Magnesium Glycinate: Highly Bioavailble Amino Acid Chelate

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Magnesium glycinate is a highly bioavailable form of elemental magnesium bound with two molecules of the amino acid glycine. It’s been studied for the treatment of anxiety, depression, and is the go-to recommendation for oral treatment of magnesium deficiency. Understanding the differences between magnesium glycinate and other forms of magnesium supplements is essential in addressing conditions such as magnesium deficiency.

Introduction

Magnesium glycinate is known by many as the chemical ”salt” of magnesium and glycine. Elemental magnesium isn’t easily absorbed by our bodies and the chemical combination with other types of compounds is necessary for us to absorb useful amounts. Other common names for magnesium glycinate include chelated magnesium, magnesium aminoacetate, and amino acid chelate. Some of these mean magnesium glycinate specifically while others are broader in their description. To understand what magnesium glycinate is exactly, one needs to consider a bit of chemistry.

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Chemical Composition

Chemists use the term “salt” to describe the combination of an acid and a base. The most common “salt” is table salt—a chemical combination of the basic Sodium (Na) and acidic Chloride (Cl). These types of chemical processes create new compounds that have more, or less, electrons than protons. Such a composition is considered ionic. There’s plenty more to learn about chemical salts and ionic compounds, but that’s enough to understand the basics of the different types of magnesium.

Amino Acid Chelates

As it turns out, several amino acids play the role of the acid very well when creating chemical salts. Glycine and Lysine are common amino acids used to create the types of chelated compounds common among consumer supplements. Many other amino acids can be used to create such chemical compounds though vary in their suitability. Amino acids such as Alanine, Serine, Cysteine, and Value (to name just a few) are all capable of creating chemical salts. The conditions by which these compounds do so aren’t always as favorable or practical as other amino acids such as glycine. That’s why glycine is so popular—it readily combines with many ionic metals (like magnesium!)

Source: Salts of Amino Acids

Glycine & Magnesium

Magnesium glycinate is considered a form of chelated magnesium comprised of mostly glycine. Not only is glycine a much larger compound than magnesium but it’s also found in a 2-to-1 ratio in magnesium glycinate. This characteristic helps illustrate why it’s so important to understand the benefits of glycine when considering the benefits of magnesium glycinate. Consider the following information:

CompoundChemical FormulaMolecular Weight
MagnesiumMg24.305 g/mol
GlycineC2H5NO275.067 g/mol
Magnesium GlycinateC4H8MGN2O2172.423 g/mol

The first thing that might jump out to you is that combining these two compounds results in a 2.016 g/mol difference than one might expect (172.423 vs. 174.439). This is because a hydrogen (H2) molecule is lost during the reaction! The resulting compound is roughly 14% elemental magnesium, by weight, which means magnesium glycinate supplements are only 14% magnesium and 86% glycine.

Source: PubChem

Benefits of Glycine

Since magnesium glycine is 86% glycine by weight, it’s important to consider the benefits of glycine alongside those of magnesium when considering this compound. Arguably, it’s about five times as important. We’ve written an entire article on the benefits of glycine where you’ll find a detailed discussion. Below you’ll see a summary of some of that article’s highlights.

Antioxidant

Many of the benefits associated with glycine revolve about its ability to help stimulate the production of antioxidant compounds like glutathione, superoxide dismutase (SOD), and catalase. These compounds are associated with reduced levels of inflammation and lessened amounts of tissue damage.

Liver & Kidney Health

Glycine has shown remarkable activity in the liver and kidney. Its renewed for helping reduce the toxic effects of alcohol. Much of the activity attributed to glycine’s benefit to the liver and kidney are related to its antioxidant action, but it’s worth mention that the liver and kidneys benefit especially.

Skin Health

Collagen is a compound our body uses to create new tissue like skin, hair, nails, and even cartilage. This compound is nearly one-third glycine by weight! Research suggests that our bodies are metabolically incapable of making enough glycine to support daily requirements for collagen production. Clinical studies have demonstrated a significantly higher amount of collagen production in subjects given glycine supplementation.

Mental Health

Glycine is a neurotransmitter responsible for inhibitory action within the synapses of our brains. Similar to GABA, glycine can help slow down racing thoughts and overactive brains. Researchers have found strong potential with glycine being used to treat OCD and Schizophrenia. When given an adjunctive supplement of glycine alongside conventional therapy, patients who have Schizophrenia have seen remarkable improvements in symptoms! In other words, glycine made their medicine more effective!

Healthy Sleep

Research has demonstrated glycine’s ability to help regulate our internal clocks, even resetting them in some cases. Glycine has also been attributed to lowering the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, improving quality of sleep, regulating sleep cycles, and increasing daytime alertness. This impact on sleep is why magnesium glycinate is often recommended to be taken with dinner, or before bedtime!

Gut Health

The benefits had from glycine by our digestive systems are, again, primarily associated with the amino acids’ strong support of anti-oxidative processes. Research has demonstrated that glycine can help grow new intestinal tissue, repair damaged intestinal tissue, reduce intestinal tissue damage from oxidative stress, and even help decrease the ulcerative side effects of chronic aspirin use! All things considered, glycine is a friend to the human digestive system.

Benefits of Magnesium

This brings us to the benefits of magnesium; an impressively expansive topic. Magnesium plays a central role in hundreds of enzymatic processes throughout our bodies. A magnesium deficiency is likely to cause a cascade of unwanted symptoms and is often difficult to diagnose. It’s thought to be the root cause (or at least initial issue) of many major health issues today. We’ve got another entire article just about the benefits of magnesium but below you’ll find a quick breakdown.

Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic Syndrome describes a range of biomarkers such as blood pressure, fasting blood sugar, and cholesterol levels. These are all considered high-risk factors for diseases such as heart attack, diabetes, and stroke. Research shows magnesium plays an essential role in helping to regulate these types of biomarkers in such a way that supports optimal health. Magnesium supplements won’t cure your diabetes, but research suggests they may help stabilize your blood sugar, blood pressure, and triglyceride levels. Research suggests that glycine is also quite effective at optimizing many of these concerns as well. That would suggest magnesium glycinate is exceptionally well qualified for such usage.

Bone Health

Our skeletal structures have a lot of magnesium in them. As much as 60% of all the magnesium in our bodies is found in our bones. Of this, approximately 30% is considered “free” magnesium and can be loaned out for things like controlling pH levels. When our bodies don’t get enough magnesium, it’s possible that our bones may become porous and at higher risk for such conditions as osteoporosis. Research has proven that magnesium supplementation can help support optimal bone density, particularly in the hips. Researchers note that the most significant benefits seen, with regards to magnesium supplementation and bone density, are by those not currently meeting the recommended daily allowance for magnesium. In other words, the people not getting enough magnesium are the ones that benefit the most from magnesium supplements.

Blood Pressure & Hypertension

Blood pressure falls under the umbrella of metabolic syndrome. Magnesium has been researched so extensively for its ability to lower blood pressure that its worth a special mention. Hypertension is a medical condition characterized, at least in part, by elevated blood pressure. You may have heard doctors say that your “top blood pressure number” gets elevated during times of stress. That’s the relationship between blood pressure and hypertension. Nearly every study that measures both magnesium and blood pressure has found a correlation between lower blood pressure and higher magnesium intake. Research has described this as a dose-dependent effect that can be observed both in chronic and acute supplementation. In other words, ensuring adequate daily magnesium intake will help optimize blood pressure and taking a megadose will cause it to lower in the short term.

Strength & Endurance

There is some evidence to suggest magnesium is effective in improving strength during weight lifting or athletic performance. There are only a handful of studies which have investigated this relationship and most have been small in size. Nonetheless, they suggest that magnesium creates a significant increase in strength when taken in acute doses 3 hours before exercise. These studies have investigated the effect of magnesium supplements, but it stands to reason that eating a high-magnesium meal 3 hours before working out would offer similar results. That’s just a guess.

Cognitive Health

Magnesium’s role in supporting optimal cognitive performance isn’t well understood, at least not well-defined through clinical investigation. A limited number of clinical studies have shown that higher neural levels of magnesium correlate with significant improvements in learning and memory. There’s only been one notable human trial and the compound used was Magnesium Threonate. There are many more studies that have found magnesium to offer significant benefit to those suffering from migraine headaches or cluster headaches. Magnesium Glycinate’s high percentage of glycine makes it worth particular consideration for brain health. Glycine is, after all, an inhibitory neurotransmitter. Coupled with magnesium’s reputation as a muscle relaxer, magnesium glycinate is an ideal candidate to support a naturally-relaxed state of mind.

Magnesium ComparisonsComparisons

Understanding how magnesium glycinate stacks up against other types of magnesium can help you decide if it’s a good choice for you. We’ve got an article about the different kinds of magnesium supplements on the market, as well as their specific benefits. For our discussion here, we’ll compare magnesium glycinate to a few of the most popular types of magnesium supplements in a simplified manner. This will quickly illustrate when and how magnesium glycinate may be the best magnesium supplement for you.

Calculating Elemental Magnesium

Knowing the amount of magnesium in a specific compound is helpful. You may have heard this being discussed as a supplements percentage of elemental magnesium. This is used to understand better how much actual magnesium a certain supplement contains. For example, a 400mg dosage of magnesium glycinate only contains about 50mg of elemental magnesium. To get 400mg of magnesium from such a supplement, one would have to take eight 400mg capsules! To calculate the percentage of elemental magnesium just use the following formula:

Percentage Elemental Magnesium FormulaMagnesium Glycinate vs. Magnesium Citrate

In general comparison, magnesium citrate is more associated with energy production, possible anti-microbial action, and in relieving constipation. Magnesium citrate is much more likely to cause GI irritation and isn’t often recommended for high dosage use, such as in the case of correcting a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium citrate is commonly used in preparation for medical procedures such as colonoscopies, for purposes of vacating the bowels. Below is the chemical comparison of magnesium glycinate and magnesium citrate.

CompoundMolecular Weight (g/mol)% Elemental MagnesiumSalt
Magnesium Glycinate172.42314.09Glycine
Magnesium Citrate451.11316.16Citric Acid

Magnesium Glycinate vs. Magnesium Malate

Magnesium malate is another bioavailable form of magnesium and is often recommended for the support of healthy muscle function. Magnesium malate is about 85% malic acid and therefore, just like magnesium glycinate, well considered for its constituent parts. Malic acid is one of the final intermediary metabolites of our bodies’ ATP production cycle (a.k.a. Citric Acid Cycle, Kreb’s Cycle) and essential for cellular energy. There isn’t strong evidence to suggest how much more (or less) bioavailable magnesium glycinate is compared to magnesium malate. Anecdotal accounts often describe magnesium malate as being disruptive to normal sleeping patterns when taken late in the day. Such accounts often describe magnesium glycinate as helping support sleep cycles (at least the going to sleep aspect.) Below is the chemical comparison of magnesium glycinate and magnesium malate.

CompoundMolecular Weight (g/mol)% Elemental MagnesiumSalt
Magnesium Glycinate172.42314.09Glycine
Magnesium Malate156.37615.54Malic Acid

Magnesium Glycinate vs. Magnesium Oxide

Magnesium oxide is a great illustration of why more magnesium doesn’t always mean more magnesium. Research has demonstrated that magnesium oxide is much less bioavailable than other forms, such as magnesium citrate. Magnesium oxide is often used as an antacid or pH balancing compound. Research suggests it would be a horrible choice to help replenish cellular magnesium levels. Below is the chemical comparison of magnesium glycinate and magnesium oxide.

CompoundMolecular Weight (g/mol)% Elemental MagnesiumSalt
Magnesium Glycinate172.42314.09Glycine
Magnesium Oxide40.30460.30Oxygen

Other Considerations

Selecting a type of magnesium supplement is a very personal decision. You should take into account your nutritional needs and have testing data to help guide your decision. There isn’t a lot of clinical data to illustrate how certain types of magnesium may differ from one another. For a deeper discussion on the benefits of specific types of magnesium check out our article 7 Health Pros De-Mystify Magnesium Supplements.

Discussion

Magnesium Glycinate is well-regarded among all the health professionals I’ve ever spoken with. It’s been recorded as a superior form of magnesium in what little research exists to compare different types of magnesium. As with any ionic “salt,” one should carefully consider the elemental composition of magnesium. For example, each 1-gram dose of magnesium glycinate offers approximately 140mg elemental magnesium and 860mg. Clearly, it’s important to recognize the potential effects of glycine in this case.

Magnesium glycinate is commonly associated with relaxation and calm mindedness. This is a general characteristic of many magnesium supplements but likely more widespread with magnesium glycinate because glycine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. GABA + magnesium glycinate is a ubiquitous combination of natural sleep aids used to help support natural sleep cycles. When compared to other forms of magnesium supplements, magnesium glycinate is best characterized as a relatively calming compound. Magnesium citrate and malate, by contrast, or more associated with energy production and muscular strength.

Final Thoughts

Magnesium glycinate is a very bioavailable form of magnesium but still no miracle dose. You’re getting a lot of non-magnesium every time you take a dose. Magnesium glycinate is well-tolerated in larger-than-normal doses (at least in comparison to other magnesium compounds) and is therefore often recommended to help address magnesium deficiency. Talk to your doctor to fully understand whether or not magnesium glycinate is the best magnesium supplement for you, or just another compound to save for a rainy day (or night!)

Magnesium Glycinate
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Bioavailable Chelated Magnesium
Magnesium glycinate is the amino acid salt of magnesium and glycine. It's regarded for its neuro-inhibitory action but offers many other notable benefits. It's often recommended as an effective oral supplement for magnesium deficiency.
Zack West

Zack West

Editor

Editor of the Organic Newsroom, self-confessed health nut, and spends much of his time working to better understand issues of modern health, nutrition, and living a balanced lifestyle.

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