The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a new health claim for magnesium and its role in reducing the risk of high blood pressure. A health claim can be used on food and supplement label packaging to characterize the relationship between a substance such as a vitamin, mineral or fiber and a disease or health-related condition.
The health claim for magnesium is a qualified health claim, which means that the research supports the claim, but not at a high level of significant scientific agreement. Current research studies show both some positive effects of eating foods that are higher in magnesium or taking magnesium supplements to lower blood pressure, while other studies show no benefit. The FDA cites specific language that must be used on food packaging, specifically:
- “Inconsistent and inconclusive scientific evidence suggests that diets with adequate magnesium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure (hypertension), a condition associated with many factors.”
- “Consuming diets with adequate magnesium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure (hypertension). However, the FDA has concluded that the evidence is inconsistent and inconclusive.”
- “Some scientific evidence suggests that diets with adequate magnesium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure (hypertension), a condition associated with many factors. The FDA has concluded that the scientific evidence supporting this claim is inconsistent and not conclusive.”
Why Should I Be Concerned about Blood Pressure?
According to the American Heart Association, nearly 50% of Americans have high blood pressure, and many don’t even know it. Normal blood pressure is 120/80. High blood pressure can lead to:
- Heart Attack: High blood pressure damages arteries that can become blocked and prevent blood flow to the heart muscle.
- Stroke: High blood pressure can cause blood vessels in the brain to clog more easily or even burst.
- Heart Failure: The increased workload from high blood pressure can cause the heart to enlarge and fail to supply blood to the body.
- Kidney Disease or Failure: High blood pressure can damage the arteries around the kidneys and interfere with their ability to filter blood effectively.
- Vision Loss: High blood pressure can strain or damage blood vessels in the eyes.
- Sexual Dysfunction: High blood pressure can lead to erectile dysfunction in men or lower libido in women.
- Angina: Over time, high blood pressure can lead to heart disease or microvascular disease. Angina, or chest pain, is a common symptom.
- Peripheral Artery Disease: Atherosclerosis caused by high blood pressure can cause a narrowing of arteries in the legs, arms, stomach and head, causing pain or fatigue.
What is the Role of Magnesium in Blood Pressure Readings?
Magnesium may lower blood pressure by acting like a natural calcium channel blocker. It's also involved in several steps in blood pressure regulation. There are many different mechanisms to manage blood pressure, and magnesium is just one of these.
By Lynn Grieger, RDN, CDCES, CHWC, CPT
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA Announces Qualified Health Claim for Magnesium and Reduced Risk of High Blood Pressure. https://www.fda.gov/food/cfsan-constituent-updates/fda-announces-qualified-health-claim-magnesium-and-reduced-risk-high-blood-pressure accessed 2-25-22; published 1-10-22.
- FDA Reader. Simplifying Food Regulation. https://www.fdareader.com/blog/tag/qualified+health+claim accessed 2-25-22; copyright 2020.
- American Heart Association. The Facts About High Blood Pressure. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/the-facts-about-high-blood-pressure accessed 2-26-22; last reviewed 11/30/17.
- American Heart Association. Health Threats from High Blood Pressure. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/health-threats-from-high-blood-pressure accessed 2-26-22; last reviewed 10/31/16.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Your Guide to Lowering Blood Pressure. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/hbp_low.pdf accessed 2-25-22; published 5-03
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Letter in Response to a Petition for a Qualified Health Claim for Magnesium. https://www.fda.gov/media/155304/download accessed 2-25-22; written 1-8-22
- National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Magnesium Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/ accessed 2-25-22; updated 8-11-21.
- Houston MC, Harper KJ. Potassium, magnesium, and calcium: their role in both the cause and treatment of hypertension. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2008;10(7 Suppl 2):3-11. doi:10.1111/j.1751-7176.2008.08575.x
To learn more about magnesium, visit Magnesium 101.
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.