What Do Calcium, Magnesium, and Zinc Help With, and When Should You Take Them?

  • Medical Reviewer: Mahammad Juber, MD
Medically Reviewed on 10/6/2022

May help overcome anxiety and depression

Calcium, magnesium, and zinc are three minerals your body needs to carry out essential functions. The minerals may help with anxiety, depression, bone health, and sleep.
Calcium, magnesium, and zinc are three minerals your body needs to carry out essential functions. The minerals may help with anxiety, depression, bone health, and sleep.

Calcium, magnesium, and zinc are three minerals your body needs to carry out essential functions. These minerals are extensively found in plant and animal food sources, but supplements are also widely available. This article looks at some of their health benefits and how you can use them as supplements.

Calcium, magnesium, and zinc play a vital role in many brain functions. A 2014 study linked low-nutrition foods (commonly known as junk food) to higher psychiatric distress, worry, depression, and anxiety. The study involved students aged six to 18 years.

Many studies linked calcium deficiency to depression. According to a 2017 study, women taking 500 milligrams of calcium daily reported lower anxiety, depression, and emotional shifts during their menstrual cycles. The study was done over two months and involved 66 women. It concluded that calcium supplements could be used to reduce the symptoms of depression during premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Another 2018 study analyzed the link between zinc and depression. According to this study, zinc deficiency may lead to symptoms of depression. Individuals with depression who were prescribed antidepressant drugs reported a decrease in their symptoms when the drugs were supplemented with zinc. Another study involving healthy young women indicated a reduction in depression symptoms after they had multivitamin supplements and zinc compared to eating only multivitamins.

Studies have found lower blood zinc concentrations in depressed adults than in control groups. This indicates zinc’s critical contribution to improving mental health.

Zinc improves neurotransmitter and endocrine pathways, which are vital for brain functions. Zinc ions act as neurotransmitters in a part of the brain called the hippocampus. Low zinc levels impact the regulation of pathways controlling cognition and emotional processes. Supplementing your diet with zinc reduces your body’s C-reactive protein (CRP) levels, and increased CRP levels are linked to depression.

Magnesium is a critical component in more than 300 enzyme pathways in your system, several of which regulate vital brain functions. Research has linked magnesium with vital processes in the limbic system, which plays a central role in your behavioral and emotional actions such as reproduction, caring for children, and your fight or flight response.

A 2017 study found eating 500 milligrams of magnesium daily improved symptoms of depression. The study divided 60 individuals with depression into two groups. One group of 30 people ate 500 milligrams of magnesium daily for eight weeks, and the second group was the control.

May enhance bone health

Calcium, magnesium, and zinc are all critical for bone health. Roughly 99% of calcium is stored in your bones and teeth, while the remaining 1% is in your blood. Your bones are living, growing tissues containing collagen, a protein, and calcium in the form of calcium phosphate.

While collagen provides the framework for your body’s structure, calcium phosphate gives the framework strength and toughness.

Magnesium plays a central role in regulating your body’s calcium levels. It does this by activating vitamin D, which regulates calcium levels. The enzymes in your system that metabolize vitamin D need magnesium to carry out their functions.

Studies have linked bone mineral density with magnesium intake. One study involving more than 73,000 postmenopausal women linked lower magnesium levels to reduced bone mineral density in the hip and other body parts.

Research has linked zinc deficiency to diminished bone growth. On the other hand, zinc intake leads to increased bone mass. The zinc content in the bones reduces as you age and has a possible role in many bone disorders. Research also indicates the effectiveness of zinc in preventing and treating osteoporosis.

Could help you sleep better

Research has linked the presence of adequate amounts of calcium, magnesium, and zinc with improved sleep quality. According to a study that analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey involving more than 5,500 American adults, dietary nutrients impact sleep duration, and one such nutrient was zinc. The study found people who slept for five hours or less per night reported lower levels of zinc than those who slept longer. Another 2009 study with 890 participants saw a higher concentration of serum zinc levels in participants who slept for an average duration of seven to nine hours daily than those who got fewer hours of sleep.

A separate study involving 1,295 students between the ages of 11 to 15 indicated lower serum zinc levels at a young age could impact sleep quality later in life. These studies suggest zinc deficiency could affect sleep quantity and quality in people of all ages and genders.

Melatonin is a hormone produced by your body to regulate your sleep-wake cycles. Calcium channels are critical in the production of melatonin. On the other hand, lower calcium levels are linked to insomnia. Increased levels of calcium and magnesium improve sleep quality. Magnesium enhances your parasympathetic nervous system functions, making you feel calm and relaxed.


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When should you eat calcium, magnesium, and zinc?

According to the National Institutes of Health, the daily recommended values (DRV) of these minerals for healthy adults are:

  • Calcium: 1,000 milligrams per day (for men and women)
  • Magnesium: 400 milligrams per day for men, 310 milligrams per day for women
  • Zinc: 11 milligrams per day for men, 8 milligrams per day for women

It would be best if you took a few precautions before you consider eating supplements. While zinc supplements are available as pills and tablets, there have been reports of higher levels of zinc affecting iron and copper absorption and causing nausea and vomiting. In most cases, your diet has adequate amounts of zinc. Check with your doctor whether you need zinc supplements.

Surveys show that the regular U.S. diet is insufficient to meet daily magnesium levels. Supplements are a good source and are available as solids and liquids. But high amounts of magnesium from supplements could lead to diarrhea or nausea. Magnesium also interferes with the actions of other drugs such as antibiotics and diuretics. So, check with your doctor about how and when you can take magnesium supplements.

Calcium supplements are available as calcium citrate and calcium carbonate. Calcium supplements may interact with high blood pressure drugs. Since calcium affects the absorption of zinc and magnesium, stagger your intake of this supplement.

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Medically Reviewed on 10/6/2022

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Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health: "Magnesium," "Zinc."

International Journal of Molecular Sciences: "Dietary Zinc Acts as a Sleep Modulator."

Mayo Clinic: "When should I take calcium supplements? Does the timing matter?"

MMW Fortschritte der Medizin: "Long-term HRV analysis shows stress reduction by magnesium intake."

Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry: "Role of nutritional zinc in the prevention of osteoporosis."

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: "What is Bone?"

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