What They Are, Food Sources, Supplementation

YOU’RE ROAMING THE supplement aisle at your local pharmacy. You look at the magnesium shelf, and you’re hit with a load of words that sound like something out of your high school chemistry textbook.

Magnesium is having a moment right now. It’s blown up on platforms like TikTok as being a cure for sleep issues and headaches. But, deciphering the mess that is the supplement market proves more difficult for this specific mineral than others.

Why are there so many different types of magnesium? How do you determine which one you’re supposed to take? We asked the experts to lay out which ones matter, here.


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What Is Magnesium?

Before we answer any questions about magnesium types, we first need to cover what magnesium itself is.

Magnesium is a mineral that assists over 300 enzymes carry out different bodily processes, “including protein synthesis, glucose control and nerve function,” says Perri Halperin, M.S., R.D., clinical nutrition coordinator at Mount Sinai Health System.

Magnesium doesn’t always come in its pure form. The different “types” you see in the supplement store occur when the mineral combine with other chemicals to form a new compound. “For example, magnesium chloride contains magnesium and chlorine. Magnesium glycinate is magnesium and glycine,” an amino acid, says Abby Langer, R.D., Men’s Health nutrition advisor.

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What Are Different Types of Magnesium?

Each specific compound plays a unique role in our body’s processes. There’s several kinds, but these 4 have researched benefits.

Magnesium Glycinate

As stated above, magnesium glycine is magnesium attached to the amino acid glycine. It’s be touted for its use as a sleep aid. While more research needs to be done, Halperin says, there’s some indication that this supplement may effect the neurotransmitters that are directly related to sleep. It’s also been showed to affect melatonin levels and relax muscles.

Halperin suggests taking about 200 milligrams of this around 30 minutes before bed for best results.

Magnesium Oxide

Magnesium oxide is a supplement that could help with more severe forms of constipation. It’s “not well absorbed by the body,” so it helps flush out whatever is stuck, Halperin says. Small studies have also found that magnesium oxide might help with migrane headaches.

Magnesium Citrate

A mix of magnesium and citric acid, this form of magnesium is similar to magnesium oxide in that it can be helpful in treating constipation. It might be better at dealing with more mild cases, since it’s better absorbed by the body then it’s oxygen counterpart.

Magnesium L-Threonate

Magnesium combines with threonate acid to create this compound, that may have some major brain benefits. Research is still in the early stages and more human trials need to be completed, Halperin says, but this compound is “highly absorbable by the body and can cross the blood blood brain barrier, which may be a potential mechanism behind why it improves cognitive function.”

Can You Get Different Types of Magnesium From Food?

Yes, but getting enough is a different story.

It is possible to get many forms of magnesium through foods, but generally, those participating in a Western-style diet are likely to be deficient. “North Americans often don’t consume adequate magnesium,” says Langer.

Western-style diets tend to be lower on plant-based foods, which is where most magnesium sources come from. Not many foods contain magnesium, and the ones that do only contain a small amount. For example, pumpkin seeds are quite high in magnesium, but they still only contain about 37 percent of the daily value recommended, which is about 400 to 420 milligrams daily for men, Halperin says. A half a cup of spinach contains about 19 percent.

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In addition to magnesium not being highly present in the foods we eat, our body only absorbs so much of it. Typically, we only absorb about 30 to 40 percent of the daily magnesium we do consume. It’s uncommon for magnesium deficiency to result in symptoms, but symptoms of nausea, vomiting, lethargy, and muscle weakness are possible, Halperin says.

Supplementation should be considered, says Langer. Of course, though, it should be done under the supervision of a doctor or registered dietician. The list above includes some of the more commonly used types of magnesium, but a healthcare professional will be able to point you to the correct type to use select based on your needs.

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Cori Ritchey, NASM-CPT is an Associate Health & Fitness Editor at Men’s Health and a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor. You can find more of her work in HealthCentral, Livestrong, Self, and others.

This article was originally posted here.

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