Magnesium is involved in over 300 essential metabolic reactions, including energy production, blood pressure regulation, nerve signal transmission, and muscle contraction.
Low magnesium levels may be involved in various health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and migraine.
Although many whole foods like green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds contain magnesium, up to two-thirds of people in the Western world don’t meet their magnesium needs with diet alone.
1. Magnesium citrate
Magnesium citrate is a form of magnesium that’s bound with citric acid.
This acid is found naturally in citrus fruits, giving them their tart, sour flavor.
Magnesium citrate is one of the more common magnesium supplement formulations and can be purchased in stores worldwide.
A small study of 14 male participants suggests that this type is among the most bioavailable forms of magnesium, meaning 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.
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.
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, people use it more frequently to relieve uncomfortable digestive symptoms, such as heartburn, indigestion, and constipation. Some may also use it to treat and prevent migraine episodes, but more research is needed to confirm that magnesium deficiency can contribute to migraine attacks.
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.
People take magnesium chloride most frequently in capsule or tablet form, but it may also be an ingredient 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.
4. Magnesium lactate
Magnesium lactate is the salt formed when magnesium binds with lactic acid.
This acid is produced by your muscle and blood cells and is manufactured as a preservative and flavoring agent.
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.
Your digestive tract easily absorbs magnesium lactate, which may also be gentler on your digestive system than other types. This may benefit 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 reported fewer digestive side effects than the control group.
Other studies likewise reveal that this form may help treat stress and anxiety, but more research is needed.
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 added to food to add flavor or 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 a less laxative effect than other types. This may be beneficial, depending on your specific needs.
Magnesium malate is occasionally recommended to treat fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms. But while some studies have found there may be benefits, more high quality studies are needed.
6. Magnesium taurate
Magnesium taurate contains the amino acid taurine.
Research suggests that adequate intakes of taurine and magnesium play a role in regulating blood sugar. Thus, this form may promote healthy blood sugar levels.
Magnesium and taurine also support healthy blood pressure.
A 2018 animal study revealed that magnesium taurate significantly reduced blood pressure in rats with high levels, indicating that this form may bolster heart health.
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 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, Alzheimer’s disease, and age-related memory loss. Nonetheless, more research is needed.
Magnesium L-threonate may support brain health, potentially aiding the treatment of disorders like depression, Alzheimer’s, 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 known as Epsom salt. It’s white with a texture similar to that of table salt.
While you can consume it as a treatment for constipation in capsule form or dissolve the powder in water, it has an unpleasant taste. Using too much or using it too often can be dangerous.
You can dissolve magnesium sulfate in bathwater to soothe sore, achy muscles and relieve stress. It’s also sometimes included in skin care products like lotion or body oil.
Although adequate magnesium levels can play a role in muscle relaxation and stress relief, little evidence suggests that this form is well absorbed through your skin.
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:
Animal studies suggest that glycine on its own can help improve sleep and treat some inflammatory conditions, including heart disease and diabetes. But more robust studies are needed to further support this.
Magnesium glycinate is easily absorbed and may have calming properties. It may help reduce mental health issues, such as:
Yet, there is limited scientific evidence on these uses, so more studies are needed.
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 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 2009 study of 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, its benefits may not justify the cost for many people.
Should you take a magnesium supplement?
If you don’t have low magnesium levels, no evidence suggests a supplement will provide a 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, a supplement may be worth considering if you cannot get enough magnesium from your diet.
Specific 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 for adults ranges from 320 mg for females and 420 mg for males.
The amounts in different supplement formulations may vary, so check the label to ensure you take the most appropriate dose.
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 or excessive doses may cause mild symptoms like diarrhea or upset stomach.
Although rare, magnesium toxicity can occur. You may be at a greater risk if you have kidney disease or consume very large doses of this mineral. Signs of toxicity include:
- muscle weakness
- irregular breathing
- urinary retention
It’s always a good idea to consult a healthcare professional before adding dietary supplements.
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.
The bottom line
Magnesium plays a vital role in human health. Low levels are linked to numerous adverse effects, including depression, heart disease, and diabetes.
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 unsure which one is right for you, consult a healthcare professional.