11 Types of Magnesium: Benefits, Supplements, Foods

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Magnesium is a vital nutrient in your body that is very abundant, especially in your bones. It is responsible for several processes such as blood pressure and blood sugar regulation, nerve function, bone formation, and more.

Two kinds of minerals are required for you to stay healthy: macrominerals and trace minerals. Macrominerals are needed in more significant amounts in your body, while trace minerals are only necessary in small quantities. Magnesium is a macromineral along with calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, chloride, and sulfur.

Magnesium, along with other minerals, is obtained mainly by eating a healthy diet filled with a wide range of foods. Sometimes it can be difficult to reach the required amounts of minerals, so your health care provider might recommend a mineral supplement. Additionally, some people have health conditions or are on medications that require them to take a mineral supplement.

Magnesium is responsible for helping with over 300 enzyme systems that regulate many reactions in your body, such as:

  • Synthesizing protein
  • Nerve function
  • Muscle function and contraction
  • Blood sugar regulation
  • Controlling blood pressure
  • Energy metabolism
  • Heart rhythm
  • Transporting calcium and potassium
  • DNA synthesis
  • Glutathione synthesis (an antioxidant)
  • Bone development

Types of Magnesium

There are at least 11 different magnesium types that can be taken in supplement form, used topically, and found in food. Specific types of magnesium can be recommended for certain conditions. There are pros and cons for different kinds of magnesium, such as how well the body absorbs them. Different types of magnesium may be better for your needs than others.

Magnesium Citrate

Magnesium citrate is a widely used type of magnesium in salt form and is often recommended to treat constipation. It is made from magnesium bound with citric acid, a compound that gives citrus fruits their tart flavor.

Magnesium citrate often comes in powder form that is mixed with liquid to take orally. Taking magnesium citrate for constipation may increase the number of bowel movements that occur and soften stool but should only be used for a maximum of one week unless your doctor says otherwise.

Magnesium citrate is used to empty the colon in preparation for a colonoscopy or other procedures. It can also be used to increase levels of magnesium in the body. Magnesium citrate is one of the most bioavailable and absorbable forms of magnesium.

Magnesium Oxide

Magnesium oxide is also a salt that is a combination of magnesium and oxygen. It is typically found over the counter in powder, tablet, or capsule form. It also comes as a liquid preparation in milk of magnesia, which is often used for relieving constipation.

Heartburn relief and stomach upset are other reasons why people use magnesium oxide. Sometimes people use magnesium oxide as a dietary supplement if they cannot get enough magnesium through their diet. 

Magnesium Aspartate

Magnesium aspartate is a combination of aspartic acid and magnesium, which forms a salt. It's one of the more easily absorbed forms of magnesium available as a dietary supplement.

Magnesium aspartate is often combined with zinc as a way to increase serum testosterone levels, but the research on the efficacy of this supplement is mixed.

Magnesium Chloride

Magnesium chloride, a mixture of magnesium and chlorine, is found naturally in seawater and salt lakes. It is often used to help increase magnesium levels in people who are deficient in the mineral. You can find magnesium chloride in tablet or capsule form or as flakes that can be placed in the bath or used as a foot soak. 

Magnesium Lactate

Magnesium lactate is a salt that’s formed from combining magnesium and lactic acid. Your muscles and blood cells naturally produce magnesium lactate, and your digestive system easily absorbs it. Because this form of magnesium is easily absorbed, it is an excellent option for people who need to take large doses since it is better tolerated than some other types.

Supplementing with magnesium lactate can help replete a magnesium deficiency, alleviate leg cramps in pregnant women, and provide pain relief during your menstrual cycle.

Magnesium Malate

Magnesium malate is a salt compound made of magnesium and malic acid. Studies done in mice found that magnesium malate may be easier to absorb and help you maintain a higher level of magnesium in your blood than other forms. Magnesium malate is usually taken orally with food.

Magnesium malate may be used to treat conditions that over-excite the neuromuscular system, like chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, helping to reduce pain and soreness. However, more research needs to be done to prove these benefits.

Magnesium L-Threonate

Magnesium L-threonate is formed from combining magnesium with threonic acid, a water-soluble substance that comes from the breakdown of vitamin C. This salt form of magnesium is absorbed readily and may significantly increase magnesium levels in brain cells.

Because of its ability to significantly increase magnesium levels in the brain, magnesium L-threonate has been studied to treat depression and Alzheimer's. The research has mainly been done on animals so far, and more evidence is needed to support use in humans.

Magnesium Taurate

Magnesium taurate contains a magnesium ion and taurine, which is an amino acid. Both taurine and magnesium help regulate blood sugar, and supplementing with magnesium may keep your blood sugar levels within a healthy range. 

Preventing high blood pressure is another reason why you might take magnesium taurate. Some preliminary animal studies have shown magnesium taurate to reduce hypertension. More research is needed.

Magnesium Sulfate

Another magnesium salt, magnesium sulfate, is also popularly known as Epsom salt. It's made from a combination of magnesium, sulfur, and oxygen. People often use Epsom salts in a bath to relieve soreness and achy muscles or promote stress relief; however, there isn't much evidence to back up these uses.

Magnesium sulfate can also be used as a remedy for constipation when taken orally. 

Magnesium Sulfate can cause serious side effects if taken over the correct dose. Speak to your doctor about taking magnesium sulfate orally and avoid taking it if you have stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, or other symptoms.

Magnesium Glycinate

The amino acid glycine combines with magnesium to form magnesium glycinate. On its own, glycine is popular as a sleep aid and is sometimes used to treat inflammation and related conditions like diabetes.

Magnesium glycine may have stress-relieving or calming abilities that reduce the effects of anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, and stress. Most of the evidence behind these uses is anecdotal, and more scientific research is needed.

Magnesium Orotate

Magnesium orotate combines magnesium with a material utilized for creating genetic material, called orotic acid. Orotic acid transports magnesium to the cells and is also an antioxidant.

Magnesium orotate has been primarily studied for heart health and energy production. More research is likely needed to be sure of whether magnesium orotate is worth its higher cost.

How to Choose a Magnesium Supplement

Choosing and taking a magnesium supplement should be based on how much you already get through your diet and why you might need the supplement. How much you need to take also depends on your age and sex. 

The National Institutes of Health says that many people in the United States do not get enough magnesium from their diet, especially men over 70 and teenagers. Using a supplement can help you reach the recommended daily intake, especially if you cannot change your diet.

For specific conditions such as constipation, heartburn, or indigestion, magnesium can also help. There are many preparations for these purposes, and you can talk to a pharmacist or your doctor about which would be best for you.

Many people believe that magnesium supplements help relieve stress and anxiety and help to calm the nervous system. Speak to your doctor to find out if taking magnesium for these reasons could be beneficial for you.

Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Magnesium (Adults)
 Age  Male Female  Pregnancy Lactation
14–18 years 410 mg 360 mg 400 mg 360 mg
19–30 years 400 mg 310 mg 350 mg 310 mg
31–50 years 420 mg 320 mg 360 mg 320 mg
51+ years 420 mg 320 mg

Adverse Effects

If you are considering taking a supplement, keep in mind that there is an established tolerable upper limit for magnesium. According to the National Institutes of Health, magnesium that is naturally present in food and beverages is not harmful and does not need to be limited. Your body can naturally manage any excess that is consumed in foods or beverages.

However, the government source warns that consumption of magnesium from supplements or medications should not exceed the amount established as the upper limit, unless you are advised to consume a specific amount by your healthcare provider.

The National Institutes of Health provides the following upper limits for adults and children:

Upper Limit for Magnesium from Supplements or Medications
 Age Upper Limit
Birth to 12 months   Not established
Children 1–3 years  65 mg
Children 4–8 years  110 mg
Children 9–18 years  350 mg
 Adults  350 mg

The NIH advises that consuming magnesium in excess may lead to diarrhea, nausea, or abdominal cramping. Consuming extremely high amounts can lead to an irregular heartbeat and even cardiac arrest.

Food Sources of Magnesium

Many foods naturally have magnesium in them, including milk products, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, salmon, meat, and leafy green vegetables. Other foods like breakfast cereals have magnesium added to them. Great food sources of magnesium include:

A Word from Verywell

Magnesium is a vital nutrient needed for many processes in the body. Getting enough through your diet alone might be tricky, so using a supplement could help you reach your daily needs. Other medical issues like constipation, heartburn, and indigestion can also be treated with some forms of magnesium. If you are concerned with your magnesium intake or suspect a deficiency, discuss supplementation with your health care provider.

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Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Rachel MacPherson, BA, CPT
Rachel MacPherson is a health writer, certified personal trainer, and exercise nutrition coach based in Montreal.