Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body and the second most common intracellular cation1 (positively charged ion) after potassium. It's required for the healthy function of most cells in your body, but is especially important for your heart, kidneys and muscles.
According to one scientific review,2 which included studies dating as far back as 1937, low magnesium actually appears to be the greatest predictor of heart disease, and other recent research shows even subclinical magnesium deficiency can compromise your cardiovascular health.3
Low magnesium will also impede your cellular metabolic function and deteriorate mitochondrial function, and as a component necessary for the activation of vitamin D,4,5,6 magnesium deficiency may also hamper your ability to convert vitamin D from sun exposure and/or oral supplementation.
While the reasons for prioritizing magnesium could fill several books, here I'll review how it can benefit a few really common health problems and conditions, starting with its influence over vitamin D.
Magnesium Activates and Regulates Vitamin D
Two studies published last year have shed new light on the interactions between magnesium and vitamin D, warning that low magnesium impedes your body's ability to properly utilize vitamin D, even when it's present.7
As noted by Mohammed Razzaque, professor of pathology at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Pennsylvania, coauthor of the first study published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association in March 2018,8 "By consuming an optimal amount of magnesium, one may be able to lower the risks of vitamin D deficiency, and reduce the dependency on vitamin D supplements."
A second study,9 published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in December 2018, also concluded that your magnesium status plays an important role in your vitamin D status. Overall, people with high magnesium intake were less likely to have low vitamin D. They also had a lower mortality risk from cardiovascular disease and bowel cancer.
As explained by Dr. Qi Dai, professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the lead author of this study, "Magnesium deficiency shuts down the vitamin D synthesis and metabolism pathway."
What's more, magnesium was found to have a regulating effect, raising and lowering vitamin D based on baseline levels. In people who had a baseline vitamin D level of 30 ng/mL (75 nmol/L) or below, magnesium supplementation raised their vitamin D level. However, in those who started out with higher vitamin D levels (50 ng/mL or 125 nmol/L), magnesium supplementation lowered their vitamin D.
Magnesium Is Empirically Recommended for All Migraine Sufferers
According to some statistics,10 migraine is the third most prevalent illness in the world, affecting an estimated 1 billion people. Migraine attacks are typically recurring, of moderate to severe intensity, many times occurring only on one side of your head.
Along with throbbing, piercing or "burning" pain, other common symptoms include nausea, visual disturbances, dizziness, numbness in your extremities or face, and extreme sensitivity to light, sound, smell and touch.11,12 While the root cause for migraines continues to be debated, certain nutritional deficiencies have been found to exacerbate the condition, and magnesium deficiency13,14,15 ranks high on this list, as does vitamin D deficiency.16,17
Research shows migraine sufferers are more likely to suffer from magnesium deficiency than non-migraineurs,18 and since magnesium administration is both easy and safe, researchers have noted that empiric treatment with a magnesium supplement is justified for all migraine sufferers.19
In one placebo-controlled study,20 daily intake of 600 milligrams of magnesium in the form of trimagnesium dicitrate for 12 weeks reduced the frequency of migraine attacks by nearly 42 percent, compared to less than 16 percent in the control group.
In many cases, receiving a high dose of magnesium can also abort an attack in progress. The most effective way to administer magnesium for migraine would be to get an intravenous (IV) infusion. Barring that option, magnesium threonate may be your best option for an oral supplement. It has superior absorbability compared to other forms of magnesium, and its superior ability to cross the blood-brain barrier makes it more likely to have a beneficial effect on your brain.