Magnesium is a mineral essential for human health yet it doesn’t get the press it should. For example, magnesium is more important for bone health than calcium, for without it, calcium isn’t absorbed by bone cells.
The fourth most plentiful mineral on the planet, magnesium is necessary for virtually every process in the human body, including creating DNA and proteins; regulating blood pressure and sugar levels; muscle, nerve, and brain function; and maintaining an active immune system.
Without enough magnesium, your body can’t produce the energy to do all the things you want and need it to do.
Chronic magnesium deficiency can manifest in any health malady, including: fibromyalgia, restless leg syndrome, high blood pressure, memory loss, asthma, tremors, insomnia, depression, chronic fatigue, osteoporosis, heart arrhythmia, and kidney stones.
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The World Health Organization has estimated that seventy-five percent of Americans don’t get enough magnesium in their diets. (1)
The reasons why we may not be getting enough magnesium in our diets are many:
- Immunological conditions like Chron’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome place a huge burden on the body as every cell is fighting or its life—literally.
- Proton pump inhibitors are a type of drug used to treat gastrointestinal issues like ulcers, acid reflux, and heartburn—many are over-the-counter and are greatly over-used. These work by blocking normal cell activity, thereby keeping magnesium from penetrating cells. (2)
- Chronic stress
- Use of diuretics
- Medications: corticosteroids, insulin, antibiotics
- Too much salt
- Too much coffee, soda, or alcohol
- Not enough magnesium-rich foods
C. Norman Sheal, MD, PhD is a neurosurgeon and pain management expert. He has this to say about magnesium deficiency:
“Every known illness is associated with a magnesium deficiency…magnesium is the most critical mineral required for electrical stability of every cell in the body. A magnesium deficiency may be responsible for more diseases than any other nutrient .“ (3)
Magnesium’s importance, therefore, can’t be over-emphasized but very few people recognize it.
Four Different Types of Magnesium
There are four different types of magnesium, in the sense that when combined with other compounds, the magnesium behaves differently to fulfill its different roles in the body. The bioavailability of magnesium is rather low; it’s meant to work together with other substances.
Below are magnesium compounds to consider for supplementing to optimize cell health and activity. Please be advised that most supplements are synthetic and not exactly like the minerals found naturally in the body. Deriving added magnesium from a swim in the ocean, an Epsom salt bath, and food sources are always preferable.
- Magnesium Aspartate – (not to be confused with “aspartame”!) one of the most bioavailable forms of magnesium, it is bound to asparitic acid (an amino acid) and stays in the blood—unlike some other forms of magnesium that are readily eliminated through waste. This compound can help boost general energy level, brain and muscle performance, and prevent muscle cramps and fatigue.
- Magnesium Citrate – used for stool softening and to prevent kidney stones, this form is derived from citric acid and is highly bioavailable.
- Magnesium Glycinate – glycinate is another amino acid chelated (bonded) with magnesium; it easily passes through intestinal barriers and is therefore highly absorbable and well tolerated. Taking with a meal will help avoid any potential side effects like upset stomach or diarrhea. May help alleviate insomnia.
- Magnesium Malate – when bound to malic acid (a fruit acid), magnesium improves energy metabolism, easing muscle pain such as experienced with fibromyalgia. (4)
- Magnesium Orotate – orotic acid is an enzyme that may foster heart health, however, as a magnesium supplement it may not be optimal. (5) Consumer Lab, an independent laboratory for health and nutrition products, warns:
“Magnesium orotate is not the best choice as a magnesium supplement and despite preliminary evidence of a benefit for people with heart disease, there is also evidence suggesting a potential safety concern at around the high dosage used for that purpose. Until more is known about the potential benefits and risks, it may be best not to use magnesium orotate.” (6)
The European Food Safety Authority had similar concerns:
“The Panel concludes that in the light of the tumour-promoting effect of orotic acid in animal experimentation, the small margin of safety to this effect from foreseeable exposure, and the absence of any relevant studies on genotoxicity and of any developmental studies, the use of orotate as a source of the eight other minerals [including magnesium] and choline at the proposed levels of use is of safety concern.” (7)
- Magnesium Taurate – good for brain and nervous system support, heart and mental health, easily absorbed and tolerated by the digestive system, taurine is a beta amino acid that, when paired with magnesium, enables easy movement through cell walls. (8) A beta amino acid is one that doesn’t create proteins and is highly adaptive as a nutrient carrier. Taurine delivers magnesium to a cell, which penetrates and stays inside while calcium stays outside the cell. The magnesium is therefore where it needs to be. Taurine itself has antioxidant properties and like magnesium, adapts to different roles in different types of cells (e.g., liver, pancreas, heart). Magnesium taurate causes diarrhea for some, so begin with a small dose and take with food. (9)
- Magnesium-L Threonate – improves memory and brain function and eases anxiety, with implications for treating neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s. (10)