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What We Really Know About Magnesium Absorption

By on January 12, 2018
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When it comes to hot supplements, magnesium ranks with collagen, probiotics and vitamin D3. It’s one of the most popular natural products, and there are good reasons why.

Magnesium is a multi-tasker. It helps with:
● Sleep
● Energy
● Pain, including migraines and headaches
● Stress, anxiety and mood
● Heart health
● Diabetes and more.

The trouble is, most people simply don’t eat enough magnesium-rich foods! It’s hard.

You’d have to eat approximately 12 cups of raw spinach to get the low end of your daily requirement: about 300 mg.

And depending on your lifestyle, you may need more. Stress, sugar, sweat, caffeine, alcohol and many medications drain magnesium stores. No wonder so many people are choosing to supplement. But are they choosing the right magnesium?

Absorbability is King
Magnesium comes in a dizzying variety of forms. There are tablets, capsules, gels, powders and even transdermal magnesium. To make matters more confusing, many brands slap a “more absorbable” claim on their label. But aren’t all supplements absorbable? Unfortunately, no. There are wide differences in the absorbability of all kinds of supplements. Just because a label says, “more absorbable” doesn’t necessarily mean it is. Absorbability is one of those terms that isn’t tightly regulated. And yet, absorption is important. A supplement that can be absorbed is ‘bioavailable’. That means it can reach the bloodstream and go to work across the cells and systems of your body.

If it Dissolves, It Probably Absorbs
The body prefers its magnesium well dissolved. If a magnesium supplement dissolves well, it can be absorbed. That’s why many experts suggest magnesium drinks over magnesium tablets. The most soluble types of magnesium are organic magnesium salts and chelates. That’s not very helpful when you’re skimming labels, granted.

Instead, look for forms like these:
● Mg Citrate
● Mg Malate
● Mg Lactate
● Mg Glycinate
● Mg Pidolate
● Mg Taurate
● Mg Threonate

Steer clear of magnesium oxide, though. It’s a common form, because inexpensive, but as an inorganic magnesium salt, it isn’t very absorbable.

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Is One Form Better Than Others?
Magnesium citrate and glycinate vie for most-popular status. Is one better than the other? Despite what you may hear in marketing claims, there’s very little research comparing the two. An as-of-yet-unpublished 2017 study may change all that, however. When a magnesium citrate drink was compared with two leading Canadian magnesium glycinate drinks, only magnesium citrate increased magnesium levels in human subjects.

Listen to Your Body
The best way to tell if your magnesium is working is by paying attention to how you feel. Are you less tense and irritable? Do you sleep better at night? Are you more regular? (Yes, that’s a sign!) If you have pain, is it improving? If you can say “yes” to any of these, chances are, your magnesium supplement is working.

1. Coudray et al. Magnesium Research 2005;18(4):215-23
2. 22 Lindberg et al. J Amer Col of Nutrition 1990;9(1):48-55
3. 23 Firoz and Graber. Magnesium Research 2001;14(4):257-262
4. 24 Coudray et al. Magnesium Research 2005;18(4):215-23
5. Nutrasource, 2017 (Guelph, Ontario). Summary available at https://naturalcalm.ca/is-your-magnesium-supplement-clinically-proven-more-absorbable/

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