This week we will be discussing magnesium, a common supplement advertised for menopause. Looking at the scientific evidence, we will determine if and how magnesium can help women going through menopause.
What is Magnesium?
Magnesium is a mineral and has numerous functions. It interacts with over 300 enzymes that regulate processes in the body such as muscle and nerve function, protein synthesis, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation. It is also used for energy production, bone development, and the synthesis of DNA .
Sources of Magnesium
The recommended daily intake of magnesium is 270mg a day for women aged 19 to 64 years. Food sources of magnesium include:
green vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, wheat, oats, and beans .
Magnesium for Menopause: Scientific Evidence
In terms of scientific evidence regarding magnesium for menopausal women, there are a number of studies on how effective it is.
Hot flushes are a common symptom of menopause. A trial into the use of magnesium supplements to reduce hot flushes, in 25 women with an average age of 53.5 years, supplemented with 400mg of magnesium oxide for 4 weeks. There was an overall reduction in the hot flush frequency per week from 53.3 to 27.7.
14 of the participants experienced a >50% reduction in hot flush score, and 19 of the participants experienced a >25% reduction in hot flush score, suggesting that magnesium supplementation may help in reducing hot flushes. This study was conducted on women with a history of breast cancer and there is limited research on menopausal women with no history of breast cancer .
Bone Mineral Density
Bone mineral density (BMD) decreases with age and throughout menopause, leading to an increased risk of osteoporosis. Magnesium intake and BMD have been positively correlated. One study viewed the magnesium intake and BMD of 787 records, in adults over 60 years old. It found that individuals who consumed higher amounts of magnesium had higher hip and femoral neck BMD .
This was supported by another study which observed the magnesium intake and bone mineral content (BMC) of 194 post-menopausal women, where 70 women had osteoporosis. It found that magnesium intake was significantly reduced in the osteoporotic women and correlated with their BMC. However, magnesium intake was lower that the recommended daily intake for all the women, suggesting that supplementation may be recommended .
Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D is a common deficiency in menopausal women and the general population. It has been linked to low mood, which could exacerbate low mood symptoms that can be experienced in some menopausal women .
One study viewed the response of vitamin D following magnesium supplementation in postmenopausal women. In a population of 52 women, they were split into a placebo group and a group which was supplemented with 500mg per day, for 8 weeks.
This study found that initially, 80% of the participants were vitamin D deficient. However, following treatment the women receiving magnesium supplements had a significant increase in vitamin D levels compared to the placebo group, suggesting that magnesium supplementation may improve vitamin D status in postmenopausal women .
Sleep duration and quality are commonly reduced during menopause . One study viewed the association between magnesium intake and sleep patterns in a population of 7582 participants. It found a positive correlation between magnesium intake and sleep quality, including less daytime sleepiness, less snoring, and increased sleep duration .
This is supported by another study which viewed the effects of magnesium supplementation on sleep. It found that in three randomised control trials, with a population size of 151 older adults, that sleep onset latency time was 17.36 minutes less following magnesium supplementation, compared to a placebo, suggesting that magnesium supplementation may be beneficial for individuals experiencing insomnia .
You can learn more about foods for improving sleep in our blog “Foods That Help You Sleep: Menopause”.
So, should menopausal women be taking magnesium supplements? In general, magnesium requirements should be able to be met with the intake of a healthy balanced diet. However, if you do choose to take a magnesium supplement, it is important that you don’t intake too much.
High dosages of magnesium can result in symptoms such as diarrhoea, nausea, and stomach cramps. If taken over a long period of time, they can cause magnesium toxicity . If you do decide to take a magnesium supplement, it is better to start off with a small dosage and to consult your doctor. This will help to ensure that you are not ingesting harmful amounts.
In summary, you should be able to meet your requirements with a healthy balanced diet. However, if you are deficient in magnesium, supplements may be an option to meet your requirements. Magnesium can help to improve menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, BMD reductions, vitamin D deficiency, and sleep disruptions. Therefore, it is important to aim to meet the 270mg/day recommended daily intake. If you would like more advice about magnesium for menopause, please book a free 15 minute introductory call with me.
Caroline Hill is a specialist menopause dietitian supporting women making dietary change. Caroline uses her extensive knowledge, skills and expertise of food and nutrition to help women manage their symptoms and weight during menopause. Caroline believes in providing sustainable, individualised, evidence-based advice to women making dietary change.