diabetes) can make it difficult for your body to absorb magnesium properly. It’s recommended to consult with your doctor, dietitian, or other healthcare team members to discuss your nutrient deficiency risk. 

Fortunately, there are many ways to get magnesium in your diet. Foods containing higher levels of magnesium include: 

• Beans 
• Dairy (such as milk and yogurt)
• Fortified foods (like breakfast cereals)
• Leafy greens 
• Nuts and seeds 
• Whole grains 

Magnesium supplements are also an option. One form of magnesium supplement known as magnesium citrate is considered to be a more bioavailable type, meaning it may be more easily absorbed by the body than other supplement forms. 

Remember that magnesium supplements may interact with some medications, so they may not be an ideal choice for everyone. 

Deficiency and Toxicity Risks

Hypomagnesemia, or low magnesium, happens when your body dips below the normal magnesium level in your blood. On the other hand, hypermagnesemia happens when the body has too much magnesium in the blood. It’s important to be aware of both body states since each symptom can be subtle.

Low Magnesium Risks

With lower than optimal levels of magnesium, your body may not be able to function properly. As mentioned above, men above age 70 have an increased likelihood of magnesium deficiency, as are teenage girls and boys.

Generally, the effects of magnesium deficiency aren’t evident unless the deficiency has been going on for some time. Signs and symptoms of early-stage deficiency are more generalized and include:

•Loss of appetite

Long term deficiency can cause more extreme symptoms, such as:

•Abnormal heartbeats 
•Muscle cramps

Luckily, getting the right amount of magnesium each day can reduce the risk of related health problems. 

How Much Magnesium Is Too Much?

Magnesium is considered a “major mineral,” meaning it’s needed in higher quantities than other minerals (called “trace minerals”) of which you need very small amounts. However, there can be “too much of a good thing” when it comes to magnesium. Ingesting excess amounts may cause health problems instead of alleviating them. 

Ranging from mild to severe, risks of taking too much magnesium include: 

• Abnormal heartbeat 
• Abdominal cramps 
• Cardiac arrest (heart stops beating) 
• Diarrhea 
• Nausea 

It’s always a good idea to double-check your dietary supplements—including multivitamins and supplements for sleep—to see which include magnesium, and how much magnesium they include. 

The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (or UL) for magnesium from supplements and medications, not including what you get from food or beverages, is about 350 mg daily. That means you’ll want to get no more than 350 mg of magnesium from supplements, and focus on getting the remaining amount you need from food. 

The Bottom Line on What Magnesium Does for the Body 

Magnesium’s importance cannot be understated, especially since it’s a mineral classically under-consumed by many Americans. Getting too much or too little can create significant health problems, even though symptoms are often subtle until the lack or excess gets severe. 

Fortunately, men and women can obtain plenty of magnesium from food and supplements as needed. Magnesium affects men and women in different ways, so it’s important to research how much you need individually and what common health problems this mineral may help alleviate.

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