Looking for the best vitamin with magnesium?
There are many forms of magnesium available for use in health applications. These forms of magnesium differ biochemically, which affects how (and how well) the body absorbs, assimilates, metabolizes, distributes, and retains them. Certain forms, for example, are much more rapidly assimilated or better utilized than others.
Best Form of Magnesium: A Complete List Plus Our #1 Pick
What’s the best form of magnesium to take? From the standpoint of good health, perhaps the most important magnesium vitamin available is magnesium chloride.
Magnesium chloride provides a source of both magnesium and the nutrient chloride – which supports digestive function and enzyme activity.
In addition, magnesium chloride is the most absorbable form of magnesium when used in magnesium oil and other forms of transdermal magnesium. As discussed below, these forms of skin-absorbed magnesium overcome many of magnesium’s side effects and provide an excellent alternative route to magnesium absorption, bypassing problems associated with the GI tract.
Other forms of magnesium used in vitamins and health applications include:
- Magnesium hydroxide
- Magnesium oxide
- Magnesium carbonate
- Magnesium gluconate
- Magnesium lactate
- Magnesium aspartate
- Magnesium diglycinate
Krebs cycle salts of magnesium include:
- Magnesium citrate
- Magnesium alpha-ketoglutarate
- Magnesium succinate
- Magnesium fumarate
- Magnesium malate
As dietary supplements, capsules or tablets that provide Krebs cycle forms of magnesium are considered more viable options because the body recognizes and utilizes them better than other supplemental forms. Magnesium diglycinate is another potentially useful form of magnesium for supplemental use. Because magnesium diglycinate is not broken down into its component parts during the digestion process, oral use of this form is better tolerated and should not cause loose stools or intestinal discomfort. However, the forms of magnesium typically found in laxatives (e.g., magnesium hydroxide or milk of magnesia) are especially not advisable for long-term use.
Our #1 Pick for the best form of magnesium supplement? Magnesium chloride. When using magnesium chloride, magnesium is more rapidly assimilated because no conversion to chloride is necessary. Magnesium oxide and magnesium carbonate, on the other hand, require the body to produce additional hydrochloric acid in order to process and assimilate them.
Choosing the Best Magnesium Supplement for You
Perhaps the first thing to consider when choosing a magnesium vitamin is the fact that magnesium supplements themselves have many limitations and side effects that factor into the decision.
Magnesium Supplement Side Effects
Oral magnesium supplements are inefficiently absorbed because they are not designed for a controlled rate of release, and therefore can overwhelm capacity of the digestive tract and cause rapid excretion of magnesium.1
When magnesium from oral supplements overwhelms the digestive tract’s capacity for absorption, the result is often loose stools or other gastrointestinal effects accompanied by rapid excretion of magnesium and potential loss of other minerals. While the body can progressively adapt to increasingly larger oral doses of magnesium, the tendency to produce laxative and other gastrointestinal effects (significantly reducing magnesium absorption) makes establishing proper supplement dosages more difficult.
Absorbable Forms of Magnesium
Most orally-administered magnesium supplements (similar to dietary sources) exhibit limitations and constraints (and side effects) relating to absorption via the intestinal tract. These limitations include the smaller capacity of the intestines to absorb therapeutic levels of magnesium.
This is one of the reasons that oral supplements do not increase magnesium levels in the body as rapidly as transdermal magnesium. It can take weeks or months (or longer) to restore or replenish tissue magnesium levels when using oral supplements alone.
There are many other factors affecting magnesium absorption in the intestinal tract. Several of these factors can reduce or prevent uptake of minerals taken as oral supplements or when they are available in foods.
For example, the presence of fat-soluble vitamins and adequate dietary cholesterol is required to maintain proper integrity of the intestinal mucosa in order to allow the absorption of needed minerals (e.g., magnesium) while preventing the absorption of toxins and undigested proteins.2
Additional factors affecting rates of magnesium absorption include:
- Competition among minerals for absorption,
- Low levels of hydrochloric acid in the stomach,
- Overly alkaline environments in the upper digestive tract, and
- Enzyme deficiencies.
Even the most absorbable forms of magnesium may be rendered ineffective either by the presence of certain nutrients (e.g., vitamin C) that can prevent mineral chelates from releasing bound minerals, or by the binding of magnesium by chelating substances in foods (e.g., phytic acid in grains, oxalic acid in leafy green vegetables, or tannins).3 In addition, many drugs adversely affect magnesium levels, either by binding it or accelerating its excretion.
A final issue complicating the use of magnesium vitamins is the combination of lower rates of assimilation with the need to gradually increase doses of oral supplements. When these factors are combined, the result is an increase in the time period required to raise magnesium levels in the body.
For example, Dr. Mark Sircus, author of Transdermal Magnesium Therapy, finds that intestinal transit times of less than twelve hours cause impairment of magnesium absorption.4 Yet, intestinal transit times of less than twelve hours are the rule when therapeutic doses of magnesium are administered through oral magnesium supplements.
Given the drawbacks and difficulties in absorbing orally-administered magnesium, there are major advantages to using transdermal magnesium that is absorbed directly through skin.
Transdermal magnesium chloride is available as magnesium oil, a form of magnesium spray. When applied to the skin, whether through spray, lotion or baths, the treatment is referred to as “transdermal magnesium therapy”.
Another well-known form of magnesium used for transdermal applications is magnesium sulfate. Magnesium sulfate is most familiar to users in its crystalline form, known as Epsom salts. Magnesium sulfate is more rapidly excreted via the kidneys than magnesium chloride, and therefore it is more difficult to assimilate.5
Due to the relatively greater ease of assimilation and metabolism by the body, less magnesium chloride than magnesium sulfate is required to achieve similar effects. Research suggests that magnesium chloride is a safer form (especially in pregnancy) than magnesium sulfate, which can be toxic in high doses.6 It has been proposed that the body better assimilates and retains magnesium chloride because it interacts more effectively with cellular components.7
Magnesium sulfate is useful in certain applications when sulfur may be needed. For example, it is often used in cases of autism for which supplemental sulfur may be beneficial.8 However, when comparing magnesium chloride to magnesium sulfate, Dr. Sircus describes the former as “universal medicine,” and describes magnesium sulfate as a related compound whose “effect, form and toxicity demands it be used in special applications when sulfur is needed.”9
Magnesium chloride is among the most effective and safe forms of magnesium available for use in health applications. Beyond its safety and effectiveness, magnesium chloride is widely used because it can be applied transdermally as a liquid, administered orally (as liquid, or supplemental tablet or capsule), or injected into the body. The fact that magnesium chloride offers more flexible options for use contributes to its value, ease of use, and popularity both among health professionals and individual users.
One of the simplest and most effective means of use is transdermal application via a convenient magnesium spray. The effectiveness of topical application of magnesium chloride is the basis for the rising popularity of transdermal magnesium therapy.
When selecting the best magnesium supplement, it’s important to be aware of not only the various types of magnesium vitamins available, but also the side effects of magnesium, and the methods that can be used to overcome them. Use of skin-absorbed transdermal magnesium chloride oil increases uptake, absorption, and retention of magnesium, and eliminates problems related to oral administration of magnesium supplements, which must be absorbed through the digestive tract.
- Sircus, Mark, Ac., OMD. Transdermal Magnesium Therapy (2007), 32. [↩]
- Sircus, 32. [↩]
- Sircus, 32. [↩]
- Sircus, 31. [↩]
- Sircus, 209. [↩]
- Magnesium Chloride or Magnesium Sulfate: a Genuine Question. Durlach, Jean, et al. 2005. Magnesium Research 18 (3): 187-92. [↩]
- Durlach, Jean, et al. 2005. Magnesium Research 18 (3): 189-90. [↩]
- Sircus, 209-211. [↩]
- Sircus, 212. [↩]