Research suggests up to two-thirds of Americans are deficient in magnesium. That’s a big number—and it means most people can benefit from supplementing with the right type of magnesium.
When you’re deficient in magnesium, you can experience a wide variety of negative symptoms, including leg cramps, insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, diabetes, migraines, and heart problems. Low serum magnesium concentrations have even been linked to higher rates of mortality.
So, why are so many people deficient in magnesium? Soil degradation has dramatically decreased the nutrient-density of our food. Also, things like stress, drinking coffee, and pregnancy deplete magnesium, leaving many people in the hole. And as a final hit, research shows only 30% to 40% of the dietary magnesium consumed is actually absorbed by the body.
If you’ve been on the hunt for a good magnesium supplement, you’ve likely found that there are a number of different magnesium supplement to choose from. So, here’s the breakdown of the different types of magnesium, and how to choose the right one for you.
Note: Before taking any new supplements, It’s important to consult with a trusted health practitioner.
Choosing a Quality Magnesium Supplement
Quality does matter when it comes to magnesium supplements. It’s important to choose a magnesium supplement that supplies your body with sufficient magnesium in an easily absorbable form.
Studies show certain types of magnesium, including magnesium oxide and magnesium sulfate, are less bioavailable, meaning they are poorly absorbed by the body.
The best way to make sure you are consuming magnesium that is more bioavailable is to take a magnesium supplement that is chelated.
Magnesium is a highly reactive mineral. When elemental magnesium is chelated, it means it is bound to a carrier by two or more points of attachment. This makes it more stable, and better absorbed by the body.
Always choose a magnesium supplement that does not include additives such as dyes, sugar, unnecessary preservatives, artificial colors or allergens like wheat, corn, or soy. Find a company that provides proof of how they source and process their ingredients, and make sure you’re buying your supplements from a trusted retailer.
How Much Magnesium Should You Take?
The National Institute of Health puts the RDA for adults over 31 at 420 mg for males and 310 mg for females (or 350 mg for pregnant females). This recommended daily amount should only be viewed as a starting point—some people need higher or lower doses of magnesium for optimal health.
In general, you do not want to rely on a multivitamin for your magnesium. The type will likely be less bioavailable and in too small of a dose.
Decoding the Different Types of Magnesium
Turns out, there are eight common forms of magnesium. All of them have their own absorption rates, benefits, and disadvantages.
1. For digestion: Magnesium citrate
Magnesium citrate is one of the most researched forms of magnesium. It’s typically recommended to naturally support digestion and aid in stress relief. It is bound to citric acid, which makes it highly absorbable, though it does have a laxative effect when taken in high doses. Start with a smaller dose, then adjust as needed. If it’s too much for you, taper it back down. Looking for a recommendation? Try Natural Calm.
2. For mood and sleep: Magnesium glycinate
Magnesium glycinate (also known as magnesium biglycinate) is bound to the amino acid glycine. It supports stress relief, and is often used to help with insomnia. Studies have demonstrated “rapid recovery” from mood disorders like depression when magnesium glycinate is taken daily. As a bonus, it rarely has any sort of laxative effect. Looking for a recommendation? Try Designs for Health Magnesium Buffered Chelate.
3. For cognitive function: Magnesium L-threonate
Magnesium L-threonate is highly bioavailable and can pass the blood brain barrier. Preliminary research suggests regular supplementation with magnesium L-threonate can improve overall cognitive function, memory, and prevent dementia. Looking for a recommendation? Try Designs for Health NeuroMag.
4. For fibromyalgia and muscle pain: Magnesium malate
Magnesium malate is formed by combining magnesium with malic acid. Studies show regular supplementation with magnesium malate improves muscle tenderness and pain associated with fibromyalgia. Preliminary research also suggests magnesium malate is more bioavailable than other magnesium compounds. Looking for recommendations? Try Source Naturals Magnesium Malate.
5. For heart health: Magnesium taurate
Magnesium taurate is bound to the amino acid taurine, which is known for its ability to lower blood pressure, and strengthen and protect heart muscle cells. Because magnesium is also know for its heart-protective properties, preliminary research suggests magnesium taurate may have considerable potential as a vascular-protective nutritional supplement. It also may be used to treat acute heart attacks and pre-eclampsia.
Unfortunately, there has been little to no research on the bioavailability of magnesium taurate or its effectiveness in improving heart health. For this reason, I recommend sticking with a magnesium combo supplement that contains magnesium taurate (also known as taurinate) and other bioavailable forms of magnesium. Looking for a recommendation? Try Source Naturals Ultra-Mag Hi Efficiency Magnesium.
6. For stress and to relax muscles: Magnesium chloride
Magnesium chloride bath flakes are great for stress relief, muscle recovery, joint pain and more. Magnesium oil topical sprays are also derived from magnesium chloride flakes. Magnesium is absorbed incredibly well transdermally (through skin), so it’s a great option for people who want to increase magnesium levels in the body. Looking for a recommendation? Try Ancient Minerals Bath Flakes and Magnesium Oil Spray.
7. For muscle soreness: Magnesium sulfate
Otherwise known as epsom salt, magnesium sulfate can ease joint pain and sore muscles, and promote overall relaxation. For athletes or anyone training hard, this is an especially excellent source of magnesium. Looking for a recommendation? Try Epsoak USP Epsom Salt.
8. For constipation: Magnesium Oxide
Magnesium oxide has much lower levels of bioavailability when compared to other forms of magnesium. In general, it’s a terrible option if you’re looking to raise magnesium levels in the body. So, what’s it good for? Treating constipation. Magnesium oxide is the active ingredient in milk of magnesia, which has a laxative effective.
Choosing the Best Magnesium Supplement
It can be a time consuming, expensive, and sometimes frustrating process to narrow down which supplements will be most effective in meeting your needs, especially when there are so many options available. And while eight may seem like a lot—there are actually other forms of magnesium on the market, including magnesium orotate and magnesium aspartate.
If you don’t see it in the list above, it’s because there is little to no scientific research on bioavailability, or there is question about its safety. Stick with the list above, and you’re likely to find something that works best for you.
If a magnesium supplement doesn’t seem to be working for you, give a different one a try. Prioritize forms that are more bioavailable, and consider getting your magnesium levels tested after regular supplementation to see if your magnesium levels are sufficient.
For me, I personally prefer magnesium glycinate and supplement with it daily. It’s improved my magnesium status, and I find I sleep better when I’m taking magnesium regularly.
What magnesium supplement is best for you? Have you experimented with different types of magnesium? Comment below and let me know!