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Natural Awakenings Milwaukee Magazine

Micronutrients and Mental Health: The Role of Magnesium and Omega-3s

Nov 01, 2022 12:00AM ● By Jack Cincotta
While there are many connections between nutrition and mental health, one factor that has a significant influence is micronutrient status. In particular, two micronutrients that can profoundly influence one’s mood and mental well-being are magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids.


Magnesium is an essential mineral involved in hundreds of reactions and processes in the body, including a number of key processes related to mental health. Magnesium is necessary for producing GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that can help one feel calm and relaxed. Without enough magnesium and GABA, one may feel more tension, anxiety and stress, and may also have trouble sleeping.

To make matters worse, stress depletes the body’s magnesium stores, leading to an intensification of stress and anxiety. Therefore, adequate magnesium intake is necessary to halt the vicious cycle of low magnesium and heightened stress levels. This is the main reason why magnesium is often called the “original chill pill”, although there are other effects of magnesium on mental health. In fact, a recent systematic review from the Nutrients journal  found that adequate magnesium levels were protective against stress, anxiety, depression and other mental disorders.


In addition to magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids also seem to be highly important for mental health and brain function in many ways. For example, omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for controlling inflammation, including neuroinflammation that is associated with depressive symptoms and other mental disorders.

Moreover, omega-3 fatty acids can increase blood flow to the brain, which is necessary for optimal brain function. Also, since the brain is made up of a large percentage of fat, omega-3 fatty acids act as a potent supply of brain-building material that can influence neurotransmitter function, brain cell health, the endocannabinoid system and other functions.

To highlight the importance of omega-3 supplementation, a recent meta-analysis from the Translational Psychiatry journal showed that omega-3 supplementation was associated with a significant reduction in depressive symptoms in adults.

Dietary Recommendations

Overall, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids are vital for mental health and brain function. Unfortunately, many people today are deficient, usually without even knowing it. Fortunately, supplementation can often be an easy way to get these nutrients back in the diet. Potent dietary sources can be used as well. Here are some recommendations.

For magnesium, choose leafy greens, nuts and seeds (ideally soaked or sprouted), whole grains, cacao and bananas.

For omega-3 fatty acids, by far the best sources are wild-caught fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel or sardines.

Jack Cincotta is an AADP board-certified holistic health practitioner with a master’s in psychology who specializes in natural treatments for mental health conditions. For more information, email [email protected] or visit