There are different types of magnesium that people can get from dietary supplements. Each has different advantages and disadvantages. For example, some types of magnesium are easier to absorb than others.

Magnesium is one of the most common minerals in the body. It plays a role in over 600 metabolic reactions, including energy production, protein formation, and blood pressure regulation.

However, some people need extra help getting enough magnesium. Choosing the right magnesium supplement can help boost levels of this nutrient and may help with various medical conditions.

This article looks at the different types of magnesium, their pros and cons, and how people can choose between them.

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There are many types of magnesium present in dietary supplements and food products. These include:

  • magnesium citrate
  • magnesium glycinate
  • magnesium chloride
  • magnesium lactate
  • magnesium malate
  • magnesium taurate
  • magnesium sulfate
  • magnesium oxide

Each type of magnesium has different properties. They can vary in terms of their:

  • medical uses
  • bioavailability, or how easy it is for the body to absorb them
  • potential side effects

A person should seek the advice of a doctor or dietitian before trying a magnesium supplement.

In high doses, magnesium can be toxic. Also, it can interact with some medications, such as antibiotics, and is unsuitable for people with certain underlying conditions, including kidney disease.

The following types of magnesium are popular as general dietary supplements:

Magnesium glycinate

Magnesium glycinate is a compound of magnesium and glycine, an amino acid.

Research on magnesium glycine indicates that people tolerate it well and that it seems to cause minimal side effects. This means it may be a good option for people who require higher doses of this nutrient or who experience side effects when using other types of magnesium.

Magnesium lactate

This type of magnesium is a compound of magnesium and lactic acid. According to a 2017 analysis, there is evidence that magnesium lactate absorbs in the gut easily.

Magnesium malate

This type of magnesium is a compound of magnesium and malic acid. Some evidence suggests that it is highly bioavailable and that people tolerate it well.

A 2019 animal study found that out of several types of magnesium, magnesium malate was the fastest to absorb after a single dose. This may also be true of humans, but human trials are necessary to confirm this.

A 2018 study in humans reports that a supplement containing a combination of magnesium malate and several vitamins caused few digestive side effects.

Magnesium citrate

Magnesium citrate is a popular form of magnesium. It is often an ingredient in supplements and appears to be easier for the body to absorb than some other forms.

An older 2003 study of 46 adults found that magnesium citrate absorbed better than magnesium oxide and magnesium chelate.

However, doctors also use magnesium citrate to treat constipation. For some people, this may mean it causes unwanted digestive side effects, such as diarrhea.

Some people use magnesium on the skin. The types of magnesium people can use in this way include:

Magnesium chloride

Magnesium chloride is a type of salt that people can find in topical magnesium products, such as magnesium oils and some bath salts. People use it as an alternative method for getting more magnesium.

However, it is unclear whether the skin is capable of absorbing much magnesium via this method.

A 2017 review concludes that while there is evidence that the body can absorb a small amount of magnesium through the skin, large-scale studies are necessary to determine its effectiveness.

People can also take magnesium chloride internally, as the intestines absorb it well. However, as with some other types of magnesium, it may cause digestive side effects.

Magnesium sulfate

Magnesium sulfate is the form of magnesium in Epsom salts.

Many people add Epsom salts to baths and foot soaks to soothe aching muscles. However, there is little high quality evidence showing that the body can absorb much magnesium from magnesium sulfate baths.

Several types of magnesium can help treat constipation, such as magnesium citrate. Other types may have utility as medical treatments.

Magnesium oxide

Doctors may use magnesium oxide to treat constipation or as an antacid for heartburn or indigestion.

Magnesium oxide is also present in some dietary supplements. However, the body does not absorb this form of magnesium well, according to a 2017 analysis.

Magnesium taurate

This type of magnesium is a compound of magnesium and taurine. Limited evidence suggests it may have the potential to lower blood pressure and protect the cardiovascular system.

Authors of a 2018 animal study report that magnesium taurate reduced high blood pressure and heart damage in rats that had taken a toxic substance. The researchers conclude that this shows the potential of magnesium taurate as a cardioprotective nutritional supplement.

However, until more research takes place, people should not use magnesium supplements as treatments for cardiovascular conditions.

When choosing magnesium products, it is important to consider:

  • how much magnesium a person already consumes in their diet
  • whether a supplement or topical product is necessary
  • how much additional magnesium a person needs
  • the best format for delivery, that is, oral or topical

This can help with choosing a product that will be safe and effective.

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of magnesium is 400–420 milligrams (mg) for adult males and 310–360 mg for adult females. During pregnancy and lactation, a person’s RDA may increase to 400 mg daily.

People can determine whether they need help getting more magnesium by asking a doctor to test their magnesium levels.

Magnesium plays a crucial role in the body, regulating blood pressure, blood sugar levels, neurotransmitters, and more.

For those who do not get enough magnesium, taking more may:

There is also some evidence magnesium may be useful as part of a treatment plan for the following conditions:

A person should consult a doctor before taking any supplement for an underlying health condition.

Learn about magnesium supplements for anxiety here.

People can get more magnesium from their food. Dietary sources of magnesium include:

  • roasted pumpkin seeds, which contain 37% of the daily value per ounce (oz)
  • chia seeds, which contain 26% of the daily value per oz
  • almonds, which contain 19% of the daily value per 1 oz
  • boiled spinach, which contains 19% of the daily value per 1/2 cup

Cashews, peanuts, soy milk, and black beans are also good sources. Many other foods contain smaller amounts.

However, the body only absorbs around 30–40% of the dietary magnesium a person consumes. This, combined with the relatively small amount of foods that contain high amounts of magnesium, may make it challenging for some people to get enough of this nutrient from their diet.

Magnesium is essential for health. For some people, a magnesium supplement may be necessary to get enough of this mineral.

Several types of magnesium are suitable as dietary supplements, such as magnesium citrate, glycinate, and lactate. Other kinds have topical uses, such as in baths or on the skin.

People should seek guidance from a doctor before starting taking a magnesium supplement or using a topical magnesium product, as they are not suitable for everybody.