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How accurate are the claims that magnesium supplements can boost your health? simonkr/Getty Images
  • The health benefits of magnesium have been gaining popularity on social media platforms like TikTok.
  • Research on the effects of magnesium, particularly in supplement form, is limited.
  • Registered dietitians say most people can achieve the recommended intake with food instead of the supplements often touted online.

From improved sleep to boosting exercise performance, magnesium is being touted as a quick fix for various health issues on social media platforms like TikTok.

“Magnesium is an essential mineral necessary for numerous physiological processes in the body, including muscle and nerve function, energy production, and bone health, and our body does not make it naturally, so it must be consumed from dietary or supplemental sources,” says Michelle Routhenstein, MS, RD, a registered dietitian nutritionist.

But while magnesium is essential, how much should you take each day, and how accurate are the claims that it can help with specific health issues?

We asked experts to weigh in on five of the most popular magnesium-based health claims racking up views on TikTok and to share what science really says about the potential benefits.

Magnesium can help you sleep

Magnesium’s potential to aid in relaxation is at the core of the popular Sleepy Girl Mocktail trend.

The drink consists of a half-cup of pure tart cherry juice, a tablespoon of magnesium powder, and sparkling water, with many claiming the simple recipe can help people fall asleep more easily and improve sleep quality.

“The trend highlights magnesium’s role in relaxing muscles and nerves, potentially calming mood, lessening anxiety, and improving sleep quality, which are relatable health concerns for many,” says Kelsey Costa, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and national media spokesperson for Dietitian Insights.

However, Costa says research is mixed, and more is needed.

For instance, a 2023 systemic literature review suggested a link between magnesium status and sleep quality in observational studies.

However, randomized control trials didn’t show a specific correlation between supplementing with magnesium and improvements in sleep quality.

An older, small study of 46 older adults published in 2012 suggested that people who took 500 mg of magnesium daily for eight weeks reported fewer subjective insomnia symptoms than those who received the placebo.

What about the TikTok famous cocktail? Same deal.

“Ingredients like tart cherry juice in the Sleepy Girl Mocktail could indirectly support sleep due to their magnesium content, but further research is needed to determine their precise impact,” Routhenstein says.

Magnesium can help prevent and treat cramps

One registered dietician nutritionist is cautious about supporting this so-called benefit of magnesium.

“There are many different causes and types of cramps, making it dangerous to say broadly that supplementation will provide benefits for cramping,” explains Maddie Pasquariello, MS, RDN, a registered dietician nutritionist. “In fact, when it comes to workout-related cramps, nocturnal cramps (or the kind of leg cramps that wake you up in the night), and cramps associated with pregnancy, there is little evidence to suggest that oral or IV magnesium supplementation will provide benefits.”

Research from 2021 didn’t find evidence magnesium supplements could aid in the prevention or treatment of muscle cramps.

Additionally, research from 2020 suggests that magnesium doesn’t prevent cramping in older adults but noted that research is conflicting and needed for pregnant people.

Magnesium can help you avoid constipation and ease

Can regular magnesium intake help you stay regular — as in relieving or preventing constipation?

“Magnesium…can aid in relieving constipation by drawing water into the intestines, softening the stool, and promoting bowel movements,” Routhenstein says. “Magnesium citrate acts as an osmotic laxative, meaning it pulls water into the intestines, resulting in increased bowel movements and facilitating smoother passage of stool.”

One 2019 study of 34 female patients with mild to moderate constipation indicated that magnesium oxide might help reduce “colonic transit time,” or how long it takes something to move through your colon.

Research from 2021 indicated that magnesium intake might lower chronic constipation regarding stool frequency but didn’t find a significant link between magnesium and stool consistency. In the end, the authors called for more research.

And Routhenstein stresses the need for caution.

“However, it’s essential to use magnesium citrate as directed and consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice, as excessive magnesium intake can lead to diarrhea or other adverse effects,” she says.

Magnesium can boost mental health

More than 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. live with a mental illness, according to the CDC. Treatment is available, including therapy and medication, but is magnesium worth considering, too?

Again, Pasquariello stresses caution due to limited data.

“Magnesium has been investigated as a potential component of treatment for mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression, and lower magnesium intake can be associated with self-reported depression in adults who are not in current treatment for the condition,” Pasquariello says. “That said, data is still limited.

Why the hype, then?

“Magnesium, including forms like magnesium malate, may support mental health by regulating neurotransmitters and stress response. However, further research is needed to confirm its efficacy in specific mental health conditions,” Routhenstein says.

A 2020 study indicated that stress could reduce magnesium in the body and vice-versa, terming it a “vicious cycle.”

A 2017 review indicated that evidence suggests magnesium could be helpful for subjective anxiety but noted evidence (including self-reported data) is poor.

Magnesium can improve exercise performance

Magnesium isn’t the first supplement to be touted to improve exercise and likely won’t be the last. But does the idea hold merit?

“Because magnesium is directly involved in muscular function and energy production, magnesium status can affect athletic performance,” Pasquariello says. “Magnesium supplementation may decrease the accumulation of lactate in the body and help improve muscle contraction/relaxation, allowing for improved exercise endurance.”

But Pasquariello says more consistent research is needed.

Research from 2021 indicated that some experimental studies suggest that magnesium administration can improve glucose uptake and limit lactate buildup in skeletal muscles, enhancing exercise performance in the process.

It’s recommended that people get 310 to 420 mg of magnesium per day, depending on age, sex, pregnancy, and lactation status, Costa says.

She also pointed to data from 2013-2016 that indicates that nearly half of U.S. adults don’t get enough magnesium.

“For most people, dietary sources of magnesium should be the focus, and magnesium supplements, therefore, should not be necessary,” Costa says. “They should only be considered after optimizing diet to meet nutritional needs and addressing potential underlying causes of deficiency, such as certain medical conditions or medications.”

Bloodwork can help detect magnesium deficiency. Costa says magnesium-rich foods include:

  • Leafy greens like kale and spinach
  • Seeds such as flax, pumpkin, and chia
  • Nuts like Brazil nuts, almonds, and cashews
  • Legumes and tofu
  • Avocados
  • Whole grains

Routhenstein suggests speaking to your doctor before trying a magnesium supplement, especially if you are a person living with kidney disease, taking medication, or are pregnant or lactating.