Navigating the Magnesium Hype: What Social Media Gets Right (& Wrong)

Posted by Lisa Stovall on Mon, Apr, 29, 2024

MCSIn the ever-evolving world of health trends and dietary supplements, magnesium has become a hot topic on social media over the past year. 

Today, it seems you can't scroll for more than a few seconds without encountering a video praising the miraculous benefits of this humble mineral. The hashtag #magnesium on TikTok has over a billion views, with many people raving about how the mineral helps alleviate anxiety, fatigue, brain fog, and other ailments. 

But with every new health craze comes the inevitable question: is it genuinely beneficial, or just another passing fad fueled by hype?

Below, we dive into the heart of magnesium mania to separate scientific fact from social media fiction.

What is Magnesium?

Magnesium, the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body, is an essential nutrient like fiber and antioxidants. It plays a crucial role in over 300 biochemical reactions, regulating muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure. This abundance underscores its importance, making it a mineral we can't afford to overlook.

Nearly half of adults in the U.S. do not consume the recommended daily intake (RDI) of 400–420 mg for men and 310–320 mg for women. Many delicious foods are rich sources of magnesium, making it possible for most individuals to meet their daily needs through diet alone. Green vegetables, black beans, bananas, avocados, whole grains, and a variety of seeds like flax, pumpkin, and chia, along with brown rice and cashews, offer a tasty way to ensure you're getting enough of this essential mineral. 

Let's explore the topic of magnesium in more detail. Numerous types are available, but don't worry; we've got you covered! We'll highlight some of the popular options that people commonly turn to, although it's worth noting that this list isn't exhaustive when it comes to magnesium varieties.

1. Magnesium Citrate

Magnesium citrate is magnesium combined with citric acid. This form is particularly well-known for its laxative properties and is often recommended for those suffering from constipation because it supports regular digestion. It’s also relatively well-absorbed by the body, making it a good choice for general supplementation.

2. Magnesium Oxide 

Magnesium oxide is an inorganic salt of magnesium formed with magnesium and oxygen ions. It may help treat migraines and constipation, reduce blood pressure, improve blood sugar management, and decrease stress and anxiety in certain populations. While magnesium oxide provides benefits, its absorption rate in the digestive system is generally lower than other magnesium supplements. Therefore, it may not be the most efficient way to correct magnesium deficiency if that's the primary goal.

3. Magnesium Glycinate

Magnesium glycinate is magnesium bonded to glycine, another amino acid. This form is highly bioavailable and is less likely to cause laxative effects, making it an excellent choice for those looking to improve sleep or manage stress without gastrointestinal distress.

4. Magnesium L-Threonate

Magnesium L-threonate is a form of magnesium that’s been shown to be particularly effective at improving brain health. It’s the only form known to significantly increase magnesium levels in the brain, making it a promising option for improving memory, focus, and cognitive function.

5. Magnesium Sulfate

Magnesium sulfate, commonly known as Epsom salt, is a chemical compound composed of magnesium, sulfur, and oxygen. Epsom salt is a popular home remedy for relieving minor sprains, bruises, muscle aches or discomfort, joint stiffness or soreness, and tired feet. The magnesium in Epsom salt is believed to be absorbed through the skin, which can help reduce inflammation and muscle tension.

6. Ionic Magnesium 

Ionic magnesium is a highly effective dietary supplement that contains magnesium in its ionic form. It's a liquid supplement that can be added to beverages, making it easy to consume. The ionic form of magnesium is highly bioavailable, meaning that the body readily absorbs it.

Consider taking a supplement only if you cannot meet your daily magnesium needs through foods alone. Supplements are widely available and well-tolerated. Each form of magnesium has unique properties and health benefits. When choosing a magnesium supplement, consider your health issues, overall health, and sensitivity to potential gastrointestinal effects. As always, consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen to ensure it's appropriate for your health needs, especially for people with diabetes, intestinal disease, heart disease, or kidney disease. Dietary supplements, including magnesium, are not free of side effects.

The Science Behind the Claims

Despite its importance, magnesium deficiency is surprisingly common, often due to insufficient dietary intake. Populations that consume a lot of processed foods high in fats tend to have lower magnesium levels. Enter TikTok, where influencers tout magnesium as the solution to everything from insomnia and anxiety to muscle cramps and constipation. Is there any truth to these claims? Let's break it down:

  • Sleep and Anxiety: Studies have shown that magnesium plays a role in supporting sleep quality and may help manage anxiety. Magnesium regulates neurotransmitters that are directly linked to sleep and stress. This concept is central to the popular Sleepy Girl Mocktail. The refreshing drink consists of half a cup of pure tart cherry juice, a spoonful of magnesium powder, and sparkling water. Many influencers suggest that this simple concoction helps fall asleep faster and improves overall sleep quality. Including tart cherry juice in the Sleepy Girl Mocktail may indirectly contribute to better sleep through its magnesium content. However, further research is needed to fully understand these ingredients' specific impact.
  • Heart Health and Blood Pressure: Research suggests that magnesium can improve heart health and lower blood pressure, thanks in part to its ability to relax blood vessels. A large study involving over 8,500 women revealed that increasing dietary magnesium intake could potentially lower the risk of high blood pressure in women. Furthermore, some research indicates that taking magnesium supplements may also positively impact reducing blood pressure levels, although findings across studies may vary.
  • Brain Health: Some studies suggest that more magnesium in our daily diet leads to better brain health as we age. One study conducted in the United Kingdom examined more than 6,000 cognitively healthy individuals aged between 40 to 73. The study found that individuals who consume more than 550 milligrams of magnesium each day have a brain that appears to be approximately one year younger when they reach the age of 55, as compared to individuals who consume a normal amount of magnesium, which is around 350 milligrams per day.
  • Menopause: Magnesium glycinate is often recommended for women who are going through perimenopause and menopause. This mineral is essential for the overall health of every human being, but women in menopause may experience the effects of a decline in this substance. Magnesium levels usually decrease alongside estrogen during menopause, which can make symptoms associated with low magnesium levels more noticeable. 

However, it's crucial to note that while magnesium can support these areas, it is not a cure-all. The effects can vary significantly from person to person, and overconsumption can lead to adverse effects, such as digestive issues and irregular heartbeat. Most nutritionists agree that the research on the benefits of magnesium supplements is inconclusive and requires further investigation.

Navigating the Hype Responsibly

Before you jump on the magnesium bandwagon, here are some tips to navigate the hype responsibly:

  1. Consult with a Healthcare Professional: Always talk to a doctor or a registered dietitian before adding any supplement to your routine, especially if you have existing health conditions or are taking other medications. Magnesium can interact with common medications for high blood pressure, antibiotics, or diuretics.
  2. Aim for a Balanced Diet: A healthy diet is the best way to get magnesium. Nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans, leafy greens, and milk products are excellent sources.
  3. Be Skeptical of Outlandish Claims: If a TikTok or YouTube video promises miraculous results, take it with a grain of salt. Look for information backed by scientific research.

The Verdict: Healthy or Hype?

So, is the magnesium obsession on TikTok healthy or just hype? The answer is somewhere in between. Magnesium is undeniably essential for health, and many people can benefit from ensuring they have adequate intake. However, it's not a magical solution to all health issues. The best approach is a balanced diet, supplemented with magnesium if necessary, and always under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

While it's great to stay informed about new health trends, it's even more important to approach them with a critical eye and professional advice.

We'd love to hear your thoughts! Have you tried magnesium supplements before? Feel free to share in the comments section below!

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