Magnesium is one of the most important minerals to human health. It helps drive hundreds of enzymatic processes involved in nearly every aspect of our biologic health. Research shows 2 of every 3 people in the United States don’t consume enough dietary magnesium [2]. This chronic under exposure to this vital nutrient is likely a driving component to the rise in chronic disease—especially diabetes.

Magnesium in Foods

The advice I’ve found to be most-relevant in an array of nutritional concerns is to first seek balance through diet , and only afterwards look to supplements. This is an ideal approach not often viable for those dealing with nutrient-depleting conditions such as bacterial or intestinal infections. For example, if a person is has picked up an intestinal parasite, it’s likely competing for nutrients. If they consume the RDA (~420mg) of magnesium, the parasite is likely hogging some of that for itself dipping them below the necessary daily amount. Other cases where this can become an issue are those concerning patients with food intolerances or food allergies. These poor souls may have to avoid certain magnesium rich foods altogether, thus impacting their RDA as well. These are some common circumstances where adequate amounts of magnesium might not be accessible from food alone, and supplements should be brought into the equation.

Types of Magnesium

Elemental magnesium isn’t exactly well-absorbed by the human body. It’s an alkaline earth metal, and naturally occurs as an inorganic compound. To make this compound more absorbable, it’s commonly combined with other molecules such as citric acid, glycine, lysine, malic acid or carbon. These different compounds all create a larger overall compound which is able to be more easily absorbed by our digestive tracts and cells. In most cases, these compounds result in a molecule that is mostly non-magnesium. For example; magnesium malate is only roughly 15% elemental magnesium by weight. The remainder is malate, which offers unique benefits itself. Magnesium oxide is regarded as one of the densest forms of magnesium though it’s also known to be one of the most poorly-absorbed. Research is limited on this subject, but there are a handful of studies that shown contrast between different types of magnesium and absorbability. Generally speaking, the three best types of magnesium are Magnesium Glycinate, Magnesium Malate, and Magnesium Citrate.

Magnesium malate is regarded as being well-suited for the general use of supporting energy levels and muscular function . It contains malate which is used as an intermediary in our bodies’ ATP-producing Citric Acid cycle. This magnesium compound is often recommended for those suffering from chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. Magnesium glycinate is regarded by most as the best-absorbed form of magnesium best-suited for correcting deficiencies. It’s comparatively low in molecular weight and theorized to be absorbed through different channels than non-amino acid chelates. Limited research confirms this [1] though much more is needed to substantially corroborate. This same research found that magnesium citrate provide the best long-term absorbability and may be the best suited for casual supplementation. There are several other types of magnesium as well including magnesium taurate, glucarate, and aspartate. As with most magnesium-related concerns, there lacks a sufficient amount of data to say much about them at all. The majority of research investigating the health benefits of magnesium either fails to mention which type was being used during investigation, or fails to compare the efficacy of different types among their study. This helps paint a broad understanding of magnesium but does little in helping to choose a particular type.

Important Considerations

Magnesium is innately tied to our health and wellbeing. Most Americans have been found to consume much less magnesium that is needed to maintain adequate serum levels. In most cases, it’s advisable to address this concern by adding magnesium rich foods such as nuts or spinach into your diet . Many concerns such as food intolerances make this a non-option for many, for whom magnesium supplements are often recommended. The many different types of magnesium have shown marked benefit for different aspects of our biology. Research is limited, but suggests that magnesium malate, glycinate, and citrate may be three of the best types of magnesium to take in supplement form. Regardless of how you should choose to proceed in ensuring adequate magnesium levels, you should always consult with your doctor and carefully monitor your own magnesium levels to see how you are responding. Each of us are very different, and respond to different compounds and dietary changes in our own unique manner.

References

1. http://www.jle.com/fr/revues/mrh/e-docs/mg_citrate_found_more_bioavailab...
2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15930481

Author's Bio: 

Zack West is an avid enthusiast of all things health and nutrition related, and often called a health nut by colleagues and friends. As President of Isotrope he spends most of his time researching current biochemistry and nutritional research. He is not a doctor, and nothing he says should ever be interpreted as medical advice.