Making Sense of Magnesium Supplements

Making Sense of Magnesium Supplements

Due to a whole range of factors such as processed food, mineral deficiency in overused soil during farming, improper diet and simply lack of health knowledge, we in the western world are quite often undernourished in some way or another.

For most people, this deficiency takes place either in the form of low levels of vitamin D, or low levels of magnesium.

Since vitamin D supplements have officially been added to the UK’s national recommended dietary intake list, it’s a little easier to find quality vitamin D supplements[LINK] these days, and there is plenty of information out there about it.

Magnesium supplements however have a wide variety of types, but the information on what we actually need and how we can most efficiently absorb it isn’t as commonly discussed.

There are quite a few forms of supplemental Magnesium including:

  • Magnesium oxide
  • Magnesium Citrate
  • Magnesium orotate
  • Magnesium chloride
  • Magnesium lactate
  • Magnesium sulphate

Seems like a lot, right? So how do you know which ones are the most effective?

The big difference between them is that some are absorbed easily into the body, and others are very difficult to absorb, essentially meaning there’s types of magnesium that are worthless as a supplement.

It could be argued that the biggest impact on magnesium deficiency is the processed food in much of the population’s diet, however even if you’re eating whole, organic foods, the soil they’re grown in has been eroded so much over the years that it’s far less nutritious than it was even 50 years ago.

We may have been able to obtain healthy levels of magnesium from diet alone decades ago, but as soil declines and the rate of farming drastically increases, good quality supplements do actually become more necessary in order to reach healthy levels. A huge amount of other reasons as to why we aren’t getting enough magnesium have cropped up over the years, including; increased stress, fluoride in water that binds to magnesium and makes it difficult for the body to absorb, the use of drugs such as antibiotics, antacids and diuretics and even our food combining choices. Tannins in tea bind to magnesium and remove it from the body, oxalic acids in rhubarb, spinach and chard prevent magnesium absorption, and a high protein diet even decreases magnesium absorption too.

Why Do We Need Magnesium?

Magnesium contributes to normal muscle function, and the ability for muscles to contract. While this is important for anyone hoping to maintain or increase muscle strength, its important to note that the heart (also a muscle) needs magnesium in order to contract or ‘beat’ properly.

In several studies, magnesium has also been shown to improve symptoms of ADHD in children, and lessen pain in those suffering from fibromyalgia. Magnesium contributes to the normal functioning of neurotransmitters, which doesn’t just help brain function, but allows the body’s nervous system to function properly too.

Magnesium For Energy

Perhaps one of the most common problems we face today is something magnesium supplementation can be the most useful for: tiredness and fatigue. Magnesium is present in every cell, but if there is a deficiency of magnesium in the body, cells cannot use this magnesium to release energy. The modern world is currently facing a sleep-deprivation epidemic, and since we don’t appreciate rest and relaxation as much as we once did, chronic pain, fatigue and even death form overwork has become all too commonplace.

The Japanese, Chinese and Koreans even have their own translated word for ‘death by overwork’ (karoshi, guolaosi and gwarosa). While we need to pay attention to getting enough sleep and enough rest, the world isn’t necessarily going to stop and give us a break. If you find yourself needing more energy, it’s important to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients your body requires – and magnesium is one of the most essential forms.

Magnesium For Muscle Strength

35% of the body’s magnesium levels are stored in the muscles. A deficiency of magnesium therefore, can result in severe muscle cramping and long-term conditions such as fibromyalgia, and has been clinically proven to improve sensations of pain and tenderness.

Although an extremely high protein diet can be detrimental to magnesium levels, it’s important to get enough protein in order to build and maintain muscle mass and strength, not to mention simply helping muscles recover after physical activity. Over 350 of the body’s enzymes are made of proteins, and the presence of magnesium is needed for them to synthesise properly. If you tend to sweat profusely during exercise, it’s especially important to maintain healthy electrolyte levels, which can also be helped with magnesium supplementation.

To keep bones strong, magnesium is needed to absorb, transport and assimilate calcium, and to create and repair bone structures. Anyone suffering – or likely to suffer – from osteoporosis is advised to increase magnesium amounts, as Magnesium can also improve bone density.

Oxidative stress – caused by exercise, mental and emotional stress, and simply living in the world – is worsened by low levels of magnesium, so supplementing with magnesium also increases natural antioxidant levels.

Magnesium For The Mind

Depression and anxiety are two of the most common and yet misunderstood and misdiagnosed forms of mental distress that effect a huge amount of the population. Those with low red blood cell magnesium levels are known to have an increase in depressive symptoms and increased stress, and supplementing with magnesium can be a powerful way to reduce these symptoms.

Why Magnesium Bisglycinate Is The Best Form Of Magnesium To Supplement With

So we know there are a whole host of different types of magnesium, but they all differ in bioavailability, absorbability and thus effectiveness and usefulness.

Magnesium oxide, aspartate, glutamate and sulphate are thought to be the worst sorts of magnesium to supplement, as magnesium oxide is poorly absorbed, while the other sources are actually very harmful to the body in large doses! The unfortunate thing is though, that magnesium oxide is the most common form of magnesium sold in pharmacies and health stores, and glutamate and aspartate are actually found in the artificial sweetener aspartatame.

Magnesium bisglycinate is a chelated form of magnesium, and is the most effective, bioavailable and safe form of magnesium to choose. ‘Chelated’ means an amino acid has been attached to the pure magnesium.

This type of magnesium is highly absorbable and is gentle on the rest of the body, it can be very effective for aiding in: reducing stress, improving sleep quality, improving cardiovascular health, reducing anxiety and chronic pain, increasing testosterone and balancing hormones, and controlling blood sugar.

Involved in over 300 natural biochemical processed in the body, this form of magnesium can be an effective way to maintain healthy, optimum muscle and nerve function, whilst helping to keep bones strong.


Magnesium bioavailability from magnesium citrate and magnesium oxide, 1990, Lindberg et al.

Absorption of magnesium from orally administered magnesium sulfate in man, 1987, Morris et al.

Magnesium: its proven and potential clinical significance, 2001, Fox et al.

Supplementation of polyunsaturated fatty acids, magnesium and zinc in children seeking medical advice for attention-deficit/hyperactivity problems - an observational cohort study, 2010, Huss et al.

Oral magnesium supplementation in adults with coronary heart disease or coronary heart disease risk, 2009, Mathers, Beckstrand.

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