Before You Buy Magnesium Supplements From TikTok, Here’s What You Need to Know

  • Magnesium is a necessary nutrient for a number of vital processes in the body, such as regulating muscle and nerve function, and making protein and DNA.
  • Magnesium has a wide range of positive side effects, such as relieving muscle cramps, preventing migraines, and slightly lowering blood pressure.
  • Experts recommend individuals check with a doctor before taking supplemental magnesium, as to avoid taking too much.

TikTok videos recommending that people take magnesium supplements have gone viral in recent months, but experts say it’s important to do your research before following creators’ advice.

Magnesium is a nutrient that is necessary for a number of vital processes in the body, such as regulating muscle and nerve function, as well as making protein and DNA. Despite its importance, it’s estimated that about 60% of Americans don’t consume enough of the nutrient.

More people are seemingly becoming aware of the issue, however—the hashtag ‘#magnesium’ has over 456 million views on TikTok, and ‘#magnesiumsupplements’ has 32.6 million views.

But despite TikTokers’ claims that magnesium supplements can eliminate everything from anxiety to uneven skin tone, experts say that supplements aren’t necessarily for everyone.

“If you’re not getting enough [magnesium] from the foods and beverages you eat, taking a supplement can help,” Carol Haggans, RD, scientific and health communications consultant for the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, told Health. “But it’s important for people to keep in mind that it’s always best to focus on getting it from foods first.”

Dietary supplements are minimally regulated by the FDA and may or may not be suitable for you. The effects of supplements vary from person to person and depend on many variables, including type, dosage, frequency of use, and interactions with current medications. Please speak with your healthcare provider or pharmacist before starting any supplements.

Woman looking at supplement bottles

Getty Images / Luke Chan

Why Do We Need Magnesium? 

Magnesium is involved in over 300 different enzyme reactions in the body, which could partly explain why the TikTok claims about its benefits are so far-reaching.

One video with 1.7 million views discusses how one type of magnesium supplement can reduce period cramps, another with over 4 million views says that taking supplements before bed can help with sleep and relaxation. Magnesium can also help with constipation, muscle aches, and anxiety, according to other TikTok creators.

The idea that magnesium is a cure for all of these ailments may not be totally correct, but it is true that magnesium can have wide-ranging effects on the body.

Magnesium may help with muscle cramps or with preventing migraines, and it can also lower blood pressure slightly, in turn marginally reducing a person’s risk of heart disease and stroke. Magnesium may also help prevent type 2 diabetes, and some research has shown that it may reduce the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis.

More commonly, magnesium can be used to counteract constipation because it can cause diarrhea in greater doses, Emily Tarleton, PhD, assistant professor at Northern Vermont University, explained.

Tarleton published a study in 2017 that found that magnesium supplements seemed to alleviate some mild to moderate depression symptoms. Research is now looking into the possibility that magnesium might help regulate the amount of calcium in the brain. Without it, people may experience mental health issues and migraines, Tarleton noted.

But for almost all claims about magnesium’s benefits, more research is needed.

“We’ve done some studies and seen some very positive results,” Tarleton said. “There’s some potential there to use magnesium in a way that, again, is cheap, over-the-counter, low-risk. But we don't know what that recommendation looks like yet.”

How Do You Know If You’re Deficient in Magnesium? 

Unlike tests used for some other minerals and vitamins, the blood tests used to check magnesium levels may not actually be a helpful metric, Tarleton and Haggans explained.

“Our body does everything it can to regulate magnesium levels and maintain magnesium levels in our blood,” Tarleton said. “So it’ll start pulling from the stores—like our bones—when we’re low on magnesium.”

This means that a person’s blood test could look completely normal, even though their stores of magnesium are deficient, she added.

It’s also challenging to tell if a person has magnesium deficiency just by looking at symptoms, Haggans added.

For the average person, not getting their recommended daily amounts of magnesium won’t produce any symptoms. It’s only if the magnesium deficiency is more chronic or severe that a person might begin to experience loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue, or weakness.

Because of this, diet is the best way to tell if a person might have low magnesium levels, Haggans suggested, but it’s best to consult with a doctor to avoid self-diagnosis.

How Can You Increase Magnesium Intake?

Experts agree that diet is always the first place to start when a person is concerned about magnesium deficiency.

“When you talk about supplements, I think an important question is—even just [with] the terminology—what are you supplementing?” Katherine Zeratsky, RD, a clinical dietitian at the Mayo Clinic, told Health. “As a dietician, my role is not to necessarily recommend supplements unless I’m seeing an obvious gap in somebody’s diet.”

Unfortunately, in the U.S., Zeratsky added, magnesium-rich foods—such as beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables—are not always included in people’s everyday diets.

Men should get between 400 and 420 milligrams of magnesium each day, and women need just slightly less—somewhere between 310 and 320 milligrams is recommended. An ounce of almonds or a half cup of cooked spinach provides about a fifth of what a person needs each day, Haggans explained.

Choosing a Type of Magnesium

Tarleton noted the popularity of magnesium oxide—the cheapest and most readily available magnesium supplement. But unless an individual’s goal is to relieve constipation, they most likely would be better suited with a different form of magnesium, like magnesium citrate and magnesium chloride. These types are better absorbed by the body, allowing individuals to experience additional health benefits.

But making those dietary changes may not be easy for everyone. Whether it’s because of access issues or other medical conditions, that first solution may not always be available.

“People with gastrointestinal diseases, like Crohn’s disease and celiac, people with type 2 diabetes, people with long-term alcohol-use disorder, and sometimes older people—those are people that might be more likely than others to not get enough [magnesium] from their diets,” Haggans said. “Maybe a supplement would help.”

And in situations where taking a magnesium supplement might be a good idea, there are lots of different types that a person can choose from. A large part of the viral conversation about magnesium online has to do with comparing these different types of supplements, and experts say there are a few that can be helpful for different situations.

“The most common one is magnesium oxide—it's the cheapest and the most available, but that one really is just more of a way to help with constipation,” Tarleton said. “But there are other types—like magnesium citrate and magnesium chloride—that are better absorbed by the body. And those are the types that we recommend for other types of health benefits.”

Doing Your Research Is Key

Though the form of magnesium certainly matters, the most important thing is that people pay close attention to the total amount of magnesium they’re consuming each day, Haggans said.

“We do have an upper tolerable limit, and if we go above that upper tolerable limit, we do have a risk for toxicity. Our body’s just not able to process the magnesium quickly enough, and it’ll build up in our system,” Tarleton said. “Too much is not a good thing in this case.”

Anyone over the age of nine should not take more than 350 milligrams of supplemental magnesium each day, to prevent the possibility of taking too much.

Emily Tarleton, PhD

We do have an upper tolerable limit, and if we go above that upper tolerable limit, we do have a risk for toxicity. Our body’s just not able to process the magnesium quickly enough, and it’ll build up in our system.

— Emily Tarleton, PhD

Experts say it’s also best that people check in with their doctor before taking magnesium supplements—they can interact with other medications or supplements, such as calcium. Plus, some drugs may also contain magnesium, heightening the risk for toxicity.

But if someone does accidentally have too much magnesium in their system, the body will alert them pretty quickly, Tarleton said.

“If you take too much magnesium, an upset stomach, diarrhea, nausea—those are the side effects,” she said. “And most people aren’t willing to sort of push through that.”

Besides taking the right amount, it’s also important to buy magnesium supplements from a reputable source. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t approve claims on labels before a product is sold, so it’s best to check for third-party quality assurance marks or find other methods to ensure that a magnesium supplement is living up to its labeling.

Though a person’s healthcare provider may have a specific recommendation when it comes to certain types of magnesium supplements, different dosages, or brands, in general, Zeratsky said that the best form of magnesium may look different for different people.

“For the general person, and I think probably any of them could be okay, unless their body doesn’t tolerate it,” she said. “I think that’s going to be up to that individual.”

TikTok videos that recommend everyone take a specific formulation of magnesium are probably overdoing it. But at the very least, it’s good that these creators are bringing the issue to light, Zeratsky added, as it gives people another pause to stop and think about the ways that their diets may be affecting their health. And if making changes isn’t possible, then trying a supplement may not be a bad idea.

“The typical American does not consume adequate amounts of magnesium,” Tarleton said. “There are some risks associated with it, but taken in that over-the-counter dose, it’s generally pretty cheap, and pretty effective. You’ll know within a week or two, whether it’s helpful.”

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  1. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Magnesium: fact sheet for health professionals.

  2. Workinger JL, Doyle RP, Bortz J. Challenges in the diagnosis of magnesium statusNutrients. 2018;10(9):1202. doi:10.3390/nu10091202

  3. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Frequently asked questions: use and safety of dietary supplements.

  4. Tarleton EK, Littenberg B, MacLean CD, Kennedy AG, Daley C. Role of magnesium supplementation in the treatment of depression: A randomized clinical trial. PLoS One. 2017;12(6):e0180067. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0180067

  5. Food and Drug Administration. FDA 101: dietary supplements.

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