Is Magnesium Good for Your Brain?

Why Does the Brain Need Magnesium?

Magnesium is a naturally occurring mineral in your body and required for many biological processes. In fact, magnesium plays a factor in more than 300 enzyme systems throughout the body, including the brain, which is why many people take magnesium for brain health.

It works like this: magnesium helps manage the NMDA receptors, thereby acting as a transmitter of messages between the brain and body. These NMDA  receptors are needed for brain development, learning, and memory, as some studies have proven. 

Healthy adults have magnesium deposits in their NMDA receptors. If the magnesium levels are too low, the NMDA receptors become blocked. This deficiency leads to more stimulation than necessary, which can cause nerve cell death and could lead to brain damage, according to a study performed in 2003. 

To achieve optimal brain health, the body must receive adequate amounts of magnesium. 

Is Magnesium Brain Fog a Fact or Myth?

Of all the magnesium deficiency symptoms, brain fog is one that’s most often discussed. While it’s not a medical term, “brain fog” refers to a series of symptoms, described as one or more of the following:

  • Trouble with short-term memory
  • Reduction in mental clarity
  • Lack of concentration
  • Inability to focus on a task

While it’s normal to have an occasional day with brain fog, it isn’t something that should be experienced regularly. If it is, the problem could be caused by magnesium deficiency - instead of increased intake. If you are struggling with mental fog, examine the correlation between magnesium and the brain to see if you are suffering from a deficiency. Allowing this brain fog to continue can have disastrous effects on your home or work life. There’s no reason to struggle when there is a natural solution to the problem. 

Researchers found that magnesium is required for regulating brain receptors; which is why so many people take magnesium for brain health. In fact, this same study also showed magnesium supplementation not only helped clear up the “brain fog,” but aids with memory and learning functions. 

Brain Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms

What are the symptoms of magnesium deficiency? Many body-wide symptoms can occur when a person doesn’t receive enough magnesium. However, looking at brain functions alone, there are several signs to pay attention to. Up to 75% of people do not receive the proper amount of magnesium each day, making these symptoms widely experienced and infrequently addressed. 

If you are concerned with the amount of magnesium in your diet, look for these symptoms of a magnesium deficiency. 


A study found that nearly half of people suffering from migraines might be magnesium deficient. The deficiency might be caused by a poor diet or the inability to metabolize magnesium properly. Whatever the magnesium deficiency causes turn out to be, that same study showed eighty percent of tested patients experienced reduced pain after 15 minutes of administering magnesium. 

Chronic Pain

Magnesium is required to prevent hypersensitivity of the nerve cells in the brain. It serves as a voltage protector of the NMDA receptors. If there is a lack of magnesium in the body, these nerve cells can become overactive. As such, magnesium deficiency has been linked to inflammation and chronic pain


Because a lack of magnesium creates hyperactivity of the nerve cells in the brain, individuals with magnesium deficiency also become more susceptible to anxiety. In 2010, a study was performed looking for natural solutions to fight anxiety, and magnesium was listed as a possible solution. There is also a more recent review that looked at 18 different studies that show magnesium reduces anxiety. 


With magnesium playing such a critical role in mood and brain function, it’s no surprise that deficiency is also linked to depression. In one study, more than 8,000 people under the age of 65 were evaluated. Those with low magnesium intake exhibited a 22% greater chance of depression. In another study, 450 mg of magnesium each day helped to improve the mood of depressed older adults as effectively as a prescribed antidepressant. 

How to Correct Brain Magnesium Deficiency

The best way to make sure you're getting enough magnesium for brain health is to eat specific foods. The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements recommends most adults get between 350 to 400 mg of magnesium each day. You can bump up your intake with the following food options:

  • Almonds 
  • Cashews 
  • Peanuts 
  • Spinach
  • Shredded wheat
  • Black beans 
  • Soy milk
  • Edamame 
  • Peanut butter 
  • Baked potato 
  • Brown rice 
  • Plain Yogurt 

You will also find that some foods come enriched with additional magnesium, such as breakfast cereals, oatmeal, and bread. Even if you eat well, you could still be magnesium deficient and require a supplement. If you want the best magnesium supplement for brain health, consider the type you take.

As you look through what’s available, you will find magnesium citrate, magnesium taurate, magnesium chloride, magnesium lactate, magnesium oxide and more.

When determining the best magnesium supplement for brain health, you’ll be pleased to know that all forms of magnesium, including the magnesium you get from your food, goes through the blood brain barrier and supports brain health. So look for a brand that is backed by research and clinical evidence and has high standards for quality, customer service, and product education. 

Side Effects And Risks

Generally, taking magnesium supplements shouldn’t cause any health concerns. The most common complaint is that they produce a laxative effect — normally from taking excessive amounts or the wrong type of supplement. In rare cases, taking large doses can lead to toxicity, which might include muscle weakness, hypotension, difficulty breathing, irregular heartbeat or cardiac arrest.

Taking a magnesium supplement isn’t for everyone. If you are taking diuretics, bisphosphonates, certain antibiotics, or proton pump inhibitors, you will want to speak with your healthcare professional first. 

And if you plan to use a magnesium lotion or cream, you should spot test it in a discreet area first to ensure you don’t experience an adverse reaction.

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