Magnesium 101: Food Sources, Benefits, Deficiency and Supplements

Magnesium chloride supplements contain magnesium salt and can help prevent the effects of magnesium deficiency.
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Magnesium chloride is one of the supplemental forms of magnesium, "an abundant mineral in the body [which] is naturally present in many foods," as described by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Magnesium chloride supplements are sometimes taken in order to prevent the effects of magnesium deficiency in people who don't get enough magnesium from food sources.


Magnesium is essential for muscle and nerve functions, as well as heart and bone health. But taking magnesium chloride supplements isn't necessary unless you're deficient in the mineral. Keep reading to learn more about magnesium food sources, magnesium deficiency and magnesium chloride supplementation.

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Did You Know?

Magnesium chloride is a salt that is found naturally in seawater and some lakes. "The Great Salt Lake provides almost all of the magnesium in the United States — and 14 percent of the world's supply," reports the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

The Benefits of Magnesium

Most of the magnesium in the body is stored in the bones. "Around 60 percent of total body magnesium is stored in the skeleton and is known to influence both bone matrix and bone mineral metabolism," notes Oregon State University's Linus Pauling Institute (LPI).

Your heart, kidneys and other organs, as well as your muscles, all rely on magnesium for their normal day-to-day function. The mineral plays an essential role in a wide variety of chemical reactions, helps regulate your blood pressure and blood glucose levels, and also helps your body regulate its levels of other vital nutrients. "Magnesium is required for the active transport of ions like potassium and calcium across cell membranes," says the LPI.

Magnesium also ensures normal heart rhythms. "Magnesium ... acts an electrical conductor that contracts muscles and makes the heart beat steadily," explains the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH).


Some research takes the benefits of the mineral a step further by suggesting it may play a role in long-term heart disease prevention. "Current evidence from epidemiological studies shows that higher [magnesium] intake, either dietary or via supplementation, is associated with a protection against major CV risk factors," stated researchers in the February 2018 issue of the journal Nutrients.

However, while patients with heart disease may have low magnesium blood levels, more research is needed to prove a solid link between the mineral and heart health.


Food Sources of Magnesium

Your diet is the best source of magnesium. Certain foods, such as nuts, whole grains, beans and spinach, are good sources of magnesium. Other foods with significant magnesium content include tofu, blackstrap molasses and wheat bran.


The top food source of dietary magnesium is pumpkin seeds, per the NIH. Chia seeds, almonds, boiled spinach, cashews, peanuts, shredded wheat cereal, soy milk, black beans and edamame round out their top 10 food sources of the mineral.


The water you drink can also be a dietary source of magnesium. Research shows that people who regularly drink "hard," aka alkaline water — which contains high concentrations of magnesium — appear to have significantly lower risks for fatal heart disease than those who regularly drink "soft " water, according to research published in the December 2013 issue of the journal Medical Hypotheses. "Universal drinking water and beverages containing moderate to high levels of magnesium ... could potentially prevent 4.5 million heart disease and stroke deaths per year, worldwide," researchers concluded.



Other forms of supplemental magnesium include magnesium gluconate, magnesium lactate and magnesium citrate.

Effects of Magnesium Deficiency

According to the NIH, "Magnesium is a cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems that regulate diverse biochemical reactions in the body, including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control and blood pressure regulation." It's easy to see, therefore, that if magnesium deficiency is left untreated, health complications may ensue.


"Magnesium deficiency can lead to serious morbidity and mortality, and has been implicated in multiple cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, cardiomyopathy, cardiac arrhythmia [and] atherosclerosis," says research published on July 1, 2018, by the journal Open Heart.

Fortunately, while many Americans don't get enough magnesium to meet current recommendations, clinical deficiencies of this mineral rarely occur, notes the HSPH. "Most Americans of all ages eat less than recommended amounts," they observe. "However, these deficiency levels are marginal and not likely to produce symptoms. The body also helps to preserve magnesium levels when stores are low by limiting the amount excreted in urine and absorbing more magnesium in the gut."



That said, people with certain chronic diseases may find that their magnesium levels are depleted over time. As an article published on January 11, 2019, by Canada's McGill University observed, "Individuals with type 2 diabetes often experience hypomagnesemia (low magnesium) as insulin regulation requires magnesium to function."

There are a variety of other medical conditions that can also trigger short- or long-term magnesium deficiencies, per the National Library of Medicine (NLM). These include kidney disease, chronic gastrointestinal illnesses, celiac disease, inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) and intestinal viruses that trigger diarrhea or vomiting.

"Severe magnesium deficiency can impede vitamin D and calcium homeostasis," warns the LPI. "Certain individuals are more susceptible to magnesium deficiency, especially those with gastrointestinal or renal disorders, those suffering from chronic alcoholism, and older people."

Not having enough magnesium in the body disrupts the absorption of other minerals, such as calcium and potassium. Taking magnesium chloride supplements for magnesium deficiency might help prevent related complications such as low blood calcium and low potassium.

Magnesium Chloride Supplements

Your doctor may recommend oral magnesium chloride supplementation if you have a magnesium deficiency or if you experience a heart attack or other cardiac condition. The recommended dosage varies depending on the deficiency's cause.

If you have a relatively mild magnesium deficiency, your doctor may prescribe a single daily dose of an oral form of magnesium chloride. As the Mayo Clinic explains, the dosage is based around the recommended daily intake of magnesium, which is 270 to 400 milligrams a day, depending on age, gender and pregnancy status. Since magnesium chloride is a salt, it has a different strength than straight magnesium, the Clinic adds.

Magnesium supplements are commonly used to treat ailments such as irregular heartbeat, congestive heart failure, diabetes and high blood pressure, reports ‌Open Heart‌.

Research published in Nutrients in February 2021 identifies many other health conditions that magnesium chloride supplements can help ameliorate. These include asthma, fibromyalgia and the pregnancy-related blood pressure problems preeclampsia and eclampsia.

You might benefit from taking magnesium chloride supplements if your health status puts you at risk for deficiency, but always check with your health practitioner before taking it. As with other dietary supplements, magnesium chloride supplements are only intended for use in adults who are deficient in the mineral.


There are several medications that can potentially interfere with the effectiveness of magnesium chloride supplements, the NLM warns. These include proton pump inhibitors, diuretics and certain antibiotics, antifungal medications and chemotherapy drugs. Before taking a magnesium chloride product, review your medication list with your doctor or pharmacist.

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