Magnesium is one of the most overlooked minerals in your body. In fact, magnesium deficiencies were one of the most common nutrient deficiencies I saw in my years as a practicing physician. Yet, there are many forms of magnesium.
While no current government data on magnesium status in Americans exists, food surveys by the National Institute of Health suggest that as many as 90% of Americans may be deficient, with adolescent females and men over 71 years old being the most at risk of not consuming enough.1
Magnesium is involved in over 300 biochemical processes in the body. It supports healthy bowel patterns, promotes optimal sleep, relaxes tight muscles, and facilitates heart health to name a few. However, if you look at magnesium supplements at your local health food store, you might notice many different names. This might lead you to wonder, what is the best form of magnesium?
I will tell you all about the eight common forms of magnesium, how each supports your body, and how to ensure you get the best form of magnesium. First, let’s have a quick refresher on magnesium and why you need it.
What is Magnesium?
If you took chemistry in high school, you likely worked with magnesium (Mg). In nutrition, magnesium is a major mineral needed in higher amounts, unlike trace minerals such as zinc or iron. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults between the ages of 19 to 51+ is 400 to 420 mg daily for men and 310-320 mg for women. Pregnancy requires about 350-360 mg daily and lactation 310-320 mg.
Remember, the RDV is the amount The Food and Drug Administration recommends to prevent illness, not for optimal health. For example, the RDA for vitamin C is 65 to 90 milligrams per day. Eating one cup of broccoli will provide you with the recommended amount of vitamin C, according to the RDV. However, your body needs up to 2,000 mg of vitamin C to function optimally.2
For magnesium, the optimal amount depends on the form of magnesium. In general, 350 mg from supplements is considered the optimal amount. Any extra magnesium from food gets eliminated by the kidneys through your urine.3
Magnesium is involved in over 300 metabolic reactions. It is also essential to support healthy bones, which explains why about 50-60% of our body’s magnesium is in your bones. Labeled as an essential mineral means you can only get magnesium from food and supplements. Magnesium-rich foods include spinach, avocado, figs, bananas, Jerusalem artichokes, and wild-caught salmon.
It’s almost impossible to get optimal amounts of magnesium from food. That’s why supplementing with high-quality magnesium supplements is essential for optimal health. Yet, with all the types of magnesium, it can be frustrating to know which is the best form of magnesium. I’ve been there. I will now tell you about the nine most common forms of magnesium.
Eight Common Forms of Magnesium
People worldwide are getting less and less dietary magnesium every year. We have a plethora of environmental practices to point the finger at for this, as well as a host of dietary and lifestyle decisions that negatively affect our magnesium intake. Unfortunately, magnesium is depleted daily by exercise, stress, and toxic foods such as coffee and alcohol.
It can be tricky to decide the best form of magnesium for your needs. Let’s look at the nine forms of magnesium and what roles they play in your health.
When I had my colonoscopy a few months ago, I had to take high doses of magnesium citrate the day before. This form of magnesium promotes healthy bowel patterns, and it’s commonly used for patients with constipation. Magnesium citrate is one of the most bioavailable forms of magnesium.
Magnesium citrate is a form of magnesium that’s mixed with citric acid. Citric acid is in citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, or lemon. If you are sensitive to citrus, you should talk with your functional healthcare provider before using magnesium citrate.4
This is another common form of magnesium. Magnesium Glycinate, also known as magnesium bisglycinate, combines magnesium and the amino acid glycine, one of the amino acids used to build collagen protein. Glycine is linked to deep and restorative sleep.5 The magnesium and glycinate cocktail has good bioavailability, meaning it’s easily absorbed.
Magnesium oxide boasts a wide range of health benefits. However, your body does not absorb this form of magnesium very well. Because of that, it’s not a good choice if you are trying to increase magnesium levels. Magnesium oxide supports digestion and relieves migraine headaches.6 Magnesium oxide can be found simply in its powdered form or capsules.
Magnesium chloride is very similar to magnesium oxide, and you might find this form of magnesium in bath salts and skin creams. Unlike magnesium oxide, your body easily absorbs magnesium chloride. However, there’s no evidence that this form of magnesium will improve magnesium levels. Magnesium chloride also promotes healthy bowel patterns and digestion.7
Magnesium lactate forms when magnesium binds to lactic acid, produced by your muscles and red blood cells. It is often used as a food additive to increase acidity in beverages such as soda and juice. However, it’s less commonly used as a nutritional supplement.
Magnesium lactate is easily absorbed and may be gentler on your digestive system than other types. This is particularly significant for people who need to take large doses of magnesium regularly or don’t easily tolerate other forms. It also promotes a healthy stress response.8
This form of magnesium contains malic acid, a naturally occurring compound in foods like fruit and wine. Your gut absorbs magnesium malate very well, so it’s an excellent option for restoring your magnesium levels. Magnesium malate has less of a laxative effect than other forms of magnesium.9
This form of magnesium is a salt created by combining magnesium with threonic acid, a water-soluble acid from the breakdown of vitamin C.10 This is one of my preferred forms of magnesium because it’s easily absorbed and has many benefits.
Magnesium L-threonate supports brain health and function, promotes a healthy nervous system, facilitates optimal sleep, promotes heart health, supports a healthy stress response, and promotes focus, learning, and memory.
This is the form of magnesium you are likely most familiar with. You might know it as Epsom salt. Magnesium sulfate forms by combining magnesium, sulfur, and oxygen, and it has the texture of table salt and dissolves in water.
Magnesium sulfate has diverse benefits, such as promoting healthy bowel patterns. However, its most popular benefit is relieving sore, achy muscles and promoting a healthy stress response. Magnesium sulfate dissolves in bathwater for a relaxing hot bath. I make my bath salts from magnesium sulfate, pink sea salt, and Lavender essential oils.
Now that you know the different magnesium forms, you might ask yourself, “which is the best form of magnesium?” The answer is the one that supports the entire body. Let me tell you about my two favorites.
The Best Form of Magnesium
All high-quality forms of magnesium that come in supplements help support the entire body. The form of magnesium you choose should be of the highest quality and in a form that is highly absorbable and well-suited to you. As I mentioned, getting optimal magnesium levels from food can be difficult, so I always advocate supplementing crucial vitamins and minerals.
If you are looking for bone health support and to facilitate healthy bowel patterns, then Magnesium Citrate is the best form of magnesium for you. Magnesium Citrate is the holy grail of magnesium supplements. It’s also one of the most bioavailable forms of magnesium, so you can rest assured that your body will be able to use it for any 300-plus health-promoting biochemical processes.
If you’re looking for comprehensive bone health support, I recommend OsteoDura™. Not only does OsteoDura™ contain magnesium oxide and magnesium citrate, it also includes Vitamin D3. Magnesium and Vitamin D3 work together to enhance your body’s absorption and utilization of the calcium in OsteoDura™. When I formulated OsteoDura™, I also included vitamins K1 and K2 to support calcium’s delivery into the bone mineral matrix.
The Final Word
There’s no reason to overlook magnesium’s role in optimal health. Magnesium supports more than 300 of your body’s processes, including promoting healthy bowel patterns, optimal sleep, supporting a healthy stress response, and so much more. The best form of magnesium is one that supports your body. Magnesium Citrate and OsteoDura™ contain the highest-quality magnesium for optimal support.
- Magnesium. National Institutes of Health. 2022.
- Is it possible to take too much vitamin C?. Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. Mayo Clinic. 2022.
- Magnesium. Harvard School of Public Health. 2022.
- Mg citrate found more bioavailable than other Mg preparations in a randomised, double-blind study. Ann Walker, et al. Magnesium Research. 2003.
- Multifarious Beneficial Effect of Nonessential Amino Acid, Glycine: A Review. Meerza Abdul Razak, et al. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. 2017.
- Magnesium in headache. Lisa A. Yablon and Alexander Mauskop. Magnesium in the Central Nervous System. 2011.
- Intestinal Absorption and Factors Influencing Bioavailability of Magnesium-An Update. Jan Philipp Schuchardt and Andreas Hahn. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2017.
- The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress-A Systematic Review. Clare Lawton, Louise Dye, et al. Nutrients. 2017.
- Timeline (Bioavailability) of Magnesium Compounds in Hours: Which Magnesium Compound Works Best?. Nazan Uysal, et al. Biological Trace Element Research. 2018.
- Threonic acid. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2022.