It’s me, I’m the pharmacist.
Magnesium (Mg++) is essential for a litany of bodily processes, playing key roles in brain, heart, and muscle function. Most of our magnesium (more than 90%) is stored in our bones, muscles, and soft tissue. However, not all magnesium supplements are created equal.
Different forms of magnesium absorb to different degrees. Although the data is somewhat unclear, some contenders appear to be more readily absorbed than others.
With a conservative estimate, roughly 50% of our North American population is magnesium deficient. This figure does vary based on age, subgroup (sedentary vs athletic individuals) and country, but the sentiment remains the same: many of us are not meeting our daily requirements. Most adults require a daily intake of 300-400mg.
Organic formulations are widely considered to have greater bioavailability, meaning your body can absorb and use more of this type. Organic forms include magnesium glycinate, magnesium citrate, and magnesium malate, among others.
Magnesium oxide (an inorganic form), which is poorly absorbed, is commonly used to treat constipation, and if this is not your treatment goal, the loose stools caused by this formulation can be a deterrent.
Magnesium deficiency can be due to a lack of magnesium intake, or if your body excretes more than normal. You lose magnesium through sweat, so magnesium is one of the “electrolytes” common in hydration drinks.
This simple mineral deficiency can have widespread consequences.
Magnesium intake has been shown to positively impact bone density, depression, migraine prevention and treatment, and reduced the risk of cardiovascular complications, including blood clots, high blood pressure, and strokes. Below I’ve listed some of the key reasons my patients typically supplement with magnesium, and I’ve given some background on which ones are best supported by evidence.
In my elderly patients, I take great interest in their bone health. As we age, our bones become weaker and bone turnover may begin to outpace bone production. This is why it’s so important for those elderly among us to take vitamin D supplementation to aid in their bone health. However, since magnesium is crucial for vitamin D metabolism, we need to replace that lost magnesium. It is therefore possible that high doses of vitamin D may cause a magnesium deficiency, necessitating supplementation. Studies have displayed reductions in nonvertebral fractures, and overall mortality, as well as the incidence of Alzheimer’s dementia!
Magnesium has been useful in migraine prevention and has been shown to be effective and safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well. It happens to be one of the first-line therapies for these women.
Magnesium is a common exercise supplement, and studies have indicated that magnesium aids in glucose utilization and improves your exercise efficiency, possibly through increasing lactate clearance from the muscle during exercise. These benefits apply both in aerobic and anaerobic exercise. That being said, there is conflicting evidence, but given the strong safety profile of magnesium supplementation, the downsides are quite small.
There’s likely some benefit for athletes supplementing with magnesium, especially since many of us are deficient anyway.
Treatment of major depression (MD) is an ongoing dilemma, where nearly 60% of those treated for MD are treatment resistant, and do not respond to current therapies.
As much of the Western world eats highly processed foods, sorely lacking in magnesium supplementation, this has the potential to negatively affect mood disorders.
A study in 2008 found that magnesium supplementation was as effective as certain antidepressants.
Studies have also shown a correlation between brain magnesium levels and antidepressant drugs, suggesting a link between the two.
There is also some evidence that magnesium may improve mild anxiety, and given that it’s a relatively cheap and well-tolerated therapy, it’s worthwhile considering.
This can be taken in addition to many antidepressant therapies, as an adjunct therapy, and may provide some mental health support.
We all know how important sleep is, and sleep hygiene is more important than ever. Sleep status is of great importance to us all, and as we’re becoming increasingly attached to our phones and other devices, sleep hygiene is more important than ever. It appears that magnesium may improve symptoms of insomnia, and sleep quality.
Now let’s take a look at the 6 best magnesium products on the market.
As mentioned previously, organic magnesium in most cases is going to be the best choice. There are many choices when it comes to formulations. For example, magnesium is available in powders, liquid, capsules, and tablets. Let’s look at a few notable options.
There’s a lot of talk out there about how certain forms of magnesium supplements are better for performance, or sleep, or cognitive function. Most people are discussing the organic formulations.
While there may be something to this, the research is very sparse, and a lot of these claims are just unsubstantiated marketing claims.
As long as you’re choosing an organic form (bisglycinate, glycinate, diglycinate, citrate, malate), and not oxide (or at the very least, ensuring that the product you choose doesn’t have magnesium oxide as an additive), you’ll be getting the benefits of magnesium supplementation.
With this in mind, the top products on here are all simple and relatively inexpensive. If you’re paying $60 for a magnesium supplement, you’re probably getting ripped off.
*Note: We do have affiliate links throughout this article, which means we receive a commission if you purchase from any of our links. This supports our mission to bring complicated health and fitness info in an entertaining package. And it keeps us from putting up annoying things like banner ads. Those suck.
California Gold produces their products in a third-party audited site, which is cGMP compliant, making it a safer option than some other companies. Whenever you’re shopping in the natural supplement realm, it’s better to choose from more reputable sources, and California Gold offers that, with 2 months supply of high-quality magnesium for only $8.
There is some contention around which organic magnesium formulation is best, and there are 3 major players listed on the market today. Magnesium malate, glycinate, and citrate. BioEmblem has gone ahead and combined all three in one capsule to make your decision easier. This triple magnesium complex has all the most bioavailable types of magnesium, produced in a cGMP compliant facility in the USA. Their quality ingredient selection and strict adherence to safety make them a top contender.
For those among us who experience migraines, one of the listed treatment options is Magnesium Citrate. While this isn’t the only benefit of taking magnesium, this formulation is approved for treating and preventing migraines. Could you get away with taking another formulation listed here and likely experience benefit? Yes, but let’s go by the book on this one.
Magnesium citrate, another form of organic magnesium, is touted as having fewer gut side effects, and an improved absorption profile over those inorganic formulations, making this a great choice.
NOW Foods lists their Magnesium Citrate formulation for just $17.50 for a two-month supply (taking 2 capsules or roughly 300mg of magnesium citrate twice a day for migraine prevention and treatment is the recommended dose).
If you’re like me and prefer your supplements in a smoothie from time to time, you know the value of a powdered formulation. This magnesium supplement from Thorne is ideal for mixing, or dry scooping if you’re really feeling it. Produced in a third-party certified cGMP facility in South Carolina, this company also has an NSF Certification which ensures they don’t include unsafe levels of contaminants or prohibited substances. This is a terrific choice, though slightly more expensive than traditional capsules.
If you’re looking for a liquid magnesium formulation, Pure Encapsulations has that base covered. Liquid formulations are more rapidly absorbed and may have a faster onset of action. This particular formulation is magnesium citrate – as mentioned previously, this is the formulation listed for use in migraines, and if you’re looking for a more rapid onset, this may be the product for you! Most described it as having a pleasant taste as well, so it may help if you’re not a fan of swallowing those large magnesium capsules. Pure Encapsulations are cGMP certified, so you can shop with confidence. However, it is slightly more expensive, which is why we’ve ranked it lower than other options.
KAL is a supplement company with over 90 years on the market. They also have a patented ActivTab™ technology which provides rapid dissolution, and potentially faster onset! Using only the best purity of ingredients, and adhering to cGMP standards, this makes them a great choice, and a great price point as well.
Yes, we’ve ranked these products, but we also want you to make the best decisions for you, and that means understanding how we ranked them.
Are there other, very similar magnesium products on the market? Absolutely. However, the supplement industry isn’t heavily regulated by the FDA, so we choose products that are produced by companies with strict adherence to cGMP standards and include the highest quality ingredients.
The supplement industry is much more difficult to regulate, so we’ve done our best to provide you with options that use high quality ingredients, from companies that follow strict cGMP guidelines, to give you peace of mind when you purchase.
All else equal, we chose high-quality products that are also affordable.
This question comes up so often in the pharmacy that I almost want to dedicate a sign to it. In the internet sphere, there is a lot of talk about magnesium supplementation reducing muscle cramps. In the studies that I’ve reviewed, there is little evidence suggesting that magnesium supplementation is going to reduce the frequency or severity of muscle cramps, regardless of the dose, route of administration, or formulation used.
There is limited evidence that this is effective to treat the pain associated with menses, though past investigators have shared somewhat hopeful results, which may become more clear as the topic is investigated.
Yes. Most magnesium can cause diarrhea, but we’ve done our best to select formulations that minimize that side effect. Organic magnesium has a much lower incidence of this compared to inorganic, such as magnesium oxide or magnesium hydroxide. However, sometimes relieving constipation is the goal, in which case these inorganic forms are preferable! See FAQ #2 below.
Some individuals will choose to treat constipation with magnesium. Will this work? Yes. Is it my first choice? No. Your circumstances might vary from the typical, so always consult your local pharmacist or healthcare provider to make the right decision for your health.
Yes, in rare cases, taking too much can cause hypermagnesemia, which is most likely to occur in people with kidney dysfunction. Hypermagnesemia can increase thirst, decrease blood pressure, cause vomiting and nausea, muscle weakness, and cardiac changes. Speak to your doctor if you have concerns about taking magnesium. Magnesium can also interact with some medications, and you should confirm with your pharmacist if magnesium is safe to take with your current medication regimen.
While magnesium is popular for sleep, the best ways to increase your sleep begin with the basics. We covered these in-depth in this article on how to improve your sleep quality.
With regards to supplements, you can look into 5-HTP supplements, a form of l-tyrosine. L-tyrosine is an amino acid abundant in turkey, which is where the story comes fro, that turkey helps you sleep.