If there’s one nutrient we should all consider supplementing, it’s magnesium. Magnesium is one of the most important elements in our body, being involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions.[i] Up to 60% of it is stored in our skeleton. Therefore, just like calcium, it is important for healthy bones and prevention of conditions such as osteoporosis. Its functions stretch far beyond musculoskeletal health, though, and include:
Muscle and nerve function
Blood glucose management
Heart function and blood pressure regulation
In fact, magnesium is so essential to so many biological functions, that getting extra through diet or supplementation would be beneficial to everyone.
Unfortunately, many of us don’t consume enough magnesium-rich foods. In addition, modern lifestyle can create a big drain on our magnesium reserves. Because magnesium is used for so many processes, it can get easily depleted, especially by stress, erratic eating patterns, high sugar diets, or overtraining. Some common medications, such as acid blockers used for reflux, can also reduce absorption of magnesium.
How would you know if you need more magnesium?
If you suffer from headaches, PMS, muscle cramps, high blood pressure, anxiety, constipation, fatigue, memory problems, hyperactivity, you could be deficient. In fact, a study done in America showed that 48% of the population had inadequate intake of this vital mineral.[iii]
You can naturally increase your magnesium levels by adding more magnesium-rich foods to your diet:
Vegetables: leafy greens (spinach, kale, chard, broccoli), and squash
Nuts and seeds like pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds, almonds and cashews
Healthy grains and beans such as quinoa and black beans
Also try magnesium baths, using Epsom salts or magnesium flakes. They can be great to relieve muscle pain or help you to relax in the evening.
Make sure you integrate lifestyle strategies to reduce magnesium depletion; eat nutritious foods at regular times, avoid processed foods and refined carbohydrates, reduce stress and allow time for your body to recover from exertion. Ensure your digestion is working optimally to enhance magnesium absorption. If you suffer with any digestive complaints, consider using probiotics or digestive enzymes to help.
Supplementation - what’s the right type of magnesium for you?
Increasing food sources of magnesium should be a priority but, if your requirements are high, or if you already have symptoms of deficiency, food alone may not be enough. There’s growing evidence that supplementing magnesium, especially specific types, can help with supporting certain aspects of health. You see, not all magnesium is equal. Choosing the right type is critical to successful nutritional support.
Just as with any other mineral, magnesium has to be bound to a ‘carrier’ molecule when it is consumed in a supplement form. The type of this carrier will determine its use and absorption rate, so it is important to choose the one that suits you best. For example, magnesium citrate was shown to be much more bioavailable (better absorbed and used by the body)than magnesium oxide.[iv] You can also benefit from the other molecule that the magnesium is bound to, as they all have their own unique functions in the body. Some of the most commonly used ones include:
Magnesium Citrate - a well absorbed, gentle form that delivers a good amount of magnesium per capsule. So it’s a great choice for general magnesium supplementation when you want a higher dose. One particular study successfully used 600mg of magnesium citrate in the prophylaxis of migraines.[v] It also acts as a gentle laxative so may be helpful to relieve constipation.[vi] In addition, long-term supplementation of magnesium citrate alongside potassium reduced the risk of recurrent kidney stones by 85%.[vii]
Magnesium Glycinate –glycine is an amino acid used for a number of important proteins in the body, including haemoglobin in red blood cells or creatine in the muscle. It supports the nervous system, reducing stress and promoting sleep, and improving memory, attention and learning.[viii],[ix] Glycine is a pre-cursor to glutathione – our most potent antioxidant and detoxifier,[x],[xi]and one of the largest components of collagen, which is crucial for healthy skin, joints, ligaments, tendons and bones. Insufficient dietary intake of glycine may interfere with collagen production.[xii]
Magnesium Malate –malic acid is a natural compound found in many different foods (e.g. apples). In the body, it is important for energy production. It’s been found to reduce tiredness, tenderness, pain and fatigue in fibromyalgia.[xiii],[xiv]So magnesium malate may be a better choice for those people with energy and fatigue issues. It may also be beneficial for muscle pain and cramps. It doesn’t give quite as much magnesium as other forms, but this isn’t an issue as the malate part is just as important in supporting energy.
Magnesium Taurate –an amino acid – taurine, is used to create bile which helps with absorption of fats[xv] in the digestive tract and detoxification of toxins. Through its impact on bile production, it aids natural elimination of cholesterol. In studies, it’s been found to lower LDL cholesterol[xvi],[xvii] and triglycerides, while increasing HDL cholesterol.[xviii] It is also used by the heart muscle for contractions, and may improve arterial function, supporting healthy circulation and bloodpressure.[xix],[xx] Taurine also supports the nervous system by activating the calming neurotransmitter GABA.[xxi] So to summarise, magnesium with taurine can be particularly helpful for people with liver or heart problems, poor gallbladder function and reduced fat digestion[xxii] or those with high stress levels or insomnia.
Many of us may need additional magnesium support, but it is important to remember that not all magnesium is equal. Choose the best form for your specific needs and if you need any help, you can call our Clinical Nutrition team or see a practitioner for further advice and support.
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[i] Institute of Medicine (IOM). Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D and Fluorideexternal link disclaimer. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1997.
[ii] Rude. (2012) Magnesium. In: Ross et al. (eds) Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 11th ed. Baltimore, Mass: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, pp159-75.
[iii] Rosanoff A, Weaver CM, Rude RK. Suboptimal magnesium status in the United States: are the health consequences underestimated? Nutr Rev. 2012 Mar;70(3):153-64.
[iv] Walker et al. Mg citrate found more bioavailable than other Mg preparations in a randomised, double-blind study. Magnes Res. 2003;16(3):183-91.
[v] Köseoglu et al. The effects of magnesium prophylaxis in migraine without aura. Magnes. Res. 2008; 21 (2): 101-8
[vi] Seung SS, K-J K, Combination could be another tool for bowel preparation? World J Gastroenterol. 2016; 22 (10): 2915-2921
[vii] Ettinger J Potassium-magnesium citrate is an effective prophylaxis against recurrent calcium oxalate nephrolithiasis. Urol. 1997;158(6):2069-73.
[viii] File SE, Fluck E, Fernandes C. Beneficial effects of glycine (bioglycin) on memory and attention in young and middle-aged adults. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 1999 Dec;19(6):506-12.
[ix] Strzelecki D, Rabe-Jabłońska J. [Could we use a serum level of glycine as a prognostic factor of its efficacy in schizophrenic patients?]. Psychiatr Pol. 2010 May-Jun;44(3):395-404.
[x] Nguyen D, et al. Effect of increasing glutathione with cysteine and glycine supplementation on mitochondrial fuel oxidation, insulin sensitivity, and body composition in older HIV-infected patients. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2014 Jan;99(1):169-77.
[xi] Sekhar RV, et al. Deficient synthesis of glutathione underlies oxidative stress in aging and can be corrected by dietary cysteine and glycine supplementation. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Sep;94(3):847-53.
[xii] de Paz-Lugo P, Lupiáñez JA, Meléndez-Hevia E. High glycine concentration increases collagen synthesis by articular chondrocytes in vitro: acute glycine deficiency could be an important cause of osteoarthritis. Amino Acids. 2018;50(10):1357–1365.
[xiii] Abraham, Flechas. Management of fibromyalgia: Rationale for the use of magnesium and malic acid. J Nutr Environ Med. 1992; 3 (1): 49-59.
[xiv] Russell et al. Treatment of fibromyalgia syndrome with Super Malic: a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled, crossover pilot study. J Rheumatol. 1995; 22 (5): 953-8.
[xv] Smith et al. Taurine decreases fecal fatty acid and sterol excretion in cystic fibrosis. A randomized double-blind trial. Am J Dis Child. 1991; 145 (12): 1401-4.
[xvii] Arrieta F et al. Phase IV prospective clinical study to evaluate the effect of taurine on liver function in postsurgical adult patients requiring parenteral nutrition. Nutr Clin Pract. 2014;29(5):672-80.
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