Magnesium: How Much We Need & How to Get It

By Malisa M. Carullo, BSc, MSc, ND

Magnesium is one of the top five most abundant minerals in the human body.1-3 There are hundreds of biochemical reactions that require this mighty mineral.1-3 Without magnesium present, organs such as the heart and muscles simply shut down.1-3

How much magnesium do we need?

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), males between 31 and 50 years of age should have 420 mg per day of magnesium.1-3 Women in the same age group should receive 360 mg daily.1-3

Around 48% of the US population does not meet the recommended intake levels of this important mineral, and that percentage is even higher for men over the age of 71 and adolescent women.2,4

How can we get magnesium?

Foods rich in magnesium include dark green leafy vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, but the body only absorbs around 30% to 40% of magnesium from foods.2

When you consider that lifestyle factors can also negatively impact absorption, it is not a surprise that many prefer to supplement the mineral. Magnesium absorption seems to decrease with age, varies with dietary protein intake, and can even be affected in those with gastrointestinal disorders.1-3

Including a magnesium supplement in your diet may be one approach to make sure you are getting enough of this essential mineral; however, choosing the best form for you may be a challenge. Here is a brief overview of the most common forms of magnesium available for supplementation.

Magnesium bis-glycinate is one of the most highly bioavailable forms, meaning it is well absorbed into the bloodstream.5 This form of magnesium is special in that it is attached to an amino acid, glycine. Glycine is known to exert a calming effect on the nervous system which makes this form of magnesium recommended in instances where sleep disturbances, muscle spasms, or high stress are present.1,3,5-7

Magnesium citrate has been the form of choice for many individuals for quite some time, most likely because it has been shown to improve clinical outcomes for many health conditions. This form of magnesium is attached to citric acid, which is typically well absorbed into the bloodstream and has the ability to relax musculature and improve one’s stress response.1,3,7,8

Since magnesium citrate is effective at delivering high amounts of magnesium within a short period of time, it is recommended for those who experience occasional constipation. It can also be helpful if dosed before bed for the same reason to support those that may have difficulty sleeping.1,3,7,8

Magnesium L-threonate is the newest form available and is the only form that has the ability to reach the brain.9 With that being said, this form is best utilized when cognitive support is needed, mental relaxation, or to improve concentration.1,3,9,10

Magnesium oxide is a form that is commonly used in supplements because the size of this compound is very small. When compounds are smaller in size, large amounts can be packaged in capsules or tablets without occupying much space. Although the size may be desirable for use in supplement formulas, this form is a poor source of magnesium and has been known to cause undesirable digestive symptoms such as loose stools and intestinal cramping when taken at high doses.1,3,5,7

Magnesium malate is a form that is chosen for use in any health conditions where cellular energy needs to be supported. Malic acid (from malate) supports energy production inside cells so individuals who suffer from sore muscles, muscle pain, or body discomfort may experience relief from the use of this form.1,3,7

There are magnesium supplement options that will fit any lifestyle. Speak to your healthcare practitioner today to discover which magnesium option is right for you.

References

  1. Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine. Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine. Palo, Alto, Calif.: The Institute, 1991.
  2. National Institute of Health., Office of Dietary Supplements., Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate Intakes, Minerals. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK222881/. Accessed August 8, 2022.
  3. Gropper, Sareen., Smith, Jack. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. 2012. Cengage Learning.
  4. Rosanoff A et al. Suboptimal magnesium status in the United States: are the health consequences underestimated? Nutr Rev. 2012;70(3):153-164.
  5. Schuette SA et al. Bioavailability of magnesium glycinate vs magnesium oxide in patients with ileal resection. JPEN J Parenteral Nutr. 1994;18(5):430-435.
  6. Supakatisant D et al. Oral magnesium for relief in pregnancy-induced leg cramps: a randomized controlled trial. Matern Child Nutr. 2012;11(2):139-145.
  7. Firoz M et al. Bioavailability of US commercial magnesium preparations. Magnes Res. 2001;14(4):257-262.
  8. Kappeler et al. Higher bioavailability of magnesium citrate as compared to magnesium oxide shown by evaluation of urinary excretion and serum levels after single-dose administration in a randomized cross-over study. BMC Nutrition. 2017;3:7
  9. Slutsky I et al. Enhancement of learning and memory by elevating brain magnesium. Neuron. 2010;65(2):165-177.
  10. Lui et al. Efficacy and safety of MMFS-01, a synapse density enhancer, for treating cognitive impairment in older adults: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. 2016;49:971–990.
Malisa M. Carullo, BSc, MSc, ND
Malisa M. Carullo, BSc, MSc, ND completed her Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine at National University of Health Sciences in Chicago, Illinois. She completed her MSc. in biology at the University of Ottawa with an emphasis on genetics and molecular evolution. Malisa puts much focus on biological medicine and its treatment of chronic conditions, as well as healthy age management. She blends naturopathic medicine with sports medicine. She is currently working as a Clinical Affairs Liaison at Metagenics.

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