Magnesium’s Role in Your Health

Woman holding magnesium supplement pill and glass of water

Magnesium is gaining popularity for its ability to support certain aspects of our health. Here’s a guide on some of the roles magnesium plays in our health and tips for adding it to your diet.

Magnesium is a mineral found in abundance in the human body where it is a part of every cell. Like all other essential micronutrients, magnesium plays a crucial role in many bodily functions. Namely, it contributes to the development and maintenance of bones and teeth, tissue formation, supports energy metabolism, the body’s ability to metabolize nutrients and muscle function.

Bone Health

About 50% – 60% of our body’s magnesium is found in our bones, where it is intimately involved in helping to regulate bone mineral density. Here, it interacts with calcitonin, a hormone that draws calcium into the bones as well as vitamin D and other hormones.

Research has shown that osteoporosis, or low bone-mineral density, can be associated with low magnesium levels in the blood [1], and one study found that magnesium supplementation may help to prevent the breakdown of bone tissue in older women with osteoporosis [2].

Energy & Nutrient Metabolism

One of magnesium’s primary roles is as a co-factor to over 300 enzyme reactions in the body, including those that help to metabolise nutrients, produce energy, and are essential for building healthy DNA and RNA, the chemical basis of our genes [6]. Magnesium is also involved in the active transport of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes, a process that is important to nerve function as well as normal heart rhythm.[6]

Muscle Function

Joint and muscle pain

Magnesium is sometimes called the “relaxation mineral” for its role in nerve and muscle tissue function (contraction and relaxation), and supplementing can help relieve “tense” muscles, and cramping [3].

There has been an increase in topical magnesium products intended for muscular pain and cramping, and one study noted decreased cramping, joint and muscle pain with transdermal magnesium application among a group of women with fibromyalgia [4], although further research is needed in this area.

How to Get the Magnesium You Need into Your Diet

Magnesium Rich Foods on  wooden table

Food sources of magnesium include leafy greens like spinach, legumes, avocados, dark chocolate, nuts, seeds, bananas and whole grains.

Despite the variety of food sources, Statistics Canada indicates that about 34 per cent of Canadian adults [5] fail to meet their body’s magnesium needs through diet alone. This is a real concern when we consider all the various functions this mineral has in the body – and is also why many people turn to supplements.

Tips for Supplementing

  • As a supplement, magnesium comes in a variety of forms including magnesium oxide, citrate and chloride. Your body’s absorption of each of these varies slightly: a citrate- or chloride-bound version has been shown to be more readily absorbed in the gut than some other forms [6].
  • It’s important to be mindful when taking multiple mineral supplements as they can compete for the same receptor in our gastrointestinal tract and inhibit absorption. Spread out your intake of zinc, iron and magnesium supplements to different parts of the day to avoid this competition.
  • Topical magnesium preparations can come in both cream and spray forms – choose based on ease and preference of application.
  • Take supplements as advised on their product labels – or consult with your health care practitioner.

Check out Health Canada’s Dietary Reference Intakes chart for specific age group’s daily magnesium needs.

Visit your local CHFA Member health food store for more tips and a selection of magnesium products, and speak with your health care practitioner for any questions you have about supplementing with magnesium for overall health, or specific health concerns.


1.    Tucker, Katherine L. (2009). Osteoporosis prevention and nutrition. Curr Osteoporos Rep. 2009 Dec;7(4):111-7. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19968914/

2.   Aydin, Hasan. Short-term oral magnesium supplementation suppresses bone turnover in postmenopausal osteoporotic women. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2010 Feb;133(2):136-43. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19488681/

3.     Maor, Noga Roguin. Effect of Magnesium Oxide Supplementation on Nocturnal Leg Cramps. JAMA Intern Med. 2017 May; 177(5): 617–623. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5818780/   

4.       Engen, Deborah J.(2015). Effects of transdermal magnesium chloride on quality of life for patients with fibromyalgia: a feasibility study. J Integr Med. 2015 Sep;13(5):306-13. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26343101/

5.    Health Canada. Do Canadian Adults Meet Their Nutrient Requirements Through Food Intake Alone? Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/food-nutrition-surveillance/health-nutrition-surveys/canadian-community-health-survey-cchs/canadian-adults-meet-their-nutrient-requirements-through-food-intake-alone-health-canada-2012.html   

6.     Magnesium: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institute of Health.  Retrieved from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/

As part of the senior leadership team, Michelle develops implements and leads communication initiatives that support the strategic priorities of the Association. She is responsible for overseeing the integrated communications strategy including both internal and external communications, the management of all public relations, marketing, advertising and member communications.