Magnesium is a mineral that is vital for the body to function properly. The body can't make it, so we have to obtain it via our diets.
Sadly the majority of us suffer from a deficiency but it is often difficult to detect due to 60% of the mineral content being stored in our bones.
We can consume extra magnesium by consuming a diet rich in the mineral or by supplementing. There are countless supplements on the market and choosing the right one for your requirements can prove a challenge. So, what is the best form of magnesium to take?
What’s The Best Type Of Magnesium To Take?
There are many forms of magnesium. From tablets to oil, deciding on the best form of magnesium supplement you want to use may depend on your preferences, budget and any health conditions you suffer from.
Taking a magnesium supplement is often recommended as they are widely available, relatively affordable, have a multitude of benefits for your health and are generally safe to take.
You should not take magnesium supplements if you’re suffering from kidney problems, unless directed to do so by a doctor.
This is because the kidneys excrete excess levels of minerals, thus, you may end up suffering from magnesium toxicity if your body is unable to flush away any increased amounts.
Below we take a look at the different forms and their associated uses. This will help you decide which is the best form for you to use.
Bottom Line: The best form of magnesium is dependent on your preferences, budget and any health issues you may have. Different types of magnesium are better for particular conditions.
Best Form Of Magnesium
The best form of magnesium for different conditions:
Long Term Deficiency
Anxiety, Sleep, Cardiovascular
Acid Reflux, Indigestion
Sore Muscles, Cramps, Muscle Relaxation, Athletes
Magnesium Salt Baths
Pain Relief, Relaxation
Oral Magnesium Supplements
Oral magnesium is taken via the mouth and comes in the form of capsules or pills.
Oral supplements are often the most common type of supplement available to purchase.
Oral forms are swallowed and absorption levels can range from 4% to 60% depending on the absorption rate of specific supplement and solubility (1).
Supplements vary depending on the type of magnesium used. Oral supplements are absorbed through the GI tract, meaning they travel through the mouth, throat, stomach, small intestine and large intestine.
Generally, 40% of magnesium is absorbed in the small intestine, 5% in the large intestine and 55% is excreted as waste. However, these rates can differ depending on the supplement taken. Furthermore, certain foods can hinder magnesium absorption. For instance, coffee and tea.
The most well-known forms of oral magnesium supplement include:
This is the most bioavailable form of magnesium and is a mineral salt typically found in nature.
It’s more soluble than magnesium oxide as it produces more hydrochloric acid that assists in absorption.
Magnesium chloride should be used as directed and generally they’re to be consumed with a meal to avoid stomach upset.
Diarrhea is a common side effect of taking magnesium chloride supplements.
However, taking these supplements are ideal for those with low levels of magnesium and those with digestion problems due to hydrochloric acid aiding the breakdown of proteins and absorption of minerals and nutrients.
Found in the earth’s crust, magnesium oxide has the lowest bioavailability at just 4%, meaning it’s not recommended for supplementation. However, due to its low cost, it’s often found in many store supplement products.
The best form of magnesium for constipation is magnesium citrate. This form of magnesium is a magnesium acid complex, which is typically an organic compound created in a laboratory as a complex between magnesium and oxygen, hydrogen and potentially nitrogen and carbon.
It cannot be classed as organic due to being formed in a lab, rather than being derived from nature.
Magnesium citrate is a combination of magnesium and citric acid, which is easily absorbed by the body and it may be the best form of magnesium for migraines, as recommended in The Migraine Cure (2).
The best form of magnesium for fatigue, this combination of magnesium and malic acid aids energy.
Malic acid is naturally present in the majority of cells within the body and is an essential component of enzymes that assist in the synthesis of ATP and producing energy.
Furthermore, the ionic bonds of malic acid and magnesium are quickly disintegrated, meaning magnesium malate is highly soluble.
Chelated forms of magnesium contain biological acid complex where magnesium is bonded to an amino acid featuring nitrogen.
These forms of supplement tend to be expensive to purchase due to the complexity in production.
Magnesium glycinate is a bond between magnesium and glycine; a non-essential amino acid.
It is one of the most bioavailable forms of magnesium due to relying on protein pathways for bioavailability, and one of the best absorbed.
Magnesium gycinate is one of the safest methods of correcting a deficiency and it is the least method to provoke diarrhoea.
Another chelated form of magnesium, which is ideal for those with cardiovascular problems as it can decrease the risk of heart attack and prevent arrhythmias.
This combination of magnesium and taurine is easily absorbed by the body and has little laxative side effects. Therefore, it’s also ideal for those who suffer from increased bowel movements.
Magnesium taurate is also the best form of magnesium for anxiety due to its calming properties, meaning it may potentially be the best form of magnesium for sleep as you’re more likely to fall asleep when you’re feeling calm and relaxed.
A good form of magnesium for those suffering with acid reflux or indigestion, magnesium carbonate contains antacid properties. When digested in the stomach, it mixes with hydrochloric acid to form magnesium chloride, making it easy to absorb.
Summary: Capsules are the most common way of taking magnesium. There are several different types of magnesium on the market in this form. The most common include magnesium chloride (best for digestion and general use), magnesium glycinate (one of the safest ways to increase levels and least likely to cause diarrhea), magnesium taurate (best for cardiovascular problems & sleep) and magnesium carbonate (best for indigestion and acid reflux). Magnesium oxide is not recommended for supplementation.
Trandermal magnesium is applied on to the skin and rubbed in. It comes in the form of oil, gel and creams.
Unlike oral magnesium supplements, transdermal magnesium, which is applied to the skin, doesn’t have side effects, such as an upset stomach or loose bowel movement.
It's absorbed via the outer layers of the skin, through the blood vessel system and into the bloodstream.
Furthermore, this form of supplementation is perfect for those who struggle to take tablets orally or who have digestion problems.
There are several types of transdermal magnesium supplement;
A formulation of magnesium chloride and water, there is no oil in its mixture, despite the name.
Magnesium oil can be purchased in a regular bottle or as a spray and is ideal for applying all over your skin or in a bath.
A recent study revealed over a 25% increase in magnesium levels after using sprays and soaks for 12 weeks (3).
This may be due to the fact that oral supplementation absorption rates can be affected by digestion and laxative side effects.
Therefore, transdermal magnesium supplements provide a better chance of increased magnesium levels within the body.
Magnesium oil has been known to affect muscles and is the best form of magnesium for muscle relaxation.
Furthermore, it has also been shown to potentially reduce oily skin as it can separate varying oils and fats (4).
Unlike oil, a gel has the ability to glide over the skin and is ideal for massage purposes.
The best form of magnesium for muscle cramps, magnesium gel can also help to moisturise dry, dehydrated skin.
This concentrated form is normally mixed with aloe vera and includes magnesium chloride; potentially the best form of magnesium for absorption.
Applied topically, it helps to improve muscle pain, proving especially useful for athletes or those who partake in regular exercise.
Magnesium gel can also boost mental health by balancing the stress hormone cortisol and adrenalin.
Magnesium Bath Salts
Magnesium salt baths are made from magnesium chloride and have a different structure than Epsom salts. Epsom salts, on the other hand, are a form of magnesium sulfate.
As magnesium salts enter the body via the skin and into the bloodstream, they don’t need to be absorbed into the stomach, meaning topical types are the most absorbable form of magnesium.
A magnesium bath can bring instant pain relief to your body, as well as keeping you calm and drawing toxins from your tissues.
This cream form of magnesium may include shea butter or coconut oil in order to hydrate the skin.
A magnesium lotion is ideal for all ages to use, even children and can alleviate skin conditions, such as eczema.
This form of magnesium also has the health benefits of other types of magnesium like promoting healthy cells, creasing inflammation and reducing muscle cramps.
Summary: Applying magnesium to the skin has proven to be a great way to absorb magnesium, with sprays and soaks showing a 25% increase in absorption over oral supplementation.
The best form of magnesium for you depends on your health issues and your overall preference of how to consume a supplement.
Topical forms of magnesium are ideal for directly dealing with issues of muscle cramps, inflammation and relaxation to promote a better night’s sleep.
Topical forms are also thought to be better absorbed by the body as they enter through the skin and then to the blood stream.
Oral supplements are delivered to the body via the digestive system and the majority of magnesium consumed is excreted as waste by the kidneys. However this can be the easiest way for most to ensure they have adequate levels of magnesium.
The type of magnesium whether it is chloride, carbonate or another form needs to be considered too. Some forms are better for paritcular issues than others. So if you are wanting to take a magnesium supplement for a particulalr reason then make sure you check the tabkle above out.
If you want to use for general health, then magnesium chloride or glycinate is perfectly suitable for this need.
Taking supplements can improve your overall levels of magnesium within the body, however, you need to take into account your lifestyle and diet.
A diet rich in magnesium foods will also help to increase magnesium levels, and consuming less caffeine, sugar and alcohol will prevent magnesium levels from being affected.