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How to Use Magnesium Supplements for Weight Loss

Magnesium is an important mineral that your body needs in order to function. It helps you do a variety of important things including produce energy, regulate blood sugar, and cause necessary chemical reactions in the body.

Magnesium helps your body conduct nerve impulses, muscle contraction, and normal heart rhythm by playing a role in the transport of calcium and potassium.

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Your heart, muscles, and kidneys all need magnesium to work properly. The mineral also helps build teeth and bones.

So how does this relate to weight loss? Some studies suggest the mineral might be helpful for people who need to lose weight. But that doesn’t mean the scale will budge after you start taking the supplement.

Read on to learn about adding magnesium to your diet and how it might help you lose weight.

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Does magnesium help with weight loss?

Magnesium may be helpful for regulating blood sugar and insulin levels in people who are overweight or obese. “A 2013 study found that taking higher amounts of magnesium helps better control insulin and glucose blood levels. This same study also showed magnesium helps with bloating and water retention,” says Dr. Sherry Ross, OB-GYN and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California.

Magnesium supplements might be helpful for reducing unpleasant menstrual symptoms in women because of its ability to reduce bloating and water retention.

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Still, Dr. Ross cautions that taking magnesium alone has not been shown to be effective for weight loss. Instead, she says that your best strategy for long-term weight loss includes restricting calories, eating a healthy colorful diet, and exercising regularly.

Should you add magnesium to your diet?

In general, magnesium deficiencies are rare. But many Americans don’t get as much magnesium as they should in their diets. Magnesium is found naturally in many different foods. These foods are also healthy, so incorporating them into your diet could contribute to healthy weight loss.

Magnesium-rich foods include:

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  • dark leafy greens
  • quinoa
  • whole grains
  • nuts
  • beans
  • fish
  • yogurt
  • tofu

Some health conditions can lead to magnesium deficiencies, including gastrointestinal diseases like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease. Conditions like diabetes and kidney disease can also change the way your body absorbs and stores magnesium.

Stomach viruses that cause vomiting and diarrhea may also cause a temporary magnesium deficiency. Drinking too much alcohol or caffeine on a regular basis can affect your magnesium levels, too.

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How much magnesium does your body need?

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the daily recommendations for magnesium are:

  • adults 19-30 years: men 400 milligrams (mg), women 310 mg
  • adults 31+: men 420 mg, women 320 mg

Where can you buy magnesium supplements?

Magnesium supplements are available at many grocery or health food stores. There are also companies that sell them online.

Supplements come in many different forms, including:

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  • magnesium oxide
  • magnesium chloride
  • magnesium gluconate
  • magnesium citrate
  • magnesium orotate

Some types of magnesium supplements are absorbed better than others in the body. If you want to try adding magnesium supplements to your diet, talk to your doctor about the best form and dosage for your needs.

What are the risks of taking magnesium supplements?

Supplements deliver magnesium in a larger and more concentrated way than you’d get through regular foods, so there’s a possibility for negative side effects. These include:

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  • upset stomach
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • abdominal cramping

More serious symptoms can result from “mega-dosing,” or taking a supplement in much larger amounts than the body normally gets naturally. These include:

  • muscle weakness
  • low blood pressure
  • drowsiness
  • being overly thirsty
  • trouble breathing
  • loss of appetite
  • irregular heartbeat

Call your doctor or seek emergency medical care if you experience these symptoms.

It’s important to note that supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means private manufacturers are responsible for making sure their products are safe for human use. These products might have other additives that may be harmful, or might not contain the ingredients or dosage that they claim. When choosing a company to buy from, make sure they’re well-known and trustworthy.

Next steps

Ensuring you have enough magnesium in your diet is important for your overall health, but it’s not a miracle weight loss solution. At the end of the day, successful weight loss comes from a solid plan to develop healthy eating habits and exercise regularly.

Peter LePort, M.D., medical director of MemorialCare Center for Obesity at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center, says he wouldn’t recommend one dietary supplement for weight loss. “Patients need to get all of their vitamins and minerals,” he says.

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Instead, Dr. LePort recommends a good diet and exercise plan motivated by the desire to get healthy.

If you are struggling with nutrition and weight loss, talk to your doctor or dietitian. They can help you figure out a healthy plan that’s right for you.

  • What supplements/vitamins should you take if you’re trying to lose weight?
  • You really don’t need any supplements when you’re trying to lose weight, as long as you aren’t following a very restrictive diet. Generally, a well-balanced diet that provides 1,200 calories or more should be adequate to meet your nutritional needs. If desired, you can take a general multivitamin and mineral supplement to ‘cover’ you. If you are following a very restrictive diet, or a diet that eliminates one or more food groups, meet with a dietitian to review your diet and determine what nutrients might be lacking.

    - Peggy Pletcher, MS, RD, LD, CDE
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