Should You Take Magnesium and Zinc Together?

SOME SUPPLEMENT COMBOS may do more harm than good when taken together. Others, like magnesium and zinc, you might actually want to take in tandem.

“Magnesium and zinc are each essential nutrients, meaning the body does not make them, so we need to get them from outside sources,” says Tina Marinaccio, R.D., C.P.T. You can get these vital nutrients from food sources, but if a doctor or registered dietician recommends you take a magnesium and zinc supplement, taking the two together can enhance absorption.

The human body requires a broad range of foods and nutrients for optimum function, says Joseph Lamb, M.D. That includes proper amounts of magnesium and zinc. Ahead, a deep dive into both minerals and what you should know when supplementing.

What are the health benefits of zinc and magnesium?

Before we discuss what to consider when taking the two minerals together, let’s remember the importance of the two apart. It’s important to note that most of these benefits relate to the minerals themselves that we get from food, not their supplement counterparts—unless indicated otherwise.

Health Benefits of Zinc

It might not be one of the most hyped-up nutrients, but zinc does a whole lot for you.

“Zinc is a catalyst in over 100 enzymatic reactions important to DNA metabolism, cell growth, wound healing, and the support of healthy immune function,” says Lamb. “Adequate zinc stores support healthy insulin, thyroid function, and for our senses of taste and smell.”

Zinc supplements may have an impact against viruses as well—studies have shown that taking zinc supplements within 24 hours after the onset of cold symptoms may reduce the duration and severity of symptoms, Lamb says.

You definitely don’t want to be low on your zinc levels: deficiency symptoms include hair loss, decreased appetite, problems with the senses of taste and smell, the development of skin sores, and poor wound healing. If you are zinc deficient, it can be easily corrected by supplementing with small doses, says Marinaccio.

Health Benefits of Magnesium

Every cell in the body depends upon a supply of magnesium to function properly, and magnesium is a cofactor in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. “Magnesium is essential for bone health, helps our bodies make energy from the food we eat, and is critical for formation of RNA, and DNA—the components that regulate our gene expression,” says Marinaccio.

The mineral also helps maintain nerve and muscle function, keeps cardiovascular function strong, and helps maintain healthy glucose levels, Lamb says. Presence of magnesium in the body help maintain potassium and calcium stores.

Research has found certain types of magnesium supplements to be effective laxatives—which is why you might hear your doctor suggest them if you’re dealing with constipation issues. There’s also some preliminary research that supplemental magnesium may help initiate sleep—but science still has more work to do before that can be deemed completely true.

“Early symptoms of magnesium deficiency are nausea, lack of appetite, vomiting, as well as fatigue and weakness,” he says. “More severe symptoms include numbness, muscle contractions and cramps, seizures, changes in personality and abnormal heart rhythms.”

Should you take magnesium and zinc at the same time?

The short answer: Yes, you should take magnesium and zinc together.

The longer answer: Yes, because “zinc can help with absorption of magnesium, and magnesium helps the body to regulate zinc. This makes these two minerals synergistic, and beneficial to pair together,” says Marinaccio.

It might be especially helpful in certain populations. Some research in people with type 2 diabetes has found that taking zinc and magnesium together can help regulate blood sugar, insulin, cholesterol, and inflammatory markers associated with heart disease, says Marinaccio.

What are the proper dosages of magnesium and zinc?

Lamb says there are several factors that influence how much zinc and magnesium each individual may need. Talk to a doctor or registered dietitian to determine if you need supplements, and what kind, if so.

Zinc Dosages

The general recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for males over the age of 14 is 11 mg/day of zinc. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level, which is the amount that should not be exceeded on a long-term basis without medical monitoring, for zinc is 40 mg per day. Excessive intake of zinc can interfere with absorption of other nutrients, like copper and iron.

If you are taking a zinc supplement, Marinaccio recommends taking zinc with food because it can be very nauseating on an empty stomach.

Magnesium Dosage

In terms of magnesium, Lamb recommends about 400 mg/day of magnesium for men, and about 320 mg/day for women. “The type of magnesium and the reason for taking it influence how much magnesium we should take daily,” he says. It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider to figure out which type and dose is right for you.

“There is a potential for both zinc and magnesium to interfere with the absorption or function of certain medications and botanical supplements,” says Lamb. “So, if you’re taking more than the usual doses of minerals or taking medications on a regular basis, you may want to check with your practitioner to see if there are adjustments to timing or dose that you should be making.”

How can you get more zinc and magnesium into your diet naturally?

Zinc

Beef, fortified breakfast cereals, some grains, dairy products, canned sardines, and shrimp are all significant sources of zinc, Marinaccio says. “Starting the day with a no added sugar fortified breakfast cereal and a cup of milk will provide almost four milligrams of zinc.”

Seafoods such as oysters and sardines also have a fair amount of zinc. In fact, just one oyster packs about 5.5 mg—over half the recommended daily amount.

One note for the vegetarian and plant-based: “Fruits and vegetables are not wonderful sources [of zinc], however, and therefore, vegetarian diets may tend to be low in zinc,” Lamb says. Studies have demonstrated that a healthy gut microbiome may support iron, calcium, and zinc absorption, so taking a probiotic may be a good consideration. If you’re a vegetarian, vegan, or otherwise concerned you don’t eat enough zinc-rich foods, talk with your doctor or a registered dietitian to determine if a supplement is right for you.

Magnesium

There are many opportunities for vegetarians and vegans to get their magnesium fix.

“Magnesium is most abundant in seeds like pumpkin and chia, plus nuts like almonds,” says Marinaccio, who suggests adding a tablespoon of pumpkin or chia seeds to yogurt, a smoothie, grains or salads, or morning oats. Beans, leafy greens, bananas, avocados, milk and some grains like rice are also significant sources of magnesium.

When it comes to obtaining adequate zinc and magnesium levels from food sources, Dr. Lamb advocates eating a healthy, balanced diet with quality proteins, lots of vegetables, adequate amounts of fruits, legumes, and good healthy fats.

Headshot of Perri O. Blumberg

Perri is a New York City-born and -based writer; she holds a bachelor’s in psychology from Columbia University and is also a culinary school graduate of the plant-based Natural Gourmet Institute, which is now the Natural Gourmet Center at the Institute of Culinary Education. Her work has appeared in the New York Post, Men’s Journal, Rolling Stone, Oprah Daily, Insider.com, Architectural Digest, Southern Living, and more. She’s probably seen Dave Matthews Band in your hometown, and she’ll never turn down a bloody mary. Learn more at VeganWhenSober.com.

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