Magnesium is one of the most important minerals your body needs to function properly. In fact, magnesium is present in every single cell in your body and used in hundreds of biochemical reactions to keep you healthy. However, even though it’s an important nutrient, many people are not meeting their recommended intake, so you might want to consider taking a magnesium supplement. In this article, we’ll discuss the many different forms of magnesium available and help you determine the right magnesium type for your needs.
Magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals in your body and is necessary for hundreds of roles. Unfortunately, magnesium insufficiency is very common, which means that magnesium supplements may be necessary.
There are several types of magnesium supplements, including threonate, malate, taurate, citrate, and bisglycinate. Each is absorbed differently in the body and plays specific roles in managing pain, promoting heart health, managing anxiety, and more.
Talk to your doctor before starting any supplement, including magnesium, to ensure you’re using the best one for your needs.
Should you take a magnesium supplement?
Dietary magnesium can be found in a variety of foods, including leafy greens, whole grains, seeds, and nuts. However, diet alone might not always be enough to ensure that you’re meeting your body’s magnesium needs.
Surveys conducted around the world have concluded that many populations are not getting enough magnesium to meet their needs. Even in the United States, it’s estimated that almost half of adults aren’t getting enough magnesium.
Specific groups are also especially at risk of magnesium deficiencies, including:
- People with gastrointestinal diseases that inhibit nutrition absorption
- People with type 2 diabetes
- People with alcohol dependence
- Older adults
Because of this, magnesium supplements are a popular method of increasing your blood magnesium levels. Magnesium supplements are also well-researched, and many scientists and health experts agree that the addition of magnesium to your diet has the potential for a wide range of health benefits, including:
- Promoting relaxation and sleep
- Maintaining bone health
- Reducing migraines and headaches
- Alleviating symptoms of preeclampsia and premenstrual syndrome
- Maintaining normal heart rates
- Treatment for mood disorders like depression and anxiety
The different magnesium types and how they differ
Depending on your current diet and health status, you may need a magnesium supplement to meet your nutritional requirements. However, if you’ve ever tried to shop for magnesium supplements, you’ve probably been met with a ton of different options, which can get confusing.
Here are the key differences between the kinds of magnesium and how they are most commonly used.
Magnesium L-Threonate (magnesium threonate for short) is a synthesized form of magnesium mixed with threonic acid, creating a salt. This form of magnesium is thought to cross the blood-brain barrier more easily than other forms of magnesium, which means that it can be used to raise magnesium levels in the brain more quickly.
In addition, some studies have found that magnesium threonate may be useful for enhancing various cognitive functions, including learning and memory. However, these studies have been conducted largely on animal subjects, not humans. One small study on humans found that administration of a 2 grams per day magnesium threonate supplement led to improvements in various memory tests. Still, more research needs to be done here to determine the effects of this supplement on memory and other cognitive functions.
Magnesium malate is a combination of magnesium and malic acid, a type of acid found in various fruits and vegetables. Some studies have found that magnesium malate is the most bioavailable form of magnesium compared to others, which means that your body can use more of it than other forms.
Because malic acid is sometimes used to reduce muscle pain and fatigue, magnesium malate is sometimes used for relieving pain in chronic conditions like fibromyalgia. One study found that fibromyalgia patients who were given an oral dosage that included a combination of 300–600 mg magnesium and 1200–2400 mg of malate saw improvements in their reported muscle pain. However, the research here is still fairly inconclusive.
Magnesium taurate is created by bonding magnesium to taurine, an amino acid.
Taurine is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties that are sometimes linked to protection against cardiovascular conditions. As such, a magnesium taurate supplement at doses of around 500–1000 mg a day may be a good option if your goals are to reduce blood pressure and protect against heart disease. There’s also some evidence that magnesium taurate may be helpful for improving blood sugar levels in subjects with diabetes at doses of 250 mg per day.
Magnesium citrate is created by bonding magnesium to citric acid, an organic compound often found in citrus fruits. Magnesium citrate is considered one of the most bioavailable forms of magnesium supplements.
This form of magnesium is often used as a laxative to relieve constipation since it can increase the amount of water retained in the colon. However, it’s important to note that taking too much magnesium citrate can also be dangerous due to this laxative effect. Take no more than 200–400 mg of magnesium citrate per day until your bowel movements become regular again, and talk to your doctor to determine the right dose for your needs.
Magnesium bisglycinate (sometimes shortened to magnesium glycinate) is a form of chelated magnesium, meaning that it is combined with an amino acid called glycine. Magnesium bisglycinate is most commonly used to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as to promote relaxation. Some case studies have shown rapid improvements in depressive symptoms after administration of 125–300 mg. However, more research needs to be done to determine how magnesium bisglycinate can improve these mental health symptoms on a larger scale.
Magnesium bisglycinate is also easily digestible when compared to other forms, which may make it a better choice for people with sensitive stomachs when comparing forms like magnesium glycinate vs citrate.
Which magnesium form is right for me?
The best form of magnesium for you will depends on your goals.
If your goals are to take magnesium to improve sleep, boost mood and energy levels, and/or improve cognitive functioning, your best bets are:
- Magnesium bisglycinate
- Magnesium threonate
If you want to use magnesium as a laxative to promote a healthy and regular digestive system, you may want to use:
- Magnesium citrate.
If you’re using magnesium to regulate your blood sugar and/or support heart health:
- Magnesium taurate
If you want to add magnesium to your diet to better manage pain:
- Magnesium malate
For fighting fatigue and brain fog:
- Magnesium threonate
- Magnesium malate
What are normal magnesium levels?
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of magnesium is:
- 400–420 mg for adult men
- 310–320 mg for adult women
Your magnesium needs may also increase if you are pregnant or nursing. For example:
- Pregnant women should get between 350–400 mg of magnesium per day
- Lactating women should get between 310-360 mg of magnesium per day
How to know if you have a magnesium deficiency
If you aren’t getting sufficient magnesium in your diet, you may experience some signs of insufficiency, including:
- Heart arrhythmia
- Muscle cramping or pain
- Mood disorders like anxiety and depression
At worst, prolonged insufficient levels of magnesium can lead to magnesium deficiency. While rare, magnesium deficiencies can be serious. Some signs of a magnesium deficiency include:
- nausea, vomiting
- muscle spasms or tremors
- weakened bones
- bad headaches
If you experience any of these serious symptoms of a magnesium deficiency, you should consult with a doctor immediately to test your magnesium levels and to determine a medical course of action.
Why You Should Consider Taking More Than One Form of Magnesium
Because different magnesium supplements target different health concerns, you might consider taking more than one. For example, if you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep but also are dealing with aches and pain, you might consider taking both magnesium bisglycinate for relaxation and magnesium malate for pain relief.
It’s very important to note that you can also overdose on magnesium. The Food and Nutrition Board recommends that you don't get more than 350 mg of magnesium a day from supplements. You should also for the amount of magnesium that you may get from food sources. Finally, it’s best to talk to a doctor before starting any dietary supplement to ensure that you’re getting the right amount of nutrients.
Which magnesium is best for sleep and anxiety?
Magnesium bisglycinate has been found by some case studies to help improve depressive symptoms in doses of 125–300 mg, as well as other related mental health issues including anxiety and insomnia. However, more research still needs to be done. In addition, while other forms of magnesium like magnesium citrate are sometimes cited for use in anxiety and sleep, it’s important to note that magnesium citrate is not used for this in clinical practice. It is also a laxative and can be dangerous if used inappropriately.
Can you take magnesium and vitamin D together?
You can and should take magnesium and vitamin D together because magnesium can help regulate your vitamin D status.
What is magnesium good for?
Magnesium is used in over 300 different biochemical reactions throughout your body. Magnesium plays several roles, including managing bone health, regulating heart rhythm, promoting a healthy mood and cognitive functioning, and maintaining blood sugar levels. As a supplement, it can be used as a laxative and can even promote better sleep quality, which is why some people find that the best time to take magnesium is shortly before bedtime.
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- Neuron. Enhancement of learning and memory by elevating brain magnesium.
- Biological Trace Element Research. Timeline (Bioavailability) of Magnesium Compounds in Hours: Which Magnesium Compound Works Best?.
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