Medically Reviewed

What Are The Different Types of Magnesium Supplements?

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There’s no shortage of options when it comes to magnesium supplements. Get all the information before you make your decision.

What is magnesium?

Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a major role in the body’s functioning. It assists 300-plus enzymes in carrying out chemical reactions that help to keep bones and teeth strong and the heartbeat steady. It is also required for the production of energy, building of proteins, and to keep muscles contracting and the nervous system functioning optimally.

What is magnesium's role in the body?

Every organ in the body needs magnesium, especially the muscles, heart, and kidneys. Since the body doesn’t make magnesium on its own, it needs to get it from food sources like dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, avocados, bananas, whole grains, tofu, fatty fish, and dark chocolate. Most people do not get enough magnesium in their diet and, as a result, many people may have a magnesium deficiency and have no idea. The good news is that supplementation can help to bridge the gap and prevent any potential serious consequences of a magnesium deficiency.

Health benefits from taking a magnesium supplement

Given magnesium’s role in keeping a body running well, and considering that many people are low or deficient in magnesium], most people would benefit from taking a supplement to ensure that they’re getting enough magnesium on a daily basis. It is crucial for your nervous system, bones, muscles, brain, heart, and the creation of energy. It is purported to boost exercise performance, and is especially good for muscle recovery. Epsom salts bath, magnesium flakes, and topical magnesium sprays are also helpful to many athletes of all levels.

Forms of magnesium and their benefits

The difference between the various types of magnesium is that each one is attached to an amino acid or a compound that will impact their absorption and how they are primarily used by the body. There have been some small studies that have found that magnesium in the aspartate, citrate, lactate, and chloride forms are all absorbed more completely and, therefore, more bioavailable than magnesium oxide and magnesium sulfate.

There aren't many side by side comparisons using human volunteers along with the different types of magnesium. However, animal studies demonstrate various levels of magnesium bioavailability. This study of magnesium bioavailability in magnesium depleted rats showed that although the absorption of magnesium may vary depending upon form, they all positively impact the plasma and red blood cell levels of magnesium.

Magnesium citrate

Magnesium citrate is probably the most well-known type of magnesium supplement. Often referred to as a “saline laxative”, it is used to support bowel movement due to constipation, and to clear the intestinal tract as part of a colonoscopy preparation. It works by the process of osmosis, pulling water into the intestinal tract where the additional water helps to soften the stool and makes it easier for it to pass. It is important to drink plenty of water when using magnesium citrate in order to avoid dehydration.

It is also used as a supplement on a daily basis to raise magnesium levels in the body. This study demonstrates that daily magnesium citrate supplementation showed superior bioavailability 60 days after treatment when compared to amino acid chelates (magnesium oxide).

This study comparing higher bioavailability of magnesium citrate to magnesium oxide concluded that magnesium citrate may be more suitable than magnesium oxide to optimize dietary magnesium intake. Serum levels were highest after supplementing with the citrate form.

This study compared magnesium oxide and magnesium citrate with respect to in vitro solubility and in vivo gastrointestinal absorbability found that magnesium citrate was more soluble and bioavailable than magnesium oxide.

Magnesium chloride

Magnesium chloride is a combination of 1 magnesium atom and 2 chloride atoms and is obtained naturally by the solar evaporation of seawater. It is highly absorbable in water, making it more bioavailable in the intestinal tract than less soluble forms of magnesium. It is available both orally and topically. It is purported to promote an increase in lower stomach acids, help with relaxation and better sleep, and to help with a magnesium deficiency. This study found that magnesium chloride has a higher bioavailability than magnesium oxide.

Magnesium glycinate

Magnesium glycinate is magnesium attached to the amino acid glycine. It is a chelated form, which means it is better utilized by the body than most other forms of magnesium. It is one of the most effective types of magnesium supplements because of its bioavailability. It is generally well-tolerated, fast-acting and less likely to cause gastric distress, loose stools, gas, bloating, or diarrhea.

It is reported to promote healthy sleep, while also containing one of the 3 amino acids (glycine) used to make the antioxidant glutathione. This study of the bioavailability of magnesium glycinate as compared to magnesium oxide demonstrates that magnesium glycinate is beneficial for absorption in those with digestive issues.

Magnesium oxide

Magnesium oxide is a magnesium supplement that is usually found in powder form. It contains more magnesium than most others, but its bioavailability and effectiveness are not as high.

This study found that magnesium oxide had only 4% fractional absorption and poor bioavailability in comparison to magnesium chloride, lactate, aspartate. This study also found that magnesium oxide and chloride were poorly absorbed.

Magnesium lactate

Magnesium lactate is magnesium that has been bound with lactic acid. It has been shown to be more bioavailable than magnesium oxide and to have better retention than other inorganic salts such as magnesium sulfate. Magnesium lactate does not need to be converted by stomach acid, and is more gentle for people over 50, and those on certain medications. Some brands of magnesium lactate help manage symptoms of digestive discomfort.

Magnesium lactate has been shown to have similar bioavailability when compared to magnesium aspartate and chloride.

Magnesium malate

Magnesium malate combines magnesium with malic acid, an organic compound that is found in apples and other food sources. Malic acid is sometimes added to supplements because of its ability to help increase energy levels, boost skin health, and improve athletic performance. Magnesium malate is well-tolerated and taken by people for muscle support.

This animal study observed that magnesium malate and magnesium taurate were the highest bioavailable forms of magnesium when compared to magnesium citrate and magnesium oxide.

Magnesium orotate

Magnesium orotate is magnesium bound with orotic acid. It is easily absorbed and one of the more expensive magnesium supplements when sold in supplement form. Orotic acid is needed for DNA production and for the regulation of genetic material. Based on preliminary research, it may be beneficial in supporting cardiovascular and neuronal health, though more research is needed.

Magnesium L-threonate

Also known as magnesium threonate, magnesium L-threonate combines magnesium with threonate acid. It has only been in existence since 2010, but some believe it may have a neuroprotective effect. This animal study showed improved brain function from memory and learning aspects with Magnesium L threonate supplementation. This study also showed that magnesium L threonate enhanced synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus which directly impacts the learning and memory of rats.

Magnesium taurate

Magnesium taurate is magnesium combined with taurine, an amino acid that stabilizes magnesium but is also used by the body for cell development. Taurine also creates bile, and is involved in the metabolism of calcium. High levels of taurine are naturally found in the heart, brain, skeletal muscles, large intestine, and eyes. Based on this animal study, magnesium taurate is rapidly absorbed, able to pass through to the brain easily, and has the highest tissue concentration level in the brain. More human research is needed.

Magnesium sulfate

Commonly found in Epsom salts, magnesium sulfate is used as a soaking solution to relieve minor muscle aches, general soreness, and tired feet associated with exercise. Asd a soaking solution and may have the potential to increase magnesium levels through skin absorption, according to this study.

Which magnesium is best for you?

There is no one best type of magnesium supplement. In order to choose the supplement that best meets your needs, consult your physician or healthcare provider.

Care/of’s premium magnesium supplement The Dream Weaver is magnesium hydroxide made from Irish seawater. This study showed that magnesium from Irish seawater is more bioavailable than magnesium oxide and can serve as a source of 72 additional minerals.

Magnesium supplementation

Recommended magnesium dosage

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of magnesium is 320-420 mg. The right amount for you depends upon a number of factors, including gender, age, and general health.

Can you take too much magnesium?

While magnesium is generally considered to be a safe supplement, it is possible to take too much. You should follow the instructions on the label or the recommendation of your physician.

Potential side effects and risks

Loose stools, diarrhea, and other forms of digestive distress may occur depending on the dose, frequency of use, and type of magnesium being used. Taking 5000 mg or more can lead to toxicity in children according to this case. Always talk to your doctor before starting a new supplement. Extra caution should always be used with children, pregnancy, and those who are lactating.

Final takeaways

When it comes to magnesium supplements, there is no shortage of available options. Bioavailability is key. You want to get the maximum absorption with the least side effects. Your healthcare provider can help you with the best choice for you.

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