10 Benefits of Magnesium for PCOS
Need another reason to eat dark chocolate? I have one for you! Look no further than magnesium, a mineral that plays a role in over 300 reactions in the body. Magnesium helps to improve heart health and decrease inflammation, insulin resistance and risk of type 2 diabetes. These are all important issues in POCS, yet it’s one of the most common nutritional deficiencies. Read on to learn about the benefits of magnesium for PCOS and make sure you are meeting your needs.
Updated: August 2020
How to know if you’re deficient in magnesium?
The adult body stores around 25 grams of magnesium … 50-60% in the bones, less than 1% in blood serum, and the rest in soft tissue. Since it’s mostly in bones, a regular blood test is not a great indicator of a magnesium deficiency. Studies show that up to 50% of the U.S. population is magnesium deficient!
Consuming a healthy diet rich in leafy greens, whole grains, nuts and beans (look below for more sources), can meet your nutritional needs for magnesium. But unfortunately, most of us don’t eat that way! A USDA survey found women average 260 mg compared to the recommended daily values of 320 mg. Women with PCOS should pay special attention to consuming magnesium rich foods.
Increases risk of magnesium deficiency
There are several factors that can increase risk of magnesium deficiency, including:
Health conditions: type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance (hello PCOS), heart disease, metabolic syndrome
Diet: consuming a lot of processed food and soda
Meds: antacids, diuretics (birth control pill has a smaller effect)
Clinical signs: leg cramps
10 benefits of magnesium for PCOS
- Improves insulin resistance
Insulin resistance is at the heart of PCOS. It’s estimated that approximately 70% of women with PCOS have insulin resistance – and some experts even say every woman with PCOS has some degree of it. The good news is that diet can improve insulin resistance. Magnesium is a key player in signaling the release of insulin, a hormone that tells the body to pull sugar into cells when blood sugar is too high. Magnesium also is involved in insulin-mediated cellular glucose uptake aka helping the cells open up so the sugar can come in. When the sugar is pulled in, the cell can use it for energy production and blood sugar returns to a normal range. That is why it is super important that you have enough magnesium in your body to help control blood sugar, especially for women with PCOS who are prone to insulin resistance. Magnesium will help improve insulin sensitivity. Read my blog post about insulin resistance and PCOS
- Reduces risk of type 2 diabetes
Insulin resistance is a precursor to type 2 diabetes.Therefore, if your insulin sensitivity improves, it reduces your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. More than half of women with PCOS develop type 2 diabetes or prediabetes by age 40. Studies have found magnesium deficiencies associated with Type 2 Diabetes, especially in people with poorly controlled blood sugar. Proper magnesium intake will reduce your long term risk for diabetes.
- Improves heart health
Women with PCOS have a higher risk for developing heart disease. Good news is that magnesium can help reduce your risk! Every time our heart beats, magnesium is hard at work. Research suggests that higher magnesium intake is associated with lower cardiovascular risk such as heart attacks and heart disease. Evidence showed oral magnesium supplementation significantly reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure. How does magnesium relate to heart function? Magnesium is the body guard for muscle cells and regulates calcium entering the cell. When calcium enters, muscles contract, and magnesium helps calcium leave the cell again, so the muscle can relax. When magnesium is not present, muscles contract more than usual. In the heart, this can cause angina (chest pain) or a heart attack. Therefore, magnesium can improve heart health and supplementation may be beneficial Reference
- Decreases blood pressure
Have migraines? You’re not alone … many women with PCOS report living with migraines and magnesium help prevent this painful experience. Magnesium is commonly used for the prevention of migraines. 400-500 milligrams per day in pill form or an IV of 1-2 grams is the typically dosage. Magnesium is effective in patients with classic (aura) migraines because it prevents waves of brain signaling that causes common visual and sensory changes. Magnesium is likely effective for migraine prevention and is suggested because of the limited side (diarrhea). Reference
- Decreases inflammation
Women with PCOS have chronic, low-grade inflammation. This occurs in both overweight and lean women, however it is exacerbated in women who are overweight. Chronic, low-grade inflammation and magnesium deficiencies are commonly seen together. Obesity or overweight may also be a factor in this connection. The deficiency may be due to higher magnesium requirements to counteract low-grade inflammation. Reference.
- Preeclampsia and eclampsia
Women with PCOS have a greater risk of developing conditions during pregnancy such as preeclampsia. Reference. Magnesium supplements are often used to prevent eclampsia and its associated seizures and improve pregnancy outcomes. Reference It is important magnesium dosage is carefully monitored and you should consult a doctor if you would like to use this supplement for treatment.
Women with PCOS tend to have higher rates of depression and mood disorders … and stress! Stress increases magnesium loss and magnesium plays a big role in the reactions of mood regulation. The associated between magnesium and depression may also be linked to systemic inflammation. In addition, if you suffer from depression, magnesium possibly increases the effectiveness of antidepressants. Reference
Trouble sleeping? You aren’t alone! Many women with PCOS have sleeping issues. One issue is sleep apnea which has symptoms of excess sleepiness upon waking, attention problems, chronic snoring, and ceased breathing while asleep. Adequate magnesium may help you sleep better. It plays a role in maintaining healthy GABA levels, the neurotransmitter that promotes sleep and encourages relaxation. Reference Read my blog post about why sleep is important for PCOS
- Alleviate menstrual symptoms
This study found their menstrual distress pain was significantly reduced when taking magnesium supplements.
Magnesium content of foods
The RDA for magnesium for women is 320 mg a day. Here’s a list of the magnesium content of some foods:
(Hint: the list includes many of my favorite foods for PCOS: dark chocolate, avocados, nuts, legumes!
Bulgur (1 cup, dry) = 230 mg
Barley (1 cup, pearled, raw) = 158 mg
Spinach (1 cup, cooked) = 157 mg
Pumpkin seeds (1 oz, roasted) = 156 mg
Black beans (1 cup, boiled) = 120 mg
Beet greens (1 cup, cooked) = 98 mg
Halibut (3 oz, cooked) = 90 mg/24 mg
Almonds (1 oz, dry roasted) = 80 mg
Brown rice ( 1 cup, cooked) = 80 mg
Chickpeas (1 cup, boiled) = 79 mg
Cashews ( 1oz, dry roasted) = 74 mg
Lentils (1 cup, boiled) = 71 mg
Artichokes (1 cup, cooked) = 71 mg
Oatmeal (1 cup, cooked instant) = 63 mg
Peanuts (1 oz) = 50 mg
Peanut butter (2 tbsp) = 50 mg
Dark chocolate (60-69% cacoa, 1 oz) = 50 mg
Edamame (½ cup, shelled, cooked) = 50 m
Parsnips (1 cup) = 45 m
Avocado (1 cup, cubed) = 44 mg
Summer squash (1 cup, cooked) = 43 mg
Sunflower seeds (1 cup, roasted) = 41 mg
Cocoa powder (unsweetened, 1 tbsp) = 27 mg
Salmon (3 oz) = 26 mg
Chicken breast (3 oz) = 22 mg
While I always say “food first”, not all women can meet their nutritional needs for magnesium through diet. In this case, you may want to take a supplement. There are various forms of magnesium supplementation including magnesium oxide, citrate, glycinate, and chloride. Magnesium aspartate, citrate, lactate, and chloride were found to be more readily bioavailable than oxide and sulfate. Reference
Magnesium is critical for proper body function and can alleviate the symptoms of PCOS. Make sure you eat a balanced diet rich in nuts, legumes, tofu, seeds, whole grains, avocados and more. And think about the amazing benefits of the 50 grams of magnesium you are receiving next time you bite into that piece of dark chocolate.
I’d like to thank Nutrition Intern Emma Christie for assisting with research for this blog post!
I especially love problem-solving, whether it’s helping women defeat issues plaguing them for years, helping a busy executive find practical ways to get heart healthy, or providing tips to help you reverse diabetes. That’s why I’m on a constant quest to expand my knowledge by staying on top of the latest research.