types of magnesium

Everything You Need to Know About the (Many) Types of Magnesium Supplements

If you need to boost your magnesium levels, consider these kinds of magnesium supplements.

Fast Facts

  • Magnesium is an important nutrient many Americans could use more of

  • A common need for magnesium supplements is due to magnesium deficiency, which can arise from alcohol consumption and certain medications and medical conditions

  • The best types of magnesium supplements can increase magnesium levels and possibly provide other benefits, like lowering symptoms of depression, improving bone health, or getting better sleep

Most people know how important it is to consume enough nutrients daily to stay healthy—but do you know which ones you need the most? All our  health needs are different—but Magnesium is one of those nutrients that many American’s don’t get enough of.

Magnesium is a mineral naturally found in the body, in certain foods, medications, and dietary supplements. Magnesium’s benefits include muscle and nerve function, DNA and RNA synthesis, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation (1).

If you’re one of the folks needing a little bit more magnesium in their diet, here’s what you need to know about the different types of magnesium and what they’re best for.

Who Should Supplement Magnesium? 

Anybody can consider magnesium supplements to improve their health, but they’re crucial for those with a magnesium deficiency. 

According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, magnesium deficiency occurs when there’s excessive mineral loss in your body (1). In developed countries, like the United States, about 10-30 percent are magnesium deficient (2). 

Some common causes of magnesium deficiency include (3):

  • Alcohol consumption
  • Certain medications
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Excessive urination (known as polyuria)
  • Excessive sweating
  • Hyperaldosteronism (adrenal gland releases too much aldosterone into the blood)
  • Kidney tubule disorders
  • Digestive health conditions like celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Malnutrition 
  • Pancreatitis

Magnesium deficiency can cause symptoms like (3):

  • Irregular eye movements
  • Convulsions
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle spasms or cramps
  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness

If you suspect you are deficient in magnesium, visit your healthcare provider for testing. Knowing the underlying causes of magnesium deficiency is crucial before pursuing treatments like supplementation.

Magnesium Glycinate

Magnesium glycinate is a magnesium salt of glycine commonly used to treat magnesium deficiency (4). 

Aside from increasing magnesium levels, supplementing magnesium glycinate may help people manage symptoms of mental health conditions. An older study involving patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder revealed that taking 125 to 300 milligrams (mg) of magnesium glycinate and taurate daily can improve symptoms (5).

Order: NOW Foods Magnesium Glycinate ($25)

Magnesium Oxide

Magnesium oxide is another magnesium supplement containing organic and inorganic magnesium salts that can help increase low magnesium levels (6). 

This supplement may help address digestive problems, as it’s been used to relieve heartburn, sour stomach, or acid indigestion. Also, magnesium oxide can act as a laxative, which can be helpful if you’re ever “backed up” (7). 

In addition, a research study involving 63 people with migraine headaches found that taking 500 mg of magnesium oxide in combination with sodium valproate daily reduced the frequency of their headaches (8).

Order: Nature Made Magnesium Oxide ($14)

Magnesium Citrate

This magnesium supplement contains citrate salt of elemental magnesium. Among other things, magnesium citrate is often found in constipation relief medication, as it pulls water into the intestine (9). Citroma is the brand name of magnesium citrate, a liquid medication prescribed to treat irregular episodes of constipation to soften stool (10). 

Aside from constipation relief, taking magnesium citrate may improve bone health. A 2021 review suggests that people who are magnesium deficient are at a higher risk of bone fractures. That same review reveals that when patients took magnesium citrate, it improved their bone mineral density and lowered their risk of bone fractures (11).

For dietary purposes, magnesium citrate may be taken as tablets or capsules to improve magnesium levels. 

Order: Thorne Magnesium CitraMate ($15)

Magnesium L-Threonate

Also known as magnesium threonate, magnesium L-threonate is a synthesized magnesium that can help sustain healthy magnesium levels (12). It is a manufactured supplement in which magnesium is combined with threonic acid, which arises from the metabolic breakdown of vitamin C (13).

Taking magnesium L-threonate may improve both your sleep and cognitive performance. According to a 2022 study involving 109 Chinese adults aged 18 to 65, there was a significant improvement in their memory and cognitive function after taking 2 grams (g) of magnesium L-threonate capsules daily (14).

Order: MagTein Magnesium L-Threonate ($27)

Magnesium Sulfate

Magnesium sulfate is a magnesium salt of sulfuric acid containing anti-convulsant, anesthetic (pain relief), anti-arrhythmia, cathartic, and other properties that can benefit your health (15). 

Like magnesium oxide and citrate, magnesium sulfate can also make you poop fast if taken orally. If used externally as a soaking solution, such as Epsom salt, it can help relieve pain from minor sprains, bruises, muscle aches, stiff joints, and tired feet (16).

Order: Dr. Clark Store Magnesium Sulfate ($19)

Other Forms of Magnesium

Malate: Magnesium malate contains both magnesium and malic acid (17). According to a 2019 study involving rats, the supplement provided the most bioavailable magnesium. This means that magnesium malate increased the amount of magnesium absorption and availability in the rats’ bodies (18).

Orotate: This magnesium supplement combines magnesium and orotic acid (19). Like the other magnesium supplements, magnesium orotate can help improve your magnesium levels, but it also has another benefit. Taking magnesium orotate may improve your gut-brain axis, lowering gastrointestinal and mental health disorder symptoms (20). If you didn’t know, there’s a strong connection between your brain and your digestive system. So, if you’re feeling stressed, it can cause digestive issues, and vice versa (21). 

Chloride: Magnesium chloride is another magnesium chloride comprising magnesium salt, inorganic chloride, magnesium halide, and inorganic magnesium salt (22). This supplement can increase your daily intake of magnesium if your levels are low (23). 

Lactate: Magnesium lactate is a magnesium salt formed from magnesium and lactic acid (24). Magnesium lactate may be the best choice if you have a sensitive stomach. In a research study involving 28 people with magnesium deficiency, they had fewer digestive problems after taking this magnesium lactate (25). Magnesium lactate may also help lower stress levels and anxiety, but more research is necessary to confirm this benefit (26).

The Bottom Line

There are a number of reasons you may wish to supplement magnesium, which comes in different forms that affect and are absorbed by the body different. Speak with your doctor before supplementing, and consider the types of magnesium available to you.

1. National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements (2022). Magnesium. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/
2. DiNicolantonio, James J. et al (2018). Subclinical magnesium deficiency: a principal driver of cardiovascular disease and a public health crisis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5786912/#
3. MedLine Plus (2023). Magnesium deficiency. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000315.htm
4. National Library of Medicine PubChem. Magnesium glycinate. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Magnesium-glycinate
5. Eby, George A. et al (2006). Rapid recovery from major depression using magnesium treatment. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0306987706001034?via%3Dihub
6. Blancqueart, Laura et al (2019). Predicting and Testing Bioavailability of Magnesium Supplements. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6683096/
7. MedLine Plus (2015). Magnesium Oxide. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a601074.html#
8. Karimi, Narges et al (2019). The efficacy of magnesium oxide and sodium valproate in prevention of migraine headache: a randomized, controlled, double-blind, crossover study. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13760-019-01101-x
9. National Library of Medicine PubChem. Magnesium Citrate. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Magnesium-Citrate
10. Cleveland Clinic. Magnesium Citrate Solution. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/20745-magnesium-citrate-solution
11. Rondanelli, Mariangela et al (2019). An update on magnesium and bone health. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33959846/
12. National Cancer Institute. Magnesium L-Threonate. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-drug/def/magnesium-l-threonate
13. National Library of Medicine PubChem. Threonic acid. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Threonic-acid
14. Zhang, Chengxiang et al (2022). A Magtein®, Magnesium L-Threonate, -Based Formula Improves Brain Cognitive Functions in Healthy Chinese Adults. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36558392/
15. National Library of Medicine PubChem. Magnesium Sulfate. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Magnesium-Sulfate
16. Mayo Clinic (2023). Magnesium Sulfate (Oral Route, Topical Application Route, Route Not Applicable). https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/magnesium-sulfate-oral-route-topical-application-route-route-not-applicable/description/drg-20088513
17. National Library of Medicine PubChem. Magnesium Malate. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/164748
18. Uysal, Nazan et al (2019). Timeline (Bioavailability) of Magnesium Compounds in Hours: Which Magnesium Compound Works Best? https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29679349/
19. National Library of Medicine PubChem. Magnesium Orotate. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/3036905
20. Schiopu, Cristina et al (2022). Magnesium Orotate and the Microbiome–Gut–Brain Axis Modulation: New Approaches in Psychological Comorbidities of Gastrointestinal Functional Disorders. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9029938/
21. Carabotti, Marilia et al (2015). The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4367209/
22. National Library of Medicine PubChem. Magnesium Chloride. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Magnesium-Chloride
23. Schuchardt, Jan Phillipp et al (2017). Intestinal Absorption and Factors Influencing Bioavailability of Magnesium-An Update. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5652077/
24. National Library of Medicine PubChem. Magnesium Lactate. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/6536825
25. Robinson, Caroline M. et al (2017). Magnesium lactate in the treatment of Gitelman syndrome: patient-reported outcomes. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5837242/
26. Noah, Lionel et al (2021). Effect of magnesium and vitamin B6 supplementation on mental health and quality of life in stressed healthy adults: Post‐hoc analysis of a randomised controlled trial. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9292249/