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Ask the Wellness Educator: Choosing the Best Form of Magnesium

Choosing the Best Form of Magnesium
I take magnesium supplements and am wondering if you can explain the different types, (eg. citrate, glycinate, etc.). Thank you very much.

Diane Lathey

Dr. Jen's Answer:
There are a lot of different types of magnesium and it can be quite confusing to know which one to take. To start, magnesium is always bound to another nutrient in supplement form, for the sake of stability. Some nutrients that are bound to it release the magnesium into its single form easily, and some hang on tighter, making it less absorbable. Magnesium carbonate, sulfate, hydroxide, gluconate, and oxide are forms that are least absorbable into the tissues. But the upside is that because they are poorly absorbed, they act as a laxative in the intestinal tract, so are useful to treat constipation. And in terms of the laxative effect, they are a good choice because your body will not become dependent on them. In comparison, a stimulant-type laxative (such as cascara) can be habit-forming and add to the problem of constipation when taken for the long-term.

Some other forms of magnesium, including citrate, taurate, glycinate, and threonate are very well absorbed and will have a significant benefit to muscles and tissues. Citrate is one of the more common forms and is very cost-effective. It can easily be found in a powder form in case a person is averse to taking pills. The glycinate form provides the amino acid glycine, which offers the benefit of regulating neurotransmitters and can be calming. The taurate form provides the amino acid taurine, which is recommended for cardiovascular issues such as hypertension, ischemic heart disease, and atherosclerosis.

Magnesium threonate is the newest form of magnesium, and has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier. This makes it an excellent choice to prevent dementia and other cognitive problems. There is a high ratio of threonate compared to magnesium in this formula, so it typically takes three capsules to acquire 150 mg of pure magnesium. If you need more than 150 mg, I recommend mixing in another form of magnesium to achieve a higher dose.

Many Americans are deficient in magnesium, so supplementation is recommended for anyone with tight muscles, anxiety, sleep problems, and cardiovascular disease. As for dosage, I recommend starting with about 200 mg daily, and increasing it slowly. When you start to experience a laxative effect, you know your body has absorbed as much as it can (there are some exceptions to this rule), and that you have reached the correct amount for your body.

Magnesium is an important mineral that is used in hundreds of biochemical reactions and it is one of those nutrients that can really make a difference in a person's overall health.

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