Genetics, anxiety and magnesium: A thought-provoking triad for mental health management.

Genetics, anxiety and magnesium: A thought-provoking triad for mental health management.

Magnesium is a key nutrient for anxiety management because it plays an important role in activating calming neurotransmitters in the brain and regulating stress hormones, such as cortisol.

The contribution of magnesium deficiency to stress and anxiety disorders has been well established and there has been a surge of interest in using magnesium supplementation as a natural solution for treating anxiety, or at least as an adjunct therapy.

We know that stress increases urinary excretion of magnesium. Therefore, whilst acute stress may temporarily deplete magnesium levels in the body, extended periods of stress may result in a progressive and more chronic magnesium deficiency1.

In other words, the more stressed you are, the more likely you are to be deficient in magnesium, but the more magnesium you require in order to alleviate stress.

Intriguingly, the role of genetics in susceptibility to magnesium deficiency and predisposition to anxiety has emerged as another player in this ring.

The study of nutrigenomics has identified a third-party in the perpetuating cycle of stress-induced magnesium demand and deficiency- the COMT gene (aka the anxiety gene.)

Regardless of external stressors, individuals with certain variations at this DNA location carry enhanced vulnerability to stress and are thereby inherently inclined to have lower base-line levels of magnesium. This proves to exacerbate anxiety in such individuals - if magnesium requirements are not met by dietary or supplemental intake.

How to determine a magnesium deficiency:

Contrary to popular thought, a magnesium deficiency is not easily determined by a blood test, as less than 1% of the body’s magnesium stores are found in the blood.2 Therefore, a blood test may not give an accurate indication of total magnesium status.

However, a 3X4 Genetic Test will reveal which variation of the COMT gene you carry and will thereby indicate your genetic predisposition to heightened stress and magnesium deficiency.

Knowing when to supplement:

If you have symptoms of magnesium deficiency – which include headaches, fatigue, muscle spasms, heightened emotional sensitivity, insomnia, and generalised anxiety- a magnesium supplement would be well worth a try.

There are no likely side effects from magnesium supplementation, however it is always advisable to take what you need and not more.

The recommended daily intake of magnesium is 420mg/day for men and 360mg/day for women. (This is the average amount required to meet the needs of healthy individuals.)

Of course, magnesium can and should be obtained from dietary sources such as leafy greens, avocado, legumes, wholegrains, nuts, seeds, and dark chocolate, but the difficulty of knowing if you are getting enough from the diet, lies in the transitioning nature of farming and food processing. Certain agricultural processes have depleted magnesium and other nutrient levels in the soil and the processing of grains significantly reduces their magnesium content.

Knowing how much to supplement:

Supplement guidelines range from 100-500mg per day, although the National Academy of Medicine advises adults not to exceed 350mg/day of supplemental magnesium3.

If you don’t trust that you are getting enough magnesium to meet your needs and optimally manage anxiety - use science to help you determine which side of the supplement spectrum to consider. 3X4 Genetics is the answer to informed decision making and greater precision of supplement prescription.

Magnesium may not be a cure-all treatment for stress and anxiety, but it could be the missing link, especially for those who are genetically predisposed to deficiency.

Gene tests for personalised health:

In addition to understanding how your genes impact your predisposition to magnesium deficiency, gene tests are an incredible tool for personalising your entire healthcare journey. They empower both you and your healthcare practitioner with invaluable information, guiding decisions ranging from disease prevention strategies to the selection of the most effective therapies and supplements. 

With just one swab test, 3X4 Genetics looks at variations in 160 genes and 36 pathways, to help you understand your body’s unique needs. We recently did a Q&A with our founder, Jean Brazendale, on gene testing and why it’s the future of personalised health, if you’d like to find out more you can read the blog post here.






Information provided by 3X4 Genetics.





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