Best Types of Magnesium – Uses, Benefits, and Risks

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 10/08/2023

Are you considering magnesium supplementation? It’s important to understand which form of magnesium suits your needs and why it’s best to avoid certain magnesium supplements.

  

Discover the best types of magnesium to prevent deficiency and learn how to maximize the health benefits of supplemental magnesium. 

Word magnesium on wooden cubes

What is magnesium?


Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and helps regulate hundreds of metabolic and cellular pathways. 


This essential mineral is needed for muscle function, blood pressure regulation, energy-making processes, DNA and protein synthesis, neurotransmitter production, hormonal balance, and cognitive function.   


Magnesium plays a crucial role in bone health and regulates several aspects of cardiovascular function. 


Because magnesium helps lower blood pressure, it’s an effective natural beta blocker that may reduce the risk of arrhythmia and tachycardia. These heart-related conditions are characterized by fast and irregular heartbeats and significantly increase the risk of stroke and cardiac arrest.   


Magnesium has many health benefits, and a lack of adequate magnesium levels can result in a wide range of health issues.


Here are common signs of magnesium deficiency:

  • Low exercise tolerance

  • Weak and sore muscles 

  • Muscle cramps 

  • High blood pressure

  • Insomnia

  • Anxiety and depression

  • Irregular heartbeats 


Watch the video below to discover the best and worst types of magnesium. 

Best types of magnesium and their uses


Pure magnesium is highly reactive and doesn’t exist in nature. Instead, it forms salts with other compounds, which affects absorption rates and how the body can utilize it.


There are many types of magnesium supplements with specific characteristics that make them suitable for different purposes and individual needs.


Here are the best types of magnesium and their uses.


Magnesium citrate

Magnesium citrate is a popular magnesium supplement that combines magnesium with citric acid. It has excellent bioavailability, meaning the body can easily absorb this form of elemental magnesium.


Magnesium citrate has been found beneficial in preventing headaches and nocturnal leg cramps and is often used to relieve constipation due to its natural laxative effects.

 

Magnesium glycinate  

Magnesium glycinate, or magnesium bisglycinate, is bound to the amino acid glycine. 


It’s highly bioavailable and less likely to cause gastrointestinal discomfort than other magnesium supplements, making it suitable for individuals with sensitive stomachs.


Magnesium glycinate has a calming effect on the central nervous system, can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and stress, and may lower the risk of insomnia and other sleep issues. 

Human brain illustration

Magnesium threonate

Magnesium threonate, also known as magnesium l threonate, is one of the few elemental magnesium forms that can cross the blood-brain barrier.


Because it can enter brain tissue, magnesium threonate promotes brain health and cognitive function and may lower the risk of mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression


A study published in The Journal of Neuroscience found that magnesium threonate has neuroprotective properties and may be an effective therapeutic tool in preventing and managing age-related memory loss and Alzheimer's disease. 


Magnesium malate 

Magnesium malate is a magnesium supplement that combines magnesium with malic acid.


Malic acid is needed to generate energy in muscle cells, which may explain why magnesium malate may relieve persistent muscle soreness in individuals with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. 


Magnesium taurate 

Magnesium taurate contains the amino acid taurine, which helps regulate blood pressure and promotes normal cardiovascular function. 


Magnesium taurate has been found to enhance blood sugar regulation and may be especially beneficial for individuals with metabolic imbalances such as obesity, diabetes, or insulin resistance. 

Runner on the start line

Magnesium orotate 

This elemental form combines magnesium with orotic acid, a compound that aids the transport of magnesium across cell membranes.   


Magnesium orotate can easily enter muscle cells and enhance cellular energy production, which explains why it’s often used to promote endurance and strength


In addition, research published in The International Journal of Cardiology found that magnesium orotate promotes heart health and may be more effective in managing symptoms of severe congestive heart failure than other forms.


Magnesium lactate 

Magnesium lactate is generally considered an effective dietary supplement for maintaining healthy magnesium levels. 


It’s gentle on the digestive system and a suitable supplement for individuals who need to take large doses of magnesium. 


Magnesium chloride

Magnesium chloride is typically found in transdermal magnesium products, which can be absorbed by sweat glands and hair follicles.


While transdermal magnesium won’t significantly increase magnesium stores, it can be an effective remedy for managing muscle tension and joint pains.

Supplements forming question mark

Worst types of magnesium


Some magnesium supplements are considered less beneficial due to their low bioavailability, increased risk of side effects, and potential to interact with medications.  


Here are some types of magnesium that should be avoided or only be taken under a healthcare provider's close supervision.


Magnesium sulfate

Magnesium sulfate, commonly known as Epsom salt, isn’t a suitable dietary supplement to support healthy magnesium stores. 


Magnesium sulfate has strong laxative properties and can lead to significant gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea and stomach cramps. 


Magnesium carbonate 

Magnesium carbonate is generally poorly absorbed and less effective at replenishing magnesium stores than other forms of magnesium. 


It has a chalky taste and texture, and many people find it challenging to swallow magnesium carbonate-containing supplements.


Magnesium oxide 

Magnesium oxide is another form of magnesium supplement that has a low bioavailability and often causes gastrointestinal side effects.  


Large doses of magnesium oxide can lead to magnesium toxicity and increase the risk of dangerously elevated blood magnesium levels. 


Magnesium hydroxide

Not only is magnesium hydroxide not well absorbed, but it also interferes with the metabolism of iron and can impair the effectiveness of antibiotics and medications to treat osteoporosis.


In addition, overuse of magnesium hydroxide can cause chronic diarrhea, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalances. 

Magnesium-rich foods

Best sources of magnesium


Plants absorb magnesium and other essential minerals found in soil through their roots, which explains why vegetables, seeds, and nuts are amongst the top magnesium sources.


Here are some of the best dietary sources of magnesium:

  • Pumpkin seeds

  • Spinach

  • Avocados

  • Green leafy vegetables

  • Almonds

  • Dark chocolate

  • Dairy

  • Seaweed 

How to enhance magnesium bioavailability


Research published in The Nutritional Medicine Journal investigated the bioavailability of magnesium supplements and found that “Absorption rates are usually between 30% and 50%, but can be as high as 80% and as low as 20%.”

 

In addition, it’s estimated that only 30 to 40 percent of dietary magnesium is absorbed, making it challenging to maintain healthy magnesium stores even if you consume magnesium-rich foods and are taking a magnesium supplement.    


Magnesium and vitamin D work in synergy, and adequate vitamin D levels are crucial for effective intestinal absorption of magnesium. 


"While whole grains are often considered excellent magnesium sources, they also contain phytates, a type of antinutrient that can reduce magnesium absorption by 60 percent," explains Dr. Berg. "Limiting grains can enhance magnesium bioavailability and help replenish magnesium stores." 


Excessive calcium intake can interfere with magnesium absorption, and it’s best to avoid taking calcium supplements unless it’s under the close supervision of a healthcare provider. 

Man reading supplement label

Magnesium dosage and side effects


The recommended dietary allowance for magnesium ranges between 420 mg for adult men and 320 mg for adult women. 


While taking between 200 and 400 mg of magnesium daily is typically adequate to maintain healthy magnesium stores, significantly higher doses of up to 600 mg daily may be needed to correct a severe magnesium deficiency


In addition, physical activity levels and health status also affect how much magnesium you should take. 


Athletes and people with gastrointestinal disorders such as Crohn's disease and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) typically require higher magnesium intakes to replenish magnesium.  


Magnesium is generally considered safe and well-tolerated. However, large dosages can affect the digestive system and cause side effects such as stomach pains, nausea, and diarrhea. 


Individuals with low stomach acid or sensitive digestive tracts should avoid taking large doses of magnesium and instead opt for smaller amounts two to three times daily to minimize the risk of intestinal issues. 


It’s also important to note that too much magnesium can lead to elevated magnesium levels, also known as hypermagnesemia. This potentially dangerous condition can lead to kidney disease, coma, and even cardiorespiratory arrest.


It’s crucial to consult a healthcare provider immediately if you suspect you have taken excessive amounts of magnesium and experience symptoms such as weakness, confusion. irregular heartbeats, or low blood pressure.

Magnesium supplement on wooden spoon

Key takeaways


Obtaining enough magnesium from foods alone can be challenging, and supplements offer a convenient way to promote healthy magnesium stores. 


Magnesium citrate, glycinate, threonate, orotate, and taurate are among the best types of magnesium due to their high bioavailability and low risk of side effects.


In contrast, magnesium sulfate, carbonate, oxide, and hydroxide are poorly absorbed and significantly increase the risk of adverse effects, including diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal cramping. 




FAQ


1. What are the best types of magnesium?

Magnesium citrate, threonate, glycinate, orotate, and taurate are considered the best types of magnesium due to their low risk of side effects and high bioavailability, a measure of how readily a nutrient is absorbed into the bloodstream.  


2. What is the easiest form of magnesium to absorb?

Magnesium glycinate and magnesium citrate are two highly absorbable forms of magnesium. 


3. Is it better to take magnesium citrate or magnesium glycinate?

Both magnesium citrate and glycinate are highly bioavailable and effective in maintaining healthy magnesium stores.


While magnesium citrate has a laxative effect and is often used to treat constipation, magnesium glycinate has been found to calm the nervous system and may be a suitable supplement for managing symptoms of anxiety. 


4. What type of magnesium is best for weight loss?

Magnesium taurate is considered the best type of magnesium for weight loss. 


Both magnesium and taurine, an essential amino acid, enhance the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and insulin levels, which are crucial aspects of metabolic health and successful weight loss.

 

5. Which types of magnesium should I avoid?

It's recommended to avoid magnesium carbonate, oxide, sulfate, and hydroxide.


These types of magnesium are poorly absorbed, increase the risk of side effects, and are more likely to interfere with the metabolism of prescription medications compared to other forms of elemental magnesium. 


6. What are the best natural sources of magnesium?

Some of the best natural sources of magnesium are pumpkin seeds, green leafy vegetables, avocados, spinach, almonds, dark chocolate, and seaweed. 


7. What are the benefits of magnesium?

Magnesium is a crucial cofactor for various enzymes involved in hundreds of biochemical reactions, including energy production, DNA synthesis, and blood pressure regulation.


Magnesium supports muscle and nerve function, helps maintain a healthy heartbeat, and is necessary for bone health. 

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