Magnesium pills may improve blood pressure in at-risk populations

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock/vchal
© iStock/vchal

Related tags Blood pressure

People with insulin resistance, prediabetes, or other non-communicable chronic diseases are at an increased risk of hypertension, but magnesium supplements may help lower their blood pressure, says a new meta-analysis.

Data from 11 gold-standard randomized controlled trials (RCTs) indicated that magnesium supplementation may significantly decrease both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in people with insulin resistance, prediabetes, or other non-communicable chronic diseases.

Researchers from Indiana University (Bloomington, IN), the Center for Magnesium Education and Research (Hawaii), and Tel Aviv University (Israel) report that magnesium supplements were associated with average reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure of 4.18 mmHg and 2.27 mmHg, respectively.

“Because of the results of our study and the findings from previous studies, patients with hypertension and underlying preclinical metabolic conditions including [insulin resistance] and prediabetes and patients with type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular diseases may benefit from magnesium supplementation in the reduction of [blood pressure] and the amelioration of the underlying health conditions,” ​they wrote in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition​.

“The findings from this study add complementary evidence to the literature on the effect of magnesium supplementation on [blood pressure].”

‘Necessary for over 300 biochemical reactions’

The results add to an ever growing body of science supporting the potential health benefits of the mineral. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) lists magnesium as being necessary for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, from helping maintain normal muscle and nerve function, to keeping heart rhythm steady, supporting a healthy immune system, and keeping bones strong. The mineral is also needed for blood sugar management and healthy blood pressure. 

The science and positive regulatory decisions have led to increased interest from consumers in magnesium and this has led to increasing sales. According to SPINS​, US sales of magnesium supplements across natural, specialty gourmet and conventional multi outlet channels grew 15.2% to $85.2 million for the 52 weeks ending January 24, 2016, up from $74 million from the previous 52 weeks.

And with 70-80% of the US population not meeting their recommended intakes of magnesium, the market is expected to continue to grow. Indeed, some industry experts are predicting​ that magnesium sales in the nutrition market will surpass calcium by 2020.

Clinical significance

The authors of the new meta-analysis argue that the magnitude of the reduction in blood pressure observed from magnesium supplementation is of “great clinical significance”​, noting that data from other trials has indicated that a 2-3 mmHg reduction in blood pressure, “might account for a difference of stroke rate by 6–12% between antihypertensive medications”​.

Commenting on the potential mechanism of action, the authors note that magnesium may exert its benefits via effects on vascular tone and improving the function of the endothelium (the layer of cells lining blood vessels), which would directly lower blood pressure. It has also been reported that magnesium may have synergetic effects with antihypertensive medications.

“Because of the heterogeneity in the included trials on [diastolic blood pressure] and no study, to our knowledge, in individuals with renal disease or cancer, future large-scale, well-designed, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials are warranted to provide more solid evidence of the benefit of magnesium supplementation on [blood pressure] and possibly on disease outcomes in patients with [insulin resistance], prediabetes, or non-communicable chronic diseases,” ​they concluded.

Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.117.155291
“The effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure in individuals with insulin resistance, prediabetes, or noncommunicable chronic diseases: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials”
Authors: D.T. Dibaba et al.


The meta-analysis pooled data from 11 RCTs that included 543 people. The studies lasted between one and six months and used daily doses of elemental magnesium ranging from 365 to 450 mg.

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