The Best And Worst Forms Of Magnesium To Take As Supplements

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The Best and Worst Forms of Magnesium To Take As Supplements
The Best And Worst Forms Of Magnesium To Take As Supplements
Graphic © Periodic table image – Clker-Free-Vector-Images ; table of food – FotoshopTofs – (under license)

What Is Magnesium And Why Is It Important?

Magnesium is an essential mineral in the body — it is naturally found circulating in our blood in electrolyte form. However, like other electrolytes potassium and sodium, magnesium has to fall within normal levels in order to maintain homeostasis in the body; simply put, homeostasis means balance.

Magnesium plays a very important role in a variety of bodily functions such as the production of energy, bone development, and even the synthesis on DNA and RNA. One of magnesium’s most important roles is the transportation of calcium and potassium through cell membranes, the latter of which is responsible for muscle movement — including the movement of the cardiac muscle. [1]

Let’s Talk About Magnesium Deficiency

Normal magnesium levels are from 1.5 to 2.5 mEq/L. If you get your blood drawn and your doctor orders a blood chemistry panel, you will often find magnesium included in your test results. Of course, if you present specific symptoms of magnesium deficiency or hypomagnesemia, you can also get your magnesium levels tested separately and alone — though this is rare (doctors will usually order a full panel of electrolytes to accurately diagnose you). So what does magnesium deficiency look and feel like? [2]

If you are suffering from hypomagnesemia, expect…

nausea, vomiting
– poor appetite

If the deficiency is severe, you can expect…

– numbness and tingling
– muscle cramps
– muscle weakness
– seizures
– muscle spasticity
– abnormal heart rhythms

Keeping Your Magnesium In Check

Typically, a healthy person receives magnesium from dietary sources like green leafy vegetables (e.g. spinach), legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. However, if your diet is unhealthy or you are sick (particularly diseases that mess with your electrolytes like kidney problems), you may need to take magnesium supplements to keep your body’s magnesium levels in check.

Best Magnesium Supplements:

There are different kinds of magnesium supplements out in the market, with varying bioavailability and other properties.

1. Magnesium Citrate

A highly bioavailable form of magnesium. Classified as a mild laxative, this supplement is a good source of magnesium for those who are also suffering from constipation. The citric acid part of this supplement is responsible for the mild laxative effects, and can also be used to manage acid indigestion. Since this form of magnesium speeds up bowel movement, it is best to avoid this is you are suffering from diarrhea. [3]

2. Magnesium Taurate

Unlike magnesium citrate, this magnesium supplement has no laxative properties, meaning it can be taken by people who aren’t constipated or suffer from frequent bowel movements. This is a great choice for people with heart conditions, because studies have shown how taurine is a vascular-protective nutritional supplement and is able to lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol-induced atherogenesis, and even prevents arrhythmias and stabilizes platelets, very similar to the how magnesium works in the body. [4]

3. Magnesium Malate

Malic acid, which makes up the malate portion of this supplement, is a great energy booster for people suffering from fatigue. In a study that involved people suffering from fibromyalgia, supplementation with magnesium and malic acid revealed that the mixture was beneficial in treating the symptoms of pain and tenderness by improving energy production of the body’s cells. This lead to better movement and a marked improvement in the subject’s quality of life. [5]

4. Magnesium Glycinate

Magnesium glycinate is a popular choice for magnesium supplementation because of its high bioavailability — meaning it is easily absorbed and processed by the body. Glycine is also known to produce calming effects, which can be helpful in relieving anxiety and stress — and can also help promote better sleep. A 2012 study found that supplementation with glycine was able to reduce fatigue and improve sleep quality, as well as reduction of sleepiness during the day. [6]

5. Magnesium Chloride

Another popular magnesium supplement is magnesium chloride; not only is this form of magnesium widely available, it is also highly bioavailable. This is the most common supplement physicians prescribe patients who are suffering from low magnesium levels. Like magnesium malate, magnesium chloride was also effective in reducing the symptoms of fibromyalgia — specifically symptoms of fatigue, muscle pain, and sleep problems. [7]

6. Magnesium Carbonate

Magnesium carbonate is widely used as both a supplement and treatment for gastrointestinal problems like dyspepsia, heartburn, reflux disease, and constipation. This is because carbonate acts as both a laxative and antacid which can help reduce various gastrointestinal symptoms. [8]

7. Magnesium L-threonate

Magnesium L-threonate is a form of magnesium supplement that has recently been gaining popularity because of its brain boosting abilities. In 2013, Wang, et. al. found that magnesium L-threonate was able to prevent and restore memory deficits in people affected by neuropathic pain. This kind of supplement is also easily absorbed through the blood-brain barrier, wherein another study in 2010 showed how this supplement was able to aid learning and memory by elevating levels of magnesium in the brain. [9][10] UPDATE: Some report very positive experiences with this form of mag but others have reported headaches sufficient to put them off taking it.

8. Magnesium Stearate

Stearic acid is typically used as a filler in the manufacturing of mineral supplements. It “lubricates” the powdered mineral, making it easier to pass through the machines that form the tablets or capsules. While stearic acid levels in each tablet or capsule are generally very low, concern has been raised regarding its gradual accumulation with prolonged intake of supplements. While this concern is valid, a study in 2009 has actually found that stearic acid actually lowered LDL (bad cholesterol) compared to other saturated fatty acids. [11]

Magnesium Supplements You May Wish To Avoid:

1. Magnesium Oxide

While magnesium oxide isn’t really dangerous for you (you can actually find this easily in more pharmacies), it has poor bioavailability, meaning it is poorly absorbed the body compared to other kinds of supplements — this makes magnesium supplementation harder to complete, since it takes a while before your magnesium levels get to where you want them with this kind of supplement. The National Institutes of Health report the bioavailability of this supplement to be at four percent only. [12]

2. Magnesium Sulfate

Magnesium sulfate is the standard form of magnesium used in hospitals and medical centers to correct hypomagnesemia. Intravenous administration of this form of magnesium can easily correct low magnesium levels in 12 to 24 hours but since it is quite potent, you can easily overdose on it if you are taking it outside of a monitored medical setting. [13]

3. Magnesium Glutamate And Aspartate

This form of magnesium supplement should be avoided because it contains glutamic acid or aspartate, a component of the artificial sweetener aspartame. Aspartame has been linked to glucose intolerance through the alteration of microbes in the gut. A study found that when gut microbiota is exposed to aspartame, they are less sensitive to glucose and because of this, circulating sugar levels become much higher — which is ironic, since you’re taking artificial sweetener to avoid hyperglycemia in the first place. [14]

Further Reading:

Important Facts About Magnesium And Your Health

Magnesium – The Missing Link To Better Health

This Is Why Magnesium Is The Most Powerful Relaxation Mineral Known To Man


[1] National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. Magnesium.

[2] Healthline. Hypomagnesemia (low magnesium).

[3] Medscape. Magnesium citrate.

[4] McCarty, M. (1996). Complementary vascular-protective actions of magnesium and taurine: a rationale for magnesium taurate.

[5] Russell, I., et. al. (1995). Treatment of fibromyalgia syndrome with Super Malic: a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled, crossover pilot study.

[6] Bannai, M., et. al. (2012). The Effects of Glycine on Subjective Daytime Performance in Partially Sleep-Restricted Healthy Volunteers.

[7] Engen, D., et. al. (2015). Effects of transdermal magnesium chloride on quality of life for patients with fibromyalgia: a feasibility study.

[8] ScienceDirect. Magnesium carbonate.

[9] Wang, J., et. al. (2013). Magnesium L-threonate prevents and restores memory deficits associated with neuropathic pain by inhibition of TNF-α.

[10] Slutsky, I., et. al. (2010). Enhancement of learning and memory by elevating brain magnesium.

[11] Hunter, J., et. al. (2010). Cardiovascular disease risk of dietary stearic acid compared with trans, other saturated, and unsaturated fatty acids: a systematic review.

[12] Firoz, M. & Graber, M. (2001). Bioavailability of US commercial magnesium preparations.

[13] Fulop, T. (2017). Hypomagnesemia Treatment and Management.

[14] Suez, J., et. al. (2014). Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota.

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One thought on “The Best And Worst Forms Of Magnesium To Take As Supplements

  1. so, different types of magnesium for different results. Would it be good to rotate (every other day or every other week) from Glycinate to Threonate to maximize end results? My hubby suffers from anxiety & depression (Threonate) and leaky gut, poor sleep and nerve pain (Glycinate). If I was to stick with one or the other, which might be best?

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