Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and is essential- (In order of abundance: Calcium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Magnesium). (4) It is also the second most abundant mineral inside of our cells. The majority of magnesium in the human body is found in the bones and teeth, while the remaining 35-40% resides in muscle tissues and cells- only 1% is found in our blood. Magnesium is a crucial component of bone/teeth health, relaxation of the veins/arteries for heart health, relaxation of the muscles and nervous system, and is a required part of a potent antioxidant in our bodies: glutathione. Magnesium is also related to ATP production (our energy production system)- therefore, a deficiency in magnesium is likely to play a role in experiencing fatigue. It is said that the majority of people are deficient in magnesium from lack of adequate minerals in our foods due to poor farming techniques, diets that are high in processed foods, chronic stress, illnesses and medications. (2, 3)
Magnesium also works with calcium to regulate electrical impulses in the cell, or on a larger spectrum- magnesium helps to regulate the heart’s electrical conduction system. Magnesium is one of the components needed for a smooth and regular heartbeat. Magnesium can also function as a laxative helping to soften the stool as well as a natural antacid since it is an alkaline mineral. This mineral also indirectly helps with glucose and fat break down inside of the body.(3) If you have kidney disease- you should not supplement with magnesium unless okayed by your doctor first. There may also be risks for those with severe heart disease (or slow heartbeat)and diseases of the intestine as well. (1) So as with mixing any supplement with medication, speak with your doctor first.
After speaking with your doctor to find out if supplementing with magnesium is right for you, then you may be posed with the task of finding a quality supplement- since there are hundreds of different versions currently out on the market. The best way to choose a quality supplement is to take note of a few different factors affecting the quality of the supplement as listed below:
- Magnesium comes in many different forms- certain forms are known to be slightly better for different health concerns, however, as a general rule for oral magnesium supplementation, citrate/aspartate/chloride/lactate are supposed to be the most absorbable forms, with the ‘citrate’ form being the most economical (1)
- When choosing a magnesium supplement, focus on the ‘elemental’ magnesium listed on the supplement label -which can be a much lesser amount than the original listed amount. (Elemental magnesium is the term used to describe how much actual magnesium is in the supplement and able to be absorbed- if the product doesn’t have elemental magnesium listed, find a brand that does so that you will know precisely how much magnesium you are consuming.)
- The following chart lists a general break-down and summarized table of a few of the different forms of magnesium. This is a summarized table of some of the most common forms that magnesium supplements may come in- there are still other forms out there that are not listed here- but the table does give a basic idea.
Forms Absorption Other effects
|Citrate||Great||A common absorbable/ economical oral supplement, stool softening/laxative effect- take in smaller doses spaced out|
|Chloride||Great||Very absorbable when in topical form such as in sprays/lotion|
|Great||A newer form of magnesium supplementation- Said to be very absorbable plus have the added benefit of being able to penetrate tissues/cell membrane for even more absorption than the average supplement & possibly help with brain health- though some say that is unproven. Found in Dr. Mercola’s or Dr. Perlmutter’s magnesium supplement.|
|Taurate||Great||Is said to be the best choice for people with heart issues, since it is known to prevent arrhythmias and protect the heart from damage caused by heart attacks. It is easily absorbed and contains no laxative properties. May be more pricey.|
|Glycinate||OK||By itself or added to another form such as citrate/ helps induce sleepiness so best taken prior to bedtime|
|Malate||OK||By itself or added with another form such as citrate/ is supposed to help with pain management/fatigue|
|Lactate||OK||Ok absorption, said to help treat some digestive issues but should be avoided with any kidney problems|
|Oxide||Poor||Is said to have a very low absorption rate but to overall improve total & LDL cholesterol better than the ‘citrate’ form. It is also an economical form but caution with bowel diseases as since it doesn’t have a high absorption rate, it could act as more of a laxative than some of the other forms. This form can also be used therapeutically as a laxative or antacid at times. (the magnesium ‘carbonate’ form may also be used as an antacid)|
|Orotate||Best Avoided||Questionable form- said to help with heart health but safety concerns due to the orotic acid content contributing to tumor growth in animals so best avoided for now|
|Best Avoided||A form that is said to be an ‘excitatory neurotransmitter’, meaning it may excite the brain cells to a point of cell death, creating brain cell damage with large enough doses (component of the artificial sweetener aspartame)|
[Table information retrieved from sources (1), (2) (6) and (7)]
The different methods of magnesium supplementation
- Magnesium supplements come in different forms such as oral supplements, topical cream/oil and bath salts
- As previously mentioned, oral supplementation can have a laxative effect- stimulating the bowels, whereas taking the supplement in a topical form will bypass the intestinal tract and is also known to have a much higher absorption rate- such as topical magnesium chloride in oil or lotion form (6)
- Some quality magnesium supplements also come in a liquid form with a dropper. Magnesium in this form such as in the brand: ‘Trace Minerals’ allows you to use a dropper to add the amount of magnesium you’d like to your water or other form of beverage, as well as your soup or meal to enhance your magnesium intake on a daily basis. Sometimes these types of supplementation will also include other trace minerals in the solution to add to the health benefits (3)
- Do magnesium supplements need to be taken with calcium? The answer to this is no. Magnesium and calcium do not need to be taken together to enhance one another’s absorption. In fact, too much calcium will create an environment inside the body that allows for calcification of the arteries. (This is why some doctors now choose to recommend magnesium supplements without the calcium unless the diet is otherwise found to be extremely deficient in calcium- speak with our dietitian to find out if your diet is adequate) (1)
- Another option to enhance magnesium absorption in the body is homeopathic cell salts such as ‘magnesia phosphorica’ which is supposed to allow more magnesium to be able to absorb into the cells of your body (it is said that for some, this may be the missing link) (3)
Drug Interactions/proper way to take magnesium
- ‘Potassium supplements, manganese, loop and thiazide diuretics, oral contraceptives, estrogen-replacement therapy, cisplatin, digoxin, or medications that reduce stomach acid: You may need extra magnesium.
- Antibiotics in the tetracycline familyor nitrofurantoin (Macrodantin): You should separate your magnesium dose from doses of these medications by at least 2 hours to avoid absorption problems.
- Oral diabetes medicationsin the sulfonylurea family (Tolinase, Micronase, Orinase, Glucotrol, Diabinese, DiaBeta): Work closely with your physician when taking magnesium to avoid hypoglycemia.
- Amiloride: Do not take magnesium supplements except on medical advice.
- If you are taking potassium supplementation, taking extra magnesium may enhance the benefits of taking potassium.
- Alcohol abuse, surgery, diabetes, zincsupplements, certain types of diuretics ( thiazide and loop diuretics, but not potassium-sparing diuretics), estrogen and oral contraceptives, and the medications cisplatin and cyclosporin have been reported to reduce the body’s level of magnesium or increase magnesium requirements.’
- Magnesium is known to relax the body and the relaxation may make you tired, especially if one of the forms of magnesium in the supplement is ‘glycinate’, as mentioned above
- Other forms of magnesium such as the topical cream/oil and the liquid form with a dropper (as well as the homeopathic cell salt magnesium) can be taken at any time during the day, although it may still have a relaxing effect since that is the nature of magnesium (it helps relieve anxiety as well)
- Allow for your doctor to make this decision, but- some magnesium supplementation may only be cautioned when taking the supplement forms that have a laxative effect, which can deplete the drug. Topical forms of magnesium may be okay.
[above drug interaction info from consumer lab reports (1)]
The price range of approved products varies greatly per serving, with product price per serving costing mere cents to whole dollars. This variation in price range depicts all of the different varieties that magnesium supplements can come in, as listed under the ‘How’ category.
The products listed in the ‘okay’ and ‘better than okay’ columns are either there because they are not in the most absorbable form that magnesium supplementation can come in, or they have additives that have not been agreed upon to be safe. When searching for a product, always read the ingredients and if there are too many words you’ve never heard of before, continue with caution. When thinking of purchasing a product with too many additives in it, it is a matter of deciding whether the benefits of the magnesium in the supplement will outweigh the potential negative effects of the additives. For further questions or recommendations specific to you- regarding this break-down of supplements, ask our staff Dietitian.
(Cost break-down will vary depending on store/sales etc.)
[Cost break-down is listed per 200mg serving of magnesium]
|Okay Products||Better than Okay||Best Products|
|Purity Products $1.30||Life Extension $0.08||Dr. Mercola $0.03|
|Solgar $0.11||NutriCology $0.26||Trace minerals $0.29|
|Douglas Laboratories $0.32||NOW $0.11-0.16||Topical magnesium chloride $0.03|
|Life Extension $0.12|
The above listed supplement brands consist of just a few, there are of course other potentially beneficial products out there as well but these seem to be the main ones that have been tested for purity. Be sure that the magnesium supplement product you purchase has been tested for quality/purity since it is common for supplements to be sold not containing what they claim to and/or be contaminated with toxic material. The supplements listed have been tested by consumer labs or by supplement companies that are known to have higher quality products and/or do their own testing on products. Just be sure to also be aware of any additives in the supplement you purchase such as any ‘stearates’ (like magnesium or vegetable stearate). Stearates are made from ‘hydrogenating’ oils, and hydrogenated oils clog arteries as well as many other adverse health effects. Anything you are ingesting on a daily basis is worth looking into in order to see how the potential additives in the product are affecting your overall health.
To summarize, magnesium researcher Mildred Seelig has referred to magnesium as ‘the silent guardian of our hearts and arteries, necessary for life.’ ‘Magnesium helps prevent spasms of the blood vessels, which can lead to a heart attack/ Magnesium prevents spasms of the peripheral blood vessels, which can lead to high blood pressure/ Magnesium prevents cholesterol build-up in cholesterol plaque in arteries, which leads to clogged arteries.’ (7) Just like amino acids from protein and fatty acids from fat are essential for our bodies to operate efficiently, so are various vitamins and minerals such as magnesium. Magnesium is a macro mineral that is simply needed to help prevent disease and promote vitality, and since most people are very deficient in this mineral- it may be essential to supplement (after speaking with your doctor). For further questions or recommendations specific to you- regarding this break-down of supplements, ask our staff Dietitian.
1.) Review of Magnesium and Calcium-Magnesium Supplements by ConsumerLab.com. (2015, January 11). Retrieved May 12, 2015, from https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/magnesium-supplement-review/magnesium/
2.) Magnesium L-Threonate – High Absorption Magnesium Supplement. (n.d.). Retrieved May 12, 2015, from http://products.mercola.com/magnesium-supplement/
3.) Czapp, K. (2010, September 23). Magnificent Magnesium. Retrieved May 12, 2015, from http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/abcs-of-nutrition/magnificent-magnesium/
4.) Composition of the human body. (n.d.). Retrieved May 12, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Composition_of_the_human_body
5.) Need More Magnesium? 10 Signs to Watch For. (n.d.). Retrieved May 12, 2015, from http://www.ancient-minerals.com/magnesium-deficiency/need-more/
6.) Which magnesium supplement is best and for who? (n.d.). Retrieved May 12, 2015, from http://www.timeforwellness.org/blog-view/which-magnesium-supplement-is-best-and-for-who-336
7.) Dean, C. (n.d.). The Magnesium MiracleCarolyn Dean MD ND. Retrieved May 18, 2015, from http://drcarolyndean.com/magnesium_miracle/