Which Form of Supplemental Magnesium Should You Take?

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Magnesium is a mineral crucial for over 300 processes in the body. This includes muscle and nerve function, carbohydrate metabolism, blood pressure and blood sugar regulation, bone development, and more. Deficiency has been associated with conditions like type 2 diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, migraines, and cardiovascular diseases. Although this mineral is present in many foods, studies found that many people in the Western world don’t consume enough of this mineral through diet alone. [1] To boost their intake, many people look for supplements, but there are many varieties of magnesium. Here is a list of each form and its uses so you could determine which one would be most beneficial for you.

10 Forms of Magnesium and What They Do

Magnesium citrate

Magnesium citrate is bound by citric acid, which is found naturally in citrus fruits. Some research finds that this form is the easiest to absorb into the digestive tract compared to other forms. It’s often taken as an oral supplement to increase magnesium levels; however, it’s also prescribed at higher doses to treat constipation because it works as a natural laxative. It’s even used to empty the colon prior to a colonoscopy. Although it’s often marketed to calm and relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression, more research is needed on this mineral and its effects on these conditions. 

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Magnesium L-threonate

A combination of magnesium and threonic acid creates the salt called magnesium L-threonate. It’s derived from the metabolic breakdown of vitamin C and it’s easily absorbed by the body. Animal studies show it can increase magnesium levels in brain cells. Because of these potential brain benefits, it’s often used to help with brain disorders like depression and memory loss, but more human studies are needed to prove its effectiveness. It also contains less of the mineral than other forms, which may make it less ideal for those with a deficiency. [2]

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Magnesium lactate

This type of magnesium forms when the mineral binds with lactic acid to form a salt. The body produces lactic acid through blood cells and muscles, and this chemical has also become manufactured to use as a preservative and flavoring agent in food. As a common additive, magnesium lactate regulates acidity and fortifies food products, but it’s not as popular as a dietary supplement. People who take it typically need to take large doses of magnesium on a regular basis or don’t tolerate other forms. This version is easy to absorb while also being a little easier to digest, according to a small study. Research indicates it could help treat stress and anxiety but more evidence is needed. It may also help relieve menstrual cramps or leg cramps for pregnant women.

Magnesium chloride

This is a magnesium salt that also contains chlorine. It’s easily absorbed during digestion, so many people use it as a multi-purpose supplement to treat magnesium deficiency, constipation, and heartburn. It typically comes in the form of a capsule or tablet, but it could also come as lotions, topical ointments, or flakes to put in a bath or foot soak. People tend to use these lotions to soothe sore muscles, but there’s little evidence they help improve magnesium levels in the body. 

Magnesium taurate

This magnesium contains the amino acid taurine. Taking these supplements may help regulate blood sugar and promote healthy blood sugar levels. It may also help support healthy blood pressure. More human research is needed; however, a recent study found that magnesium taurate reduced hypertension in rats. Future studies may examine this supplement’s effect on heart health.

Magnesium oxide

This form is a salt with a mix of oxygen and magnesium. It looks like a white powder, although it’s also available as capsules or as a liquid. It’s not usually used to treat magnesium deficiencies since research suggests it’s not easily absorbed by the body. Rather, it may help short-term relief of digestive issues, like constipation, heartburn, and indigestion. It may also help prevent and treat migraines.

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Magnesium malate

This form contains malic acid, which appears naturally in fruits, wines, and other foods. The digestive tract absorbs magnesium malate well, which effectively raises magnesium levels. Anecdotal evidence reports that this form is gentle on the digestive system with less of a laxative effect. Some recommend it for people with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia to reduce pain but there’s limited research supporting these benefits.

Magnesium sulfate 

This form is most commonly known as Epsom salt. It’s a mixture of magnesium, oxygen, and sulfur. It can help alleviate constipation but it’s unpleasant to eat, so many people opt for others supplements. Instead, it’s used in baths to soothe muscles and relieve stress, or in skin care products. The mineral can contribute to stress relief and calming muscles, but there’s not much evidence it can absorb through the skin. 

Magnesium bisglycinate and glyctinate

This variation is a combination of magnesium and the amino acid glycine, which is used in the body to construct protein and is found in many high-protein foods. Moreover, glycine on its own is used as a supplement to help sleep and treat inflammation. Both Magnesium Bislgycinate and glycinate are easy to absorb and can have a calming effect, which may help with insomnia, stress, depression, and anxiety. However, more research is needed to understand its full effects.

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Magnesium orotate

Unlike other forms, magnesium orotate doesn’t have a strong laxative effect, while still being easy to absorb. Preliminary studies indicate it could improve heart health because orotic acid is found naturally in the body to help produce energy in the heart and blood vessels. It’s also an antioxidant. Therefore, it’s a popular supplement for athletes. Research is studying this form to see if it could help people with heart disease, and one study shows some potential. However, this form is more expensive than other magnesium supplements with only limited evidence of its benefits. [3]

Should You Take a Supplement?

Magnesium appears in many foods in a healthy diet, like in leafy greens like spinach, seeds, nuts, legumes, tuna, dark chocolate, avocados, yogurt, bananas, and whole grains like brown rice. However, sometimes a healthcare provider might recommend a supplement if there’s not enough magnesium in the diet. Supplements could help boost intake, although obtaining it through food is always the best strategy to try first. The recommended daily average is 420 mg for men and 320 mg for women. Consuming too much could lead to abdominal cramping, nausea, and diarrhea. Extremely high amounts could lead to magnesium toxicity or cardiac arrest. 

Additionally, some health conditions or medications require this kind of supplement, such as people with digestive disorders, type 2 diabetes, and alcoholism. All in all, discuss with your practitioner if taking magnesium could be beneficial for you. If someone is not low in magnesium, there’s little evidence that a supplement would provide many benefits. [4]

Keep Reading: Signs of Vitamin B-12 Deficiency You Should Never Ignore


  1. “Magnesium.Examine. Mike Murray. August 18, 2022.
  2. “10 Interesting Types of Mg (and What to Use Each For).Healthline. July 12, 2022.
  3. “11 Types of Magnesium: Benefits, Supplements, Foods.” Very Well Health. Rachel MacPherson, BA, CPT. August 3, 2021.
  4. “Magnesium.National Institute of Health.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and is for information only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition and/or current medication. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.