Magnesium, otherwise known as ‘nature’s relaxer’, is an important cofactor in synthesizing reproductive and mood hormones, and helps to relax tight muscles, reduce period cramps, prevent constipation, and mitigate anxiety, to name a few. It plays over 300 roles in our physiology, and common symptoms of deficiency include irritability, painful menstrual cramps, tight muscles, mental confusion, and high stress.
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is 400 mg/day, however, a typical Standard American Diet (SAD) affords only a fraction of that amount, in contrast to our Paleolithic ancestors who showed an intake of about 600 mg per day and usually devoid of deficiency-related symptoms.
When food is medicine, magnesium is best found in dark leafy green vegetables such as kale, spinach, swiss chard, and collard greens, because of their high chlorophyll (responsible for the green color) content in which magnesium is at the center of the molecule.
Almonds are also one of the natural richest food sources of magnesium (Fine, Santa Ana, Porter and Fordtran, 1991), as well as buckwheat grains, cocoa, pumpkin seeds, and whole grains. To a lesser extent, artichokes, potatoes with skin, green beans, and apples are also good contributors of magnesium (Grzebisz, 2011).
Unfortunately our food is not as nutrient dense as even 100 years ago, due to processes like modern farming techniques, and the refining processes that eliminates important vitamins and minerals.
Numerous studies have shown that at least 300 mg magnesium are best supplemented to significantly increase magnesium in our body (Vormann, 2003). In addition, higher dosages may increase in altered physiological states such as pregnancy, diuretics (e.g. coffee, alcohol), fast growth of the body (e.g. teenagers), pregnancy and lactation, and high physical activity (Grzebisz, 2011).
Supplements are meant to support a nutrient dense diet, not replace a SAD, and ideally under the guidance of a knowledgeable health professional who understands the various forms and dosages. There are many different forms of magnesium, as the molecule of attachment generally determines how it needs to be utilized within the body.
Magnesium citrate is one of the most common forms available on the market and usually given to patients with constipation due to softening bowel movements. It is also highly bioavailable, and has reported effectiveness for ailments such as premenstrual syndrome, high blood pressure, restless leg syndrome, and migraine prophylaxis (Gaby, 2011).
Magnesium oxide offers high substance in relation to cost; however it is not very absorbable and often used in milk of magnesia products because of its strong laxative effect.
Magnesium glycinate is another highly absorbable form like magnesium citrate, however, glycine is a calming amino acid so this is most appropriate for those with anxiety and chronic pain. This form is least likely to contribute to a laxative effect (Gaby, 2011).
Magnesium asparate is not commonly found although it is more bioavailable than citrate or oxide. Those who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome may benefit from aspartic acid as it plays an important role in cellular energy production. However aspartic acid has the potential to form aspartame, which can be neurotoxic. Glycinate and citrate would be much better options.
Magnesium malate is also not well known, but malate is also important for energy production because it is a vital substrate in our biochemical energy cycles. This form is highly absorbable to do easily broken ionic bonds, and may be fitting in fatigue and pain-related conditions such as Fibromyalgia (Ravensthorpe, 2014).
Magnesium orotate, like malate and aspartate that contribute directly to cellular energy, orotic acid also delivers magnesium ions to the cell’s mitochondria (‘powerhouse’) and nucleus (‘epicenter) to help cells produce more DNA and RNA for greater repair and regeneration.
Magnesium taurate is a less common preparation, however appropriate in cardiac conditions and general heart function. Taurine is an important amino acid for the heart muscle because it helps improve contractions, lower blood pressure, helps decrease plaque formation, and helps protect against oxidative stress. (Xu, Arneja, Tappia, Dhalla, 2008).
Magnesium sulfate is best as intravenous solutions or topically such as in epsom salt baths, versus taken orally, due to our kidneys being unable to absorb sulfate as a negatively charged moiety. If taken orally, mal-absorption can lead to a strong laxative effect, like magnesium oxide (Gaby, 2011).
Magnesium chloride, like sulfate, can also be utilized topically as it is prevalent in gel and oral preparations for muscle cramps and relaxation. It is highly absorbable in pill form despite only has about 12 percent magnesium, which can still have benefit to improving kidney function and boosting a sluggish metabolism especially if on a detox (Ravensthorpe, 2014).
Magnesium carbonate is a popular, bioavailable form that contains antacid properties, making it appropriate for those suffering from acid reflux and indigestion due to turning into magnesium chloride when mixed with the hydrochloric acid in our stomach (Ravensthorpe, 2014).
Magnesium L-threonate is highly absorbable, so much so that it crosses the blood brain barrier, and a wonderful amino acid for calming the nervous system, and those with brain-type conditions such as cognitive decline (e.g. Alzheimer’s).
Magnesium picolinate is inexpensive and generally in liquid form, however more research is needed for reported health benefits.
There are many forms of magnesium that can be utilized by the body in some way. Determinants include the goal of therapy, and dietary evaluation. Absorption can also vary by form, such as powder versus capsule, where the body first has to break down a capsule and takes more time than solely the powder. Magnesium is one of the most therapeutic and beneficial minerals, and we certainly do not get enough from food alone.
Fine, K.D, Santa Ana, C.A., Porter, J.L., & Fordtran, J.S. (1991). Intestinal absorption of magnesium from food and supplements. Journal of Clinical Investigation. 88: 396-402.
Gaby, A. (2011). Nutritional Medicine. Fritz Perlberg Publishing.
Grzebisz, W. (2011). Magnesium-food and human health. Journal of Elementology. 16(2): 299-233.
Ravensthorpe, M. (2014). The best and worst forms of magnesium to take as a supplement.
Vormann, J. (2003). Magnesium: nutrition and metabolism. Molecular Aspects of Medicine. 24:27-37.
Xu, Y., Arneja, A., Tapia, P., & Dhalla, N. (2008). The potential health benefits of taurine in cardiovascular disease. Experimental &Clinical Cardiology. 12(2):57-65.
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