Magnesium is a mineral that is essential for many biochemical reactions in our body that keep us healthy. It is involved in nerve impulses in our muscles and in our brain. It is used as a cofactor in the chemicals reactions that allow us to produce energy to get us through our day. In addition, it is needed for the structural development of our genes and bones. Lastly, it is even pivotal in keeping your heart beating correctly and maintaining a healthy blood pressure! (1)
We can get Magnesium from the food that we eat. The highest sources are in leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach. It is also in high concentrations in pumpkin seeds, tuna, lima beans or fruits like avocadoes and bananas. In addition, it is present in chocolate which is my personal favourite source of Magnesium. For the later source I always recommend to choose a low sugar or dark chocolate. The best approach is to eat a variety of the foods listed above to not only get a good amount of Magnesium, but also to have a diet rich in all the other minerals and vitamins your body needs. But even when we do this, we still do not always ingest the amount of Magnesium our body needs to properly carry out all the biochemical reactions mentioned above. (3-4)
In 2012, Health Canada reported that more then forty percent of adults have an inadequate amount of Magnesium intake. This deficiency can present as muscle cramps, brain fog, difficulty concentrating, low energy and difficulty sleeping. (7)
Magnesium must be combined with another substance to be delivered into our body. This other carrier substance determines how well our body absorbs Magnesium and how fast it gets into our blood stream. This carrier substance is what defines the different types of Magnesium: Magnesium Oxide, Magnesium Citrate, Magnesium Glycinate and Magnesium Malate.
Magnesium Oxide: This is the most common type of Magnesium found over the counter at most pharmacies and grocery stores. It pairs Magnesium with a chemical compound called oxide. Sadly, this type of magnesium has the lowest absorption of all the types of Magnesium. In addition, it has a strong laxative effect when taken in higher dosages. I don’t recommend this type of Magnesium to any of my patients. (6)
Magnesium Citrate: This form of Magnesium is much better absorbed into our body partly because it is paired with citrate which is an organic salt. In addition, it is available at most health food stores. It also has a laxative effect but it is much milder and more tolerable then Magnesium Oxide. This type of Magnesium works great for patients who want to safely increase their Magnesium intake who also have constipation or less regular bowel movements. But it should be avoided in patients that have loose bowel movements or gastrointestinal issues. (6)
Magnesium Glycinate: This type of Magnesium is also very well absorbed in our body and it has an affinity for our muscles and our nervous system. Glycinate comes from the amino acid glycine which is one of the calming neurotransmitters in our brain. Therefore, this type of Magnesium also promotes relaxation and helps with falling asleep. It is best to take this type of Magnesium at night. (2)
Magnesium Malate: In addition to also being a well absorbed this form of Magnesium also helps us with low energy levels. Malate is an intermediary in our cell’s energy production cycle called the Kreb cycle. Therefore, this type of Magnesium is best for patients with muscle cramps and low energy. It is an excellent choice for patients with the symptoms of chronic fatigue and Fibromyalgia. (5)
Given how difficult it is to get the level of Magnesium you need through a healthy diet I advocate for all my patients to be on a daily Magnesium supplement especially if they are experiencing muscle cramps.
Dr. Sandip Oppal MD(inactive), ND
- Institute of Medicine (IOM). Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D and Fluoride. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1997.
- Kawai, N. Neuropsychopharmacology. The sleep-promoting and hypothermic effects of glycine are mediated by NMDA receptors in the suprachiasmatic nucleus, 2015; 40(6): 1405-16.
- Rude RK. Magnesium. In: Coates PM, Betz JM, Blackman MR, Cragg GM, Levine M, Moss J, White JD, eds. Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Informa Healthcare; 2010:527-37.
- Rude RK. Magnesium. In: Ross AC, Caballero B, Cousins RJ, Tucker KL, Ziegler TR, eds. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 11th ed. Baltimore, Mass: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2012:159-75.
- Russell, IJ. J. Rheumatol. Treatment of fibromyalgia syndrome with Super Malic: a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled, crossover pilot study, 1995; 22(5): 953-8.
- Walker AF, Magnes Res. Mg citrate found more bioavailable than other Mg preparations in a randomised, double-blind study, 2003; 16(3): 183-91.
- Website: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/food-nutrition-surveillance/health-nutrition-surveys/canadian-community-health-survey-cchs/. Do Canadian Adults Meet Their Nutrient Requirements Through Diet Alone?, 2012.