Which form of magnesium should you take?
Magnesium is a critically important mineral. In fact, magnesium is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body including the production of energy, muscle contraction, and blood pressure regulation! (1)
Unfortunately, research has shown that nearly two-thirds of the population is consuming too little of this vital mineral. Deficiency in magnesium is the root cause of many health conditions including migraines and diabetes. (1)
One thing many people don't realize is that there are different forms of magnesium, and while supplementation is the easiest way to improve your body's magnesium levels, it's also important that you take the correct form for your needs.
This article will make it clear for you which form you should be taking, how magnesium supplementation can help the body, how much you should be taking, and how to optimize your body's use of the magnesium you consume!
What is Magnesium?
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body. It's one of 7 "macro minerals" which also include sodium and calcium, and the body needs much more of these compared to trace minerals (like iron, for example).
Magnesium is naturally found in a number of foods, including:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Nuts including almonds and cashews
- Beans, like black and kidney
- Peanut butter
- Fortified foods such as cereal
- Fish like salmon and halibut
Why is Magnesium Important?
Magnesiums functions in the body include energy production, metabolic function (which includes sleep), and supporting energy production.
Low levels of magnesium are linked to disorders including migraines, mood disorders, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and heart disease, ADHD, and Alzheimer's. (2)
When magnesium levels in the body are low, the body absorbs extra from the small intestine and reduces the amount excreted by the kidneys.
Which Form of Magnesium Should You Take?
All magnesium-containing compounds will share some positive effects like improvement of magnesium levels in the body, but let's talk about form. Each form of magnesium will interact differently with the body: some are laxatives, some help with sleep, some help with anxiety, and some help with migraines, for example.
Overwhelmed? We've got you.
Check out the "cheat sheet" below you can reference in your search for the perfect form for you, and if you want one that combines 4 of the best forms so you can experience all the benefits, check out the Why Not Natural magnesium here.
This form of magnesium, made from a mixture of magnesium and threonic acid, is ideal for cognitive functioning and increases the amount of magnesium in the brain (3).
It's the only form that can pass the blood-brain barrier. This makes it ideal for dementia and depression as well as anxiety and sleep. It's even been shown to reverse markers of brain aging, reducing them by 9 years. (4)
The downsides to this form of magnesium is that magnesium l-threonate is expensive and it's less bioavailable than other forms. It's recommended to take it with at least one other form.
Magnesium glycinate is a chelated form, meaning it's magnesium bound to the amino acid glycine. It's also referred to as magnesium bisglycinate, magnesium glycinate chelate, magnesium bisglycinate chelate, and magnesium di-glycinate (yes, these are really all the same thing!).
It's one of the most effective forms of magnesium because it's highly bioavailable (meaning your body easily absorbs it) and it's typically used for it's calming effects, as well as improvements to sleep, depression, and anxiety.
It's easy on the stomach and not known to have a laxative effect.
Magnesium taurate is a chelated magnesium form that's made from combining magnesium and the amino acid taurine. Taurine and magnesium are both linked to blood sugar regulation, so this form can be especially helpful for blood sugar management. (5,6)
Blood pressure can also be reduced from magnesium taurate, however, much of the research has been done on animals and more human research is needed. (7)
Magnesium taurate has been linked to elimination of migraines as well. (8)
Magnesium malate is a combination of magnesium and malic acid, a naturally-occurring compound found in fruits and wine. It's a very well-absorbed form for those with a deficiency.
It's a non-laxative form of magnesium that's typically recommended for fibromyalgia as it helps improve stiffness and and chronic fatigue. Research continues to develop on these effects. (9)
Magnesium combined with citric acid forms magnesium citrate, a very common form of magnesium. It's typically used for its high bioavailability to restore the body's magnesium level, however, it does have a laxative effect.
Magnesium citrate has been said to help with depression and anxiety and provide a calming effect, but research does not yet support these claims. (10)
The magnesium salt made from combining magnesium and oxygen is known as magnesium oxide. It's a white powder that isn't absorbed well by the digestive tract (it's better to take a chelated form) but it can work well to treat constipation and is often used non-medicinally. (11)
Magnesium oxide can be used for headaches and heartburn, as well.
Magnesium orotate is a combination of magnesium and orotic acid. This form is easily absorbed and doesn't have a laxative effect.
It's said this form can help with heart health, as orotic acid plays a role in energy production pathways in the heart and blood vessels. (12) This form is often used by fitness enthusiasts, but may be useful for those with heart disease.
This form is very expensive and research is still developing on its effectiveness.
How Much Magnesium Should You Take?
The amount of magnesium you should take each day depends on which category you fall into in the chart below. In general, women are recommended to take 320 mg per day and 420 mg per day for men. (13)
|Birth-6 Months||30 mg||30 mg|
|7-12 Months||75 mg||75 mg|
|1-3 Years||80 mg||80 mg|
|130 mg||130 mg|
|240 mg||240 mg|
|14-18 Years||410 mg||360 mg||400 mg||360 mg|
|19-30 Years||400 mg||310 mg||350 mg||310 mg|
|31-50 Years||420 mg||320 mg||360 mg||320 mg|
|51+ Years||420 mg||320 mg|
It's important not to exceed the recommended dosage each day without medical supervision. Your body will excrete the excess, but with uncomfortable side effects like diarrhea.
Magnesium can be toxic at high doses (although this is rare), and signs of toxicity include vomiting, irregular breathing, lethargy and muscle weakness.
How do you Make Sure Your Body Absorbs Magnesium?
There are a few ways to make sure your body is properly absorbing the magnesium you consume.
Besides taking enough magnesium and making sure you take a higher-quality form, you should pay attention to what you take around the same time:
- Avoid taking a concentrated zinc supplement (more than 10 mg per serving)
- Take a vitamin D supplement at some point in the day
- Avoid taking a calcium supplement or calcium-rich foods within 2 hours of taking magnesium
- Take vitamin B6 with your magnesium (the Why Not Natural magnesium supplement contains active B6)
(1) The Importance of Magnesium in Clinical Healthcare
(2) Magnesium in Prevention and Therapy
(3) New paradigms for treatment-resistant depression
(4) Efficacy and Safety of MMFS-01, a Synapse Density Enhancer, for Treating Cognitive Impairment in Older Adults: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial
(5) The Relationship between Plasma Taurine Levels and Diabetic Complications in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
(6) The Effects of Oral Magnesium Supplementation on Glycemic Response among Type 2 Diabetes Patients
(7) Magnesium taurate attenuates progression of hypertension and cardiotoxicity against cadmium chloride-induced hypertensive albino rats
(8) Magnesium taurate and fish oil for prevention of migraine
M F McCarty
(9) Magnesium and malic acid supplement for fibromyalgia
(10) The Role of Magnesium in Neurological Disorders
(11) Magnesium Oxide - Pubchem
(12) Magnesium orotate--experimental and clinical evidence
(13) NIH Magnesium Fact Sheet