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If you’ve been hearing a lot about magnesium lately, it’s for good reason. Research suggests up to two-thirds of Americans are deficient in magnesium. As a result, the majority of people can benefit from supplementing with the right type of magnesium.
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body and the catalyst for over 600 chemical reactions. It plays a role in detoxification, digestion, energy production, stress management, and even our heart rhythm!
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. Magnesium deficiency also plays a role in hormone imbalances and PMS symptoms. Low serum magnesium concentrations are even linked to higher rates of mortality.
Magnesium supplementation is incredibly important because your body can’t make it or store it. But, this is where things get confusing. Most people start looking for a quality magnesium supplement only to find there are many different types of magnesium. If you’re wondering about the benefits of each type of magnesium and which one is right for you—you’re in the right place!
Where has all the magnesium gone?
Soil degradation has dramatically decreased the nutrient-density of our food. Magnesium is predominantly found in leafy greens, nuts, avocados, and chocolate. Even if you’re eating plenty of spinach and pumpkin seeds, you’d still likely be low in magnesium. This was the case for me. On routine blood tests, my magnesium was always low despite eating leafy greens daily.
Another thing that impacts your magnesium levels is your body’s demand for it. Stress, drinking coffee, and pregnancy deplete magnesium. As you might have guessed, this means women are much more prone to magnesium deficiency.
As a final hit, research shows only 30% to 40% of the dietary magnesium we consume is actually absorbed in the body. So, even if you track your magnesium intake, you are only absorbing about half of that.
Choosing a Quality Magnesium Supplement
Quality matters when it comes to the different types of 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, which means they are poorly absorbed by the body. The best way to make sure you are supplementing with magnesium that is bioavailable is to take a chelated magnesium supplement.
Magnesium is a highly reactive mineral. When elemental magnesium is chelated, it is bound to a carrier by two or more points of attachment. This makes it more stable and better absorbed by the body. Different types of magnesium can be chelated or not.
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.
Always choose a magnesium supplement that does not include additives such as dyes, sugar, unnecessary preservatives, artificial colors or allergens. 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.
8 Different Types of Magnesium and Benefits
There are eight common types of magnesium. Each has their own benefits, absorption rate, and disadvantages. Because of this, you may notice different effects depending on the supplement you choose to take.
1. For digestion: Magnesium citrate
Magnesium citrate is one of the most researched types of magnesium. It’s typically recommended to for stress relief and digestion support. It is bound to citric acid, which makes it highly absorbable. As a word of caution, this one does have a laxative effect when taken in high doses. Start with a smaller dose, and 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 (or magnesium biglycinate) is bound to the amino acid glycine. It’s often used to help with insomnia and stress relief. Daily magnesium glycinate intake has been show to provide “rapid recovery” from mood disorders like depression. Also, 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 one of the only types of magnesium that 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 supplementation with magnesium malate can improve 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 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. Also, it 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. Because of this, I recommend sticking with a magnesium combo supplement that contains magnesium taurate or choosing other bioavailable types of magnesium.
Looking for a recommendation? Try Source Naturals Ultra-Mag Hi Efficiency Magnesium.
6. For stress and to relax muscles: Magnesium chloride
Because magnesium can be absorbed transdermally (through your skin), topical application is a great option. Try using magnesium chloride bath flakes for stress relief, muscle recovery, and joint pain. You can also try magnesium oil products. Looking for a recommendation? Try Ancient Minerals Bath Flakes and Magnesium Oil Spray.
7. For muscle soreness: Magnesium sulfate
Have you ever taken an epsom salt bath? That’s actually magnesium sulfate. This is another type of magnesium that is great for joint pain, relaxation, and muscle soreness. For athletes, 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 types 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.
The Best Types of Magnesium For You
It can be a time consuming and expensive process to figure out which type of magnesium will be most effective in meeting your needs, especially when there are so many options available. If you think you could benefit from many different types of magnesium, try a magnesium combo supplement like Magnesium Breakthrough.
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 safety. Stick with the list above, and you’ll find a magnesium supplement that works for you.
If a certain type of magnesium 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.
Want more information on the different types of magnesium? Here are some added resources:
Have you experimented with different types of magnesium? Comment below and let me know!