Each and every cell in the human body needs Magnesium to function. However, around half of the US population, and as much as two-thirds of the Western world, don’t meet their recommended daily allowance (RDA) of this powerful mineral. The importance of Magnesium — which influences daily functions as well as long-term well-being — can’t be underestimated. Among the most noteworthy callouts for Magnesium is its supportive and protective effects for brain health.
Ahead, you’ll discover the basics of Magnesium and its greatest benefits for brain health. Plus: how much Magnesium you should aim for daily and actionable tips to boost your dietary Magnesium intake.
What Is Magnesium?
Magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals in the human body. It assists over 300 enzymes to perform chemical reactions — such as building proteins and strong bones, as well as regulating blood sugar and muscle and nerve functions.
Again, many of us don’t get enough Magnesium on a daily basis. Sometimes, this is no true fault of our own. Part of the issue lies within:
- Soil depletion of modern food crops
- Demineralized water
- Our inability to synthesize it in enough quantities
- A lack of consuming bioavailable forms of Magnesium
A 2021 review in the journal Nutrients adds that Magnesium metabolism declines over time, largely due to:
- Diminished intake
- Impaired intestinal absorption
- Magnesium metabolism disorders
With these points in mind, it’s crucial to keep an eye out for potential signs of inadequate Magnesium levels — and the sooner, the better. It’s also worth evaluating your diet to see if you’re eating enough Magnesium-rich foods and if you could benefit from taking a daily Magnesium supplement.
6 Powerful Benefits of Magnesium on Brain Health
As crucial as Magnesium is for countless aspects of well-being, one of its biggest claims to fame is its power to enhance and protect the brain. Keep reading to learn about Magnesium’s benefits for brain health.
1. Maintains Healthy Brain Function
Among its many roles, Magnesium is involved in maintaining homeostasis of brain tissues. Per a 2022 review in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, Magnesium “harmonizes nerve signal transmission and preserves the integrity of the blood-brain barrier.” In simple terms, Magnesium is critical to permit your brain to operate as it should.
2. Enhances Neuroplasticity and Memory
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to grow and adapt in response to stimuli by reorganizing its structure, functions, or connections. In essence, neuroplasticity indicates that the brain won’t inevitably begin to decline at a certain point in time; we can take protective measures to help the brain stay fit and healthy.
According to neuroscientist Tara Swart, MD, PhD, “We can do things to stimulate that process and keep the brain growing, flexible, and changing,” no matter what your chronological age is. In addition to incorporating novelty into your daily life — perhaps by learning a new language, beginning a manifestation practice, or switching up some basic patterns in your daily routine — increasing your Magnesium levels can also help support neuroplasticity.
As a 2017 study in Frontiers in Neuroscience explains, Magnesium’s “elevation in the brain has been shown to enhance memory and synaptic plasticity in vivo.”
3. Boosts Cognitive Performance
Adequate Magnesium levels are associated with heightened cognitive abilities across a range of age groups. For instance, one study in adolescent girls found a positive correlation between Magnesium (and Zinc) levels and academic performance. These findings were based on the girls’ academic records. They suggest that the girls’ mental clarity and concentration were sharpened, in part, thanks to Magnesium’s brain-boosting effects.
Another study found that high Magnesium intake led to better cognitive function in adults over 60, especially when they also had optimal levels of Vitamin D. Since Vitamin D is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies worldwide, you’ll be all the wiser to ensure you get enough of it in your regimen, as well.
4. Staves Off Cognitive Decline
Emerging research demonstrates just how beneficial Magnesium can be to combat cognitive decline from accelerated aging. A 2023 study of 6,000 cognitively healthy, older British adults found that those who consumed over 550 milligrams of Magnesium per day had a “brain age” that was one year younger by the time they reached 55, compared to those who had a daily intake of 350 milligrams.
The lead author of the study noted less age-related brain shrinkage in the higher-intake group. Larger brain volumes are linked to stronger cognitive function and a lower risk of developing serious cognitive impairment to memory, thinking, and decision-making.
5. Combats Stress
Magnesium status is closely related to stress levels — for better or for worse. The National Library of Medicine explains that low Magnesium levels are linked to stress-related concerns — including but not limited to fatigue, photosensitive headache, and physical stress. Moreover, a weakened stress response depletes the Magnesium you already have since your body pushes it outside of cells for protection. Without enough Magnesium to begin with, this can perpetuate a cycle of spiked stress levels and deficits of the mineral.
Conversely, maintaining adequate Magnesium levels can help ward off general stress and its many manifestations. Remember: Magnesium is necessary to maintain cellular balance and function. When your cells are balanced, they have an easier time handling stress in both your mind and body. Higher concentrations of Magnesium in cells promote a healthier stress response and enhanced feelings of relaxation. Learn more about the benefits of Magnesium for relaxation.
6. Promotes Sleep Quality
Sleep quality is highly influential on brain health, cognitive abilities (including mental clarity and focus), and overall mood. Using Magnesium citrate for sleep is one of the best natural remedies to promote a good night’s rest, which is why it’s often included in sleep-friendly supplements. It works by helping both your mind and body calm down by allowing you to unstress and supporting muscle relaxation.
A 2023 systematic review of observational studies found a positive association between adequate Magnesium status and sleep quality. Reported beneficial effects were specific to:
- Falling asleep
- Sleep duration
- Perceived sleepiness
How Much Magnesium Do You Need Daily?
Per the National Institutes of Health, the RDA for Magnesium is as follows (with ranges varying by age group):
- Adult women: 310 to 360 milligrams
- Adult men: 400 to 420 milligrams
- Pregnant women: 350 to 400 milligrams
- Lactating women: 310 to 360 milligrams
As you’ve read, certain benefits for brain health are associated with specific intake amounts. Yet instead of stressing out over numbers, the key point is to make sure you prioritize Magnesium whenever possible.
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Signs of Insufficient Magnesium Levels
It’s difficult to accurately assess a person’s comprehensive Magnesium status since most of the mineral is within cells or bones. In addition, mild deficits and even more serious deficiencies aren’t always detectable.
However, if you experience any of the the following signs of magnesium deficiency specific to your mind and mood, your Magnesium levels may less than ideal:
- Brain fog
- Low mood
- Muscle cramps
- Restless legs
- Trouble sleeping
Ways to Increase Magnesium Intake for Overall Health
To make sure that you get enough Magnesium daily to benefit your brain and body alike, heed the following tips.
Eat Magnesium-Rich Foods
One of the best ways to boost your dietary Magnesium intake is to enjoy a range of healthy foods that contain it. The good news: If you eat a diverse and plant-forward diet (and take a Magnesium supplement to make up for potential shortcomings with depleted crops), chances are you don’t need to try too hard to reach your RDA of this brain-boosting mineral.
While this list isn’t exhaustive, the top food sources of Magnesium include:
- Fruits and vegetables: bananas, broccoli, spinach, sweet corn
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, cashews, flaxseeds, peanuts and peanut butter, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds
- Legumes: black beans, edamame, soybeans
Bonus: In case you have a sweet tooth, take comfort in the fact that dark chocolate is also a good source of Magnesium. According to the USDA, an ounce of dark chocolate (approximately one square) consisting of 70 to 85 percent cacao packs 65 milligrams of Magnesium.
Of course, you’ll want to diversify your sources of Magnesium. (Read: Eating a chocolate bar daily in the name of benefiting your brain health isn’t the optimal route to take.)
Take a High-Quality Magnesium Supplement
A food-first approach to wellness is always ideal. With that said, the right natural brain health supplements can help ensure you reach the nutrient intake required to assist with specific concerns and goals — with support for brain health, stress, and sleep among them.
Taking a Magnesium powder supplement like Magnesi-Om® can address each of these areas and be a worthy addition to your routine. It contains:
- 3 highly bioavailable chelated forms of Magnesium (Gluconate, Acetyl Taurinate, and Citrate) that are easily absorbed and help support relaxation, brain health, and sleep.*
- L-Theanine, an amino acid that promotes alpha-wave activity in the brain and supports healthy cognitive aging.*
Better yet, there are several additional health benefits of Magnesi-Om® worth calling out:
- It helps support regular bowel movements courtesy of Magnesium Citrate. This form of the mineral draws water into the intestines to soften stool and support regularity.* At the same time, it’s gentle and non-stimulating.
- Magnesium can help alleviate common PMS symptoms such as mild bloating, cramping, and tenderness. Since the body’s Magnesium levels drop during the luteal phase (i.e., when PMS kicks in), Magnesium supplementation can replenish your levels to help keep these symptoms at bay.
It’s clear that Magnesium is crucial not only for brain health, but also for your mood, muscles, and entire body. Many people don’t get enough of it on a consistent basis, but it’s never too late to prioritize it in your diet and wellness regimen. Take care to prioritize Magnesium-rich foods and supplement with high-quality Magnesium so you reap the many benefits of this cognition-enhancing, sleep-supporting, calm-inducing mineral.