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Choosing the right magnesium product doesn’t need to be so confusing!

Choosing the right magnesium product doesn’t need to be so confusing!

Cyrus Kuhzarani R.Phm.

09 Jun 2021

Choosing the right magnesium product doesn’t need to be so confusing!

Why do we need magnesium anyway?

Magnesium is a nutrient (mineral) that stars in many crucial roles in the body, such as maintaining muscle and nerve function and energy production.  Additionally, magnesium supports blood sugar levels, blood pressure and is involved in making protein, bone, and DNA. All together there are over 300 processes in our body that rely on magnesium to function optimally.  Low levels of magnesium have been linked to a variety of illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, mood disorders, and migraines.

Don’t we get magnesium from the foods we eat?

Many foods contain magnesium so we should start there to get our daily required allowance of 320mg-420mg. Nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans, leafy vegetables, milk and yogurt are good sources. Just 1 ounce of almonds or cashews provides 20% of the daily magnesium an adult needs. Even water (tap, mineral or bottled) can be a source of magnesium.

Unfortunately, relying on food sources of magnesium may leave you deficient or even depleted! Two thirds of people in the Western world do not consume enough magnesium rich foods to meet their daily needs!

Chronic disease, alcoholism, malabsorption, poor diet and medications can all contribute to low levels of magnesium.  The nutritional value of food has been declining over the past century as industrial farming has replaced local, home grown agriculture. Many foods are grown far away from where they are consumed, on soils that are depleted of key minerals including magnesium.

Even organic foods can be nutritionally lacking if the soils are not amended. Taking a magnesium supplement can be a safe, effective way to make sure we are meeting our magnesium requirements.

Ok, I need to supplement. What do I take?

Magnesium needs to be bound (chelated) to a substance (organic or amino acid) in order for it to be properly absorbed. Citrate is an example of an organic acid used in chelating minerals and glycine is an example of an amino acid. Oxide is a non-chelated form of magnesium.

There is research suggesting that minerals bound to an amino acid (glycinate) are better absorbed than non-chelated minerals. (1) All minerals are absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract but those bound to an amino acid have the benefit of being VIPs.  The body actively seeks out essential amino acids like l-glycine and prioritizes their absorption. Minerals bound to these amino acids (l-glycine) are also given a ‘leg up’. This would mean more magnesium is moved into the blood for the cells to use and less remains behind to cause loose stools and stomach upset. Simply put, magnesium bound to l-glycine (magnesium glycinate) has a higher therapeutic benefit. 

Conversely, magnesium bound to organic acids or salts may be less absorbed leading to loose stools. (Magnesium citrate is used as a laxative prior to colonoscopy. Magnesium oxide is a magnesium salt used to treat constipation)

The bottom line

Choosing the right magnesium product can be confusing. It makes sense then to choose magnesium bound to the smallest amino acid (l-glycine) providing the highest absorption rates compared to Magnesium Oxide, Carbonate or Citrate/Malate.

Dosage: Buyer beware!

Many magnesium products contain NO Magnesium Glycinate at all, but rather pure magnesium oxide, blended (not chelated) with L-Glycine in various ratios. This is, to my knowledge, the case with most of the products containing 200mg magnesium elemental per capsule. Higher amounts of magnesium oxide can lead to loose stools, less absorption, less benefit.

Choose magnesium glycinate for these conditions:

  • Constipation
  • Chronic Pain
  • PMS Cramping
  • Muscle Spasms
  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Insomnia
  • Cardiovascular support
  • Anxiety, stress


(1) Bioavailability of magnesium diglycinate vs magnesium oxide in  patients with ileal resection.
 JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 1994 Sep-Oct;18(5):430-5. Schuette SA, Lashner BA,  Janghorbani M. Department of Medicine, University of Chicago, IL.

(2) National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Magnesium Fact Sheet for HealthProfessionals

(3) Mayo Clinic





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