Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body.
It’s involved in over 300 metabolic reactions that are essential for human health, including energy production, blood pressure regulation, nerve signal transmission, and muscle contraction.
Interestingly, low levels are linked to a variety of illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, mood disorders, and migraines.
Although this mineral is present in many whole foods like green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds, up to two-thirds of people in the Western world don’t meet their magnesium needs with diet alone.
To boost intake, many people turn to supplements. However, as multiple varieties of supplemental magnesium exist, it can be difficult to know which one is most appropriate for your needs.
This article reviews 10 various forms of magnesium, as well as their uses.
1. Magnesium citrate
Magnesium citrate is a form of magnesium that’s bound with citric acid.
This acid is found naturally in citrus fruits and gives them their tart, sour flavor. Artificially produced citric acid is often used as a preservative and flavor enhancer in the food industry.
Magnesium citrate is one of the most common magnesium formulations and can be easily purchased online or in stores worldwide.
Some research suggests that this type is among the most bioavailable forms of magnesium, meaning that it’s more easily absorbed in your digestive tract than other forms.
It’s typically taken orally to replenish low magnesium levels. Due to its natural laxative effect, it’s also sometimes used at higher doses to treat constipation.
What’s more, it’s occasionally marketed as a calming agent to help relieve symptoms associated with depression and anxiety, but more research is needed on these uses.
Summary: Magnesium citrate is one of the most popular types of magnesium supplements and is easily absorbed by your body. It’s mainly used to raise magnesium levels and treat constipation.
2. Magnesium oxide
Magnesium oxide is a salt that combines magnesium and oxygen.
It naturally forms a white, powdery substance and may be sold in powder or capsule form.
This type isn’t typically used to prevent or treat magnesium deficiencies, as some studies report that it’s poorly absorbed by your digestive tract.
Instead, it’s more frequently used for short-term relief of uncomfortable digestive symptoms, such as heartburn, indigestion, and constipation. It may also be used to treat and prevent migraines.
Summary: Magnesium oxide is often used to relieve digestive complaints like heartburn and constipation. Given that the body doesn’t absorb it well, it isn’t a good choice for those who need to raise their magnesium levels.
3. Magnesium chloride
Magnesium chloride is a magnesium salt that includes chlorine — an unstable element that binds well with other elements, including sodium and magnesium, to form salts.
It’s well absorbed in your digestive tract, making it a great multi-purpose supplement. You can use it to treat low magnesium levels, heartburn, and constipation.
Magnesium chloride is most frequently taken in capsule or tablet form but is also sometimes used in topical products like lotions and ointments.
Although people use these skin creams to soothe and relax sore muscles, little scientific evidence links them to improved magnesium levels.
Summary: Magnesium chloride is easily absorbed orally and used to treat heartburn, constipation, and low magnesium levels. Also, applying it topically may help relieve muscle soreness but not boost your magnesium levels.
4. Magnesium lactate
Magnesium lactate is the salt formed when magnesium binds with lactic acid.
This acid is not only produced by your muscle and blood cells but also manufactured for use as a preservative and flavoring agent.
Suggested read: Magnesium oxide: Benefits, side effects, dosage, and more
Indeed, magnesium lactate is utilized as a food additive to regulate acidity and fortify foods and beverages. It’s less popular as an over-the-counter dietary supplement.
Magnesium lactate is easily absorbed and may be a little 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.
In a study of 28 people with a rare condition that required high doses of magnesium daily, those who took a slow-release tablet of magnesium lactate had fewer digestive side effects than the control group.
A few small studies likewise reveal that this form may help treat stress and anxiety, but more research is needed.
Summary: Magnesium lactate is effective as a dietary supplement and possibly gentler on your digestive system. It may be more suitable for those who don’t tolerate other forms or need to take especially large doses.
5. Magnesium malate
Magnesium malate includes malic acid, which occurs naturally in foods like fruit and wine. This acid has a sour taste and is often used as a food additive to enhance flavor or add acidity.
Research suggests that magnesium malate is very well absorbed in your digestive tract, making it a great option for replenishing your magnesium levels.
Some people report that it’s gentler on your system and may have less of a laxative effect than other types. This may be beneficial, depending on your specific needs.
Magnesium malate is occasionally recommended as a treatment for symptoms associated with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. However, there’s currently no strong scientific evidence to support these uses.
Summary: Magnesium malate is easily absorbed and may have less of a laxative effect than other forms. It’s occasionally recommended for chronic conditions like fibromyalgia, but no current scientific evidence supports this.
6. Magnesium taurate
Magnesium taurate contains the amino acid taurine.
Suggested read: Magnesium dosage: How much should you take per day?
Research suggests that adequate intakes of taurine and magnesium play a role in regulating blood sugar. Thus, this particular form may promote healthy blood sugar levels.
Magnesium and taurine also support healthy blood pressure.
A recent animal study revealed that magnesium taurate significantly reduced blood pressure in rats with high levels, indicating that this form may bolster heart health.
Keep in mind that human research is needed.
Summary: Magnesium taurate may be the best form for managing high blood sugar and high blood pressure, though more studies are necessary.
7. Magnesium L-threonate
Magnesium L-threonate is the salt formed from mixing magnesium and threonic acid, a water-soluble substance derived from the metabolic breakdown of vitamin C.
This form is easily absorbed. Animal research notes that it may be the most effective type for increasing magnesium concentrations in brain cells.
Magnesium L-threonate is often used for its potential brain benefits and may help manage certain brain disorders, such as depression and age-related memory loss. Nonetheless, more research is needed.
Summary: Magnesium L-threonate may support brain health, potentially aiding the treatment of disorders like depression and memory loss. All the same, further studies are necessary.
8. Magnesium sulfate
Magnesium sulfate is formed by combining magnesium, sulfur, and oxygen. It’s commonly referred to as Epsom salt.
It’s white with a texture similar to that of table salt. It can be consumed as a treatment for constipation, but its unpleasant taste leads many people to choose an alternative form for digestive support.
Magnesium sulfate is frequently dissolved in bath water to soothe sore, achy muscles and relieve stress. It’s also sometimes included in skincare products, such as lotion or body oil.
Although adequate magnesium levels can play a role in muscle relaxation and stress relief, there’s very little evidence to suggest that this form is well absorbed through your skin.
Summary: Magnesium sulfate, or Epsom salt, is frequently dissolved in water to treat stress and sore muscles. However, very little evidence supports these uses.
9. Magnesium glycinate
Magnesium glycinate is formed from elemental magnesium and the amino acid glycine.
Your body employs this amino acid in protein construction. It also occurs in many protein-rich foods, such as fish, meat, dairy, and legumes.
Suggested read: 10 evidence-based health benefits of magnesium
Glycine is often used as a standalone dietary supplement to improve sleep and treat a variety of inflammatory conditions, including heart disease and diabetes.
Magnesium glycinate is easily absorbed and may have calming properties. It may help reduce anxiety, depression, stress, and insomnia. Yet, scientific evidence on these uses is limited, so more studies are needed.
Summary: Magnesium glycinate is often used for its calming effects to treat anxiety, depression, and insomnia. However, research supporting its efficacy for such conditions is limited.
10. Magnesium orotate
Magnesium orotate includes orotic acid, a natural substance involved in your body’s construction of genetic material, including DNA.
It’s easily absorbed and doesn’t have the strong laxative effects characteristic of other forms.
Early research suggests that it may promote heart health due to orotic acid’s unique role in the energy production pathways in your heart and blood vessel tissue.
As such, it’s popular among competitive athletes and fitness enthusiasts, but it may also aid people with heart disease.
One study in 79 people with severe congestive heart failure found that magnesium orotate supplements were significantly more effective for symptom management and survival than a placebo.
Yet, this form is significantly more expensive than other magnesium supplements. Based on the limited evidence available, its benefits don’t justify its cost for many people.
Summary: Magnesium orotate may bolster heart health by improving energy production in your heart and blood vessel tissue.
Should you take a magnesium supplement?
If you don’t have low magnesium levels, no evidence suggests that taking a supplement will provide any measurable benefit.
Yet, if you are deficient, obtaining this mineral from whole foods is always the best initial strategy. Magnesium is present in a variety of foods, including:
- Legumes: black beans, edamame
- Vegetables: spinach, kale, avocado
- Nuts: almonds, peanuts, cashews
- Whole grains: oatmeal, whole wheat
- Others: dark chocolate
However, if you’re unable to get enough magnesium from your diet, a supplement may be worth considering.
Certain populations may be at a greater risk of deficiency, including older adults and people with type 2 diabetes, digestive disorders, and alcohol dependence.
Dosage and possible side effects
The average recommended daily amount of magnesium is 320 mg for women and 420 mg for men.
The amounts in different supplement formulations may vary, so check the label to ensure you’re taking the most appropriate dose.
Because supplements aren’t regulated in certain countries, including the United States, look for products tested by a third party, such as USP, ConsumerLab, or NSF International.
Magnesium supplements are generally considered safe for most people. Once you’ve reached adequate levels, your body will excrete any excess in your urine.
However, certain forms of excessive doses may cause mild symptoms like diarrhea or an upset stomach.
Although rare, magnesium toxicity can occur. If you have kidney disease or consume very large doses of this mineral, you may be at a greater risk. Signs of toxicity include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle weakness, irregular breathing, lethargy, and urinary retention.
It’s always a good idea to consult your healthcare provider before adding any dietary supplements to your routine.
Summary: Most adults need 320–420 mg of magnesium per day. If you’re unable to meet your needs from your diet, a supplement may be warranted. They’re widely considered safe, but you may want to talk to a health professional before starting.
Magnesium plays a vital role in human health. Low levels are linked to numerous adverse effects, including depression, heart disease, and diabetes.
As such, you may want to consider supplements if you’re not getting enough of this mineral in your diet.
Many forms exist, some of which may help relieve heartburn, constipation, and other ailments. If you’re not sure which one is right for you, consult your healthcare provider.