Magnesium Supplements: Different Types & Different Benefits


Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in our bodies and is essential for optimal health. Research suggests 68% of Americans don’t get enough magnesium from their diets alone [1]. Magnesium supplements can help fill in these types of nutritional gaps, but it’s important to do your due diligence! Understanding the benefits of different types of magnesium will help you find the best magnesium supplement for you!

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Researchers have connected magnesium deficiency with many major diseases such as diabetes, osteoporosis, metabolic syndrome, depression, and musculoskeletal disorders such as fibromyalgia. Magnesium is responsible for the regulation and proper execution of over 300 enzyme processes in your body [3]. It regulates protein synthesis, blood pressure, and ensures healthy nerve function. Magnesium is responsible for helping bones to form, both DNA + RNA synthesis and repair contributes to the production of antioxidants within your body, and even helps your body use other minerals like calcium and phosphorus [4]. Simply put, our bodies need magnesium for lots of important stuff!

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All About Magnesium

Without a doubt, magnesium is an essential nutrient for the human body and helps keep things running smoothly. We’ve got an extensive article on the Benefits of Magnesium that discusses some noteworthy clinical research on magnesium’s role in our bodies. Below you’ll find a quick rundown of what you need to know about the importance of magnesium to help understand which type of magnesium supplement is right for you.

Optimal Levels

The average person has 25 grams of magnesium in their body at any given time. Most of this amount is found within bones and soft tissues such as cartilage, leaving a measly 1% left in the blood [5]. This 1% is the magnesium that is available to your body to use in the vast array of cellular and enzymatic processes needed to function correctly. Even the slightest drop in this small amount of magnesium (called your serum magnesium level) can disrupt your body’s most fundamental processes.

The Recommended Daily Allowance for magnesium is 400mg daily for men and 310mg for women

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for magnesium is 400mg daily for men and 310mg for women [3]. These figures represent the bare minimum amount of magnesium your body needs to function correctly. Eating foods high in magnesium is a significant first step in working to ensure proper magnesium levels, but magnesium supplements are often necessary for individuals with food sensitivities or other health concerns such as parasites and bacterial infections.

Magnesium Deficiency

The early signs of a magnesium deficiency include migraines, hypertension, fatigue, seizures, hormonal disruptions, numbness and tingling, and many more concerning health issues. If you are suffering from any of these issues, you should ask your doctor to test you for a magnesium deficiency. The thing is, magnesium is a co-factor for hundreds of vital enzymatic processes in the human body [3]. If our bodies aren’t getting enough magnesium—all sorts of things can start to go wrong! Nutrient-depleted farmlands, overly-processed foods, and even parasites and bacterial imbalances can all cause magnesium deficiencies and commonly go unnoticed for years (even decades) before a doctor stumbles upon the issue.

Magnesium Testing

Magnesium is notoriously deceptive when it comes to laboratory testing. There are, generally speaking, two magnesium tests that doctors will casually recommend. The most common magnesium test is called a serum magnesium test. This measures the amount of magnesium found in the bloodstream. Unfortunately, this test is regarded as being notoriously inaccurate when assessing total body requirements [4]. That’s to say; your body’s magnesium storage tanks could be running low, and your serum levels would still test within range! RGB magnesium testing is much more accurate measures of total available magnesium in our bodies. Before one starts experimenting with magnesium supplements, it’s advisable to have testing done by a professional to assess your current magnesium levels.

Side Effects

Magnesium is among the safest compounds one can ingest and has only a short list of very mild side-effects—usually just presenting in cases of overdose. The most common side effect is a type of gastrointestinal disturbance named Osmotic Diarrhea and produces watery stools and diarrhea. This is a side effect of magnesium drawing water into the colon which evacuates the bowels. Oddly enough, this type of magnesium overdose is often done on purpose in preparation for such medical procedures are colonoscopies. Certain types of magnesium compounds are best-suited for these applications—magnesium citrate is the go-to in most cases.

Recommended Dosage

Being that magnesium is among the gentlest compounds out there, one can self-experiment with a relatively low chance of anything bad happening. In most cases, the worst thing that is going to happen from taking too much magnesium is that you’ll get diarrhea. Many doctors recommend upping one’s magnesium dosage until that happens! This method is called the magnesium bowel tolerance test and can help find the right dosage for just about anybody! An example of such an approach would be to take one 125mg dose of magnesium with each meal for a week. If you don’t experience diarrhea or loose stools, take two 125 mg doses of magnesium with each meal next week. Continue this pattern until your stools become loose or you get diarrhea. When that finally happens, revert to the previous dosage!


The term bioavailability is somewhat of a pseudo-scientific term. That’s to say, it’s useful for discussion but not necessarily making an appearance in every medical journal. This term describes how quickly the human body can absorb an individual compound. In the case of magnesium, several factors impact its overall bioavailability. The two most common factors are the type of magnesium and which other compounds are found alongside natural food sources. For example, magnesium glycinate is regarded to be much more bioavailable than magnesium oxide. Also, foods such as spinach (high in magnesium) also contain compounds such as oxalic acid which can compete for absorption.

Magnesium Supplements

Magnesium supplements are often regarded as essential to those on limited diets or suffering conditions such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). These conditions can “rob” one of the magnesium being absorbed from dietary sources. There are many different types of magnesium supplements available, and each should be considered carefully before purchase. Things to consider before purchasing are bioavailability, purity of ingredients, and the reputation of the manufacturer. Below is a brief overview of several types of magnesium that are common to dietary supplements and multi-vitamins available on the consumer market.

Magnesium Glycinate

Metagenics Magnesium Glycinate
Magnesium Glycinate from Metagenics

Magnesium Glycinate is the magnesium salt of a compound called glycine—which is an amino acid. Common variations of this form are magnesium diglycinate and magnesium bisglycinate. Magnesium Glycinate is often recommended by health professionals to help address magnesium deficiency because it’s well-tolerated in high doses. Magnesium Glycinate is much less dependent on the acidity levels of the stomach and is thought to be absorbed by the body through channels utilized by amino acid absorption. When considering this form, it’s important to consider the benefits of glycine as well, considering magnesium glycinate is roughly 85% glycine by weight. This type of magnesium has been studied in the treatment of depression and is common among natural sleep aids for its relaxing effect.

Magnesium Oxide

Magnesium Oxide
Magnesium Oxide by Douglas Laboratories

Magnesium oxide is a less bioavailable form of magnesium that is typically used to treat acid reflux and sour stomachs. The low bioavailability of magnesium oxide makes it an ideal candidate for those seeking to alleviate constipation. This form of magnesium is commonly referred to as milk of magnesia and has been a common home remedy for centuries. Milk of magnesia is a white liquid form of magnesium that has a very chalky consistency.

This remedy is taken as an oral solution for treating heartburn, indigestion, and stomach aches. When magnesium oxide reacts with water, it becomes magnesium hydroxide. Strictly speaking, milk of magnesia supplements and solutions are really magnesium hydroxide—but that just means that magnesium oxide has been mixed with water. This type of magnesium supplement isn’t recommended for those with magnesium deficiencies. You would likely hit your bowel tolerance long before you were able to add enough easily-absorbed magnesium with this supplement.

Magnesium Citrate

Magnesium Citrate
Magnesium Citrate by Pure Encapsulations

Magnesium citrate is a combined form of magnesium and citric acid. Unlike most other types of magnesium supplements, magnesium citrate has an acidic pH and is often used as a food additive to regulate overall acidity. Magnesium citrate is only ~13% magnesium by weight—the rest being citric acid. When taken, this form of magnesium can attract water inside your body, pulling it towards your colon through a process known as osmosis.  This use of magnesium citrate is often utilized by doctors preparing patients for a colonoscopy—since overhydration of the color will lead to bowel evacuation.

For those on non-oxalate diets or low-oxalate diets, citrates such as calcium and magnesium citrate have been shown to bond to oxalic acid molecules, thus helping the body to eliminate oxalates properly [6]. Magnesium citrate is an excellent form of magnesium if you are looking to help maintain healthy serum magnesium levels. It offers your body access to an increased amount of magnesium, while at the same time helps to regulate healthy bowel cycles. Liquid forms of this type of magnesium are often recommended to prepare for procedures such as colonoscopies.

Magnesium Malate

Magnesium Malate
Magnesium Malate by Integrative Therapeutics

Magnesium Malate is a type of magnesium supplement that is found paired with malic acid. Malic acid is commonly found in fruits and is regarded by many as being ideal for targeted fatigue-specific conditions. Magnesium Malate has been used in several studies investigating the ability of magnesium to treat conditions such as depression, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. One study, conducted with mice, did find a significant impact on blood glucose levels, amylase activity, and overall calcium/magnesium ratios in blood serum levels [7].

Malic acid is known to be integrally involved in your body’s Krebs Cycle, which is where much of your cellular energy is generated. With this in mind, it’s very conceivable how Magnesium malate supplements would be effective in helping to address issues such as chronic fatigue syndrome or depression. Magnesium malate has become a much more popular form of magnesium in recent years, and high-quality magnesium malate supplements available on the consumer market.

Magnesium Taurate

Magnesium Taurate
Magnesium Taurate by Douglas Laboratories

Magnesium taurate is a form of elemental magnesium that has been combined with an amino acid called Taurine. Taurine is thought to be one of the most beneficial elements in helping to promote longer lifespans. Research has shown that Taurine in itself has been able to reduce the risk of heart attacks by up to 80%, balance electrolyte levels, and promote healthy immune function [8]. Additionally, magnesium taurate supplements have demonstrated the ability to treat cases of depression [9], vascular health, and the prevention of neurodegenerative disorders and migraines [10] in clinical settings.

Magnesium Taurate can be slightly more difficult to find than other forms of magnesium, but with the rising demand among health-conscious buyers—it is becoming more available. L-Taurine is also considered to be a powerful nootropic compound, capable of improving overall cognitive function and memory. This close association of magnesium taurate and taurine lead many to believe magnesium taurate to be one of the better-suited magnesium supplements for brain health.

Magnesium Threonate

Neuromag Magnesium Threonate
NeuroMag (magnesium Threonate) from Designs for Health

Magnesium Threonate is a relatively new form of magnesium that has been shown to be very useful in the treatment of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, though human data is lacking. This form of Magnesium was developed at MIT with the specific intention of finding a type of magnesium that could be more readily absorbed by the brain [11]. It’s the combination of magnesium and threonic acid and is marketed as the best type of magnesium for neural support. There isn’t sufficient research to support that claim yet, but initial studies do show promise.


The importance of magnesium in supporting vibrant human health isn’t debatable—it’s a proven fact. If your body isn’t receiving optimal levels of magnesium, on a daily basis, your health will suffer. Magnesium supplements have few side effects and are, at least in our opinion, safe to experiment with at home. We still recommend everyone ask their doctors to check their RGB magnesium levels to ensure adequate intake.

The magnesium supplements discussed here are only a handful of the most common supplements one might find on retail shelves. There are many variations of each type listed here also. For example, Trimagnesium dicitrate and Dimagnesium malate are both novel variants you’re not likely to find in stores. These types of magnesium may offer higher percentages of elemental magnesium compared to more common varieties. For example, Trimagnesium dicitrate contains a 3:2 ratio of magnesium and citric acid whereas common magnesium citrate supplements contain a 1:2 ratio, in favor of citric acid.

We recently interviewed several health professionals to help illustrate how the different types of magnesium are used out in the real world. The insights offered by these professionals isn’t meant to be medical advice but should help you better understand more considerations you should make when looking for the best magnesium supplement.

Final Thoughts

Increasing dietary intake of magnesium is the second step in avoiding deficiency but isn’t always possible. The surest way to get the magnesium your body needs is to start taking magnesium supplements. The types of magnesium you choose, the dosages you take, and the quality of supplements you purchase will all have an impact on the bioavailability of your magnesium supplements.

Magnesium Supplements
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Magnesium comes in many forms, and has been proven to be effective in addressing many major health issues. It's relatively safe, and comes in many varieties to help address specific needs. Side effects are only seen in rare cases, and are typically very mild.
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  1. King, D. E., Mainous III, A. G., & Woolson, M. F. (2005). Dietary magnesium and C-reactive protein levels. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 24(3), 166-171.
  2. Rosanoff, A., Weaver, C. M., & Rude, R. K. (2012). Suboptimal magnesium status in the United States: Are the health consequences underestimated? Nutrition Reviews, 70(3), 153-164.
  3. “Chapter 6: Magnesium.” Institute of Medicine. 1997. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Fluoride. The National Academies Press. 190. doi: 10.17226/5776.
  4. Ismail, Y., Ismail, A. A., & Ismail, A. A. (2010). The underestimated problem of using serum magnesium measurements to exclude magnesium deficiency in adults; a health warning is needed for “normal” results. Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine, 48(3).
  5. National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements – Magnesium.
  6. Khan, S. R., & Byer, K. J. (2004). 1121: Citrate Provides Protection against Oxalate and Calcium Oxalate Crystal-Induced Oxidative Damage to Renal Epithelium. The Journal of Urology, 171(4), 296. Retrieved from
  7. Virág, V., May, Z., Kocsis, I., Blázovics, A., & Szentmihályi, K. (2011). Effects of magnesium supplementation on the calcium and magnesium levels, redox homeostasis in normolipidemic and alimentary induced hyperlipidemic rats. Orvosi Hetilap, 152(27), 1075-1081. Retrieved from
  8. Macleavy, I. (2013, June). The Forgotten Longevity Benefits of Taurine. Life Extension Magazine.
  9. Eby, G. A., & Eby, K. L. (2006). Rapid recovery from major depression using magnesium treatment. Medical Hypotheses, 67(2), 362-370.
  10. Mccarty, M. (1996). Magnesium taurate and fish oil for prevention of migraine. Medical Hypotheses, 47(6), 461-466.

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