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Last modified on October 14th, 2020
What Is Magnesium?Magnesium is an important mineral in the body. It is crucial to the chemical reactions in cells that keep you alive. As a result, it is involved in many important bodily processes, from nerve function to keeping your heart beating. Because it is required for so many functions in your system, your body does an excellent job of storing magnesium. In fact, most magnesium in your body is stored in the bones and tissues. Blood tests are one of the main ways doctors can tell if someone has low magnesium. Unfortunately, because very little magnesium is allowed into the bloodstream, it can be hard to diagnose a magnesium deficiency. Technically, a blood magnesium level of 0.75 to 0.95 mmol/liter is considered normal, and anything below that indicates a deficiency. However, a diagnosis of low magnesium is not always so clear cut. After all, since most magnesium is not stored in the blood, blood levels do not always tell the whole story. Further, blood levels do not always have a strong link to how much magnesium is available in the bones and tissues. Diagnosing low magnesium, therefore, requires your doctor to use a mix of both lab tests and symptom assessment.
Recommended Magnesium IntakeThe recommended daily intake of magnesium depends on your age, sex, and pregnancy or breastfeeding status. In general, because of their higher muscle mass, men will require more magnesium than women. The recommended daily intake for teens and adults is as follows:
|Age in years||Male||Female||Pregnant||Breastfeeding|
|14 to 18||410mg||360mg||400mg||360mg|
|19 to 30||400mg||310mg||350mg||310mg|
- Fortified breakfast cereals
Symptoms of Low MagnesiumIf you are in the early stages of magnesium deficiency, you may not have any noticeable symptoms. However, this does not mean that your body is not struggling with the effects of low magnesium. For example, your risk for cardiovascular disease increases as your magnesium level decreases, even if you do not yet have symptoms. This stage of low magnesium is called “subclinical,” as it is just below the threshold where you and your doctor may notice something is wrong. As the deficiency progresses, a low magnesium level can lead to a few different symptoms. Many of the early symptoms of low magnesium are nonspecific. For this reason, it may be hard for you or your doctor to realize your symptoms are due to low magnesium. Many of these early symptoms can be attributed to a variety of nutritional deficiencies, medical conditions, or even just day-to-day stress. Some of the early symptoms of low magnesium levels include:
- Appetite loss
- Nausea or vomiting
- Numbness and tingling
- Muscle cramps
- Mental status changes
- Abnormal heartbeat
- Heart spasms
- Low levels of other minerals like calcium and potassium
- Having a GI problem like Crohn’s disease or celiac disease: These conditions can alter magnesium absorption.
- A history of gastric bypass surgery or intestine removal: Bypass or removal of parts of the small intestine can reduce magnesium absorption. This is especially true of the ileum, which is the lower part of the small intestine that connects to the large intestine.
- Diabetes: High blood sugar can increase the amount of magnesium in your urine, leading to low levels.
- Alcohol dependence: People who struggle with alcohol often have a host of health problems that can lead to low nutrient levels, including low magnesium. These problems include:
- Poor diet
- Kidney problems
- Liver problems
- Abnormal levels of other minerals
- Being elderly: As people get older, they absorb less magnesium from food due to changes in the gut. Further, older people tend to lose more magnesium in the urine. They are also more likely to be on meds that interfere with magnesium in the body.
- Certain medications: Meds like furosemide, hydrochlorothiazide, and drugs that reduce stomach acid can all cause low magnesium levels. Using zinc supplements may also reduce your magnesium levels, as your body may be more likely to absorb the zinc than the magnesium.
Consequences of Low MagnesiumEventually, having low magnesium levels will start to show up in your overall health. Even if you feel healthy, because magnesium is essential to so many bodily functions, having too little can put your health at risk. Low magnesium is thought to be involved in a variety of health problems like:
- Cardiovascular disease: Higher magnesium levels have been linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular problems, including heart disease and stroke.
- Diabetes: Higher magnesium intake has been linked to lower diabetes risk, possibly because of the role that magnesium plays in blood sugar control.
- Osteoporosis: Magnesium is an important mineral for bone health, and low levels may be a risk factor for osteoporosis.
- Migraines: People who suffer from migraines tend to have abnormally low magnesium levels. According to the American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society, magnesium supplements are considered likely effective for migraine control.
Symptoms of Too Much MagnesiumMost healthy people are not at risk from extra magnesium because it is processed by the kidneys and leaves the body in urine. Having too much magnesium usually leads to stomach-related side effects. While unpleasant, these side effects are generally not dangerous and do not last very long. These side effects include:
- Abdominal cramps
How to Pick the Best Magnesium SupplementWhen picking the best magnesium supplements, one of the most important things to keep in mind is how well your body can absorb it. In general, the best magnesium supplements are well-absorbed.
|Supplements that are well-absorbed||Supplements that are poorly absorbed|
|Magnesium aspartate||Magnesium oxide|
|Magnesium chloride||Magnesium sulfate|
Our Picks for the Best Magnesium SupplementsWe scoured medical studies, user reviews, and chemistry data to pick the top 6 best magnesium supplements for you. Each supplement contains a link to buy the product on Amazon, plus a description of why it was one of our top-ranked choices.
Best Magnesium Supplement #1:
- Studied in a trial and compared against other magnesium supplements
- High-absorption formula whether taken on a full stomach or not
- Less likely to cause stomach upset than many types of magnesium supplements
- Top-seller on Amazon with positive user reviews
This product claims the number 1 spot on our list of the best magnesium supplements because it is one of the few that has been studied in a trial against other magnesium supplements. Further, the trial was not funded by the manufacturer, so there was no conflict of interest. The study showed that Doctor’s Best High Absorption Chelated Magnesium was about 90% absorbed. Further, its absorption remained nearly the same whether you took it on an empty stomach or after a meal.
This product is made from magnesium glycinate lysinate chelate, a type of chelated magnesium. A chelate means that the mineral has been chemically bonded to other chemicals, often amino acids, to aid absorption. In this case, the magnesium has been bonded to the amino acids glycine and lysine.
Doctor’s Best High Absorption Chelated Magnesium comes as oblong tablets that are scored in the middle in case you need to cut them to swallow them more easily. If tablets do not appeal to you, the product is also available in a powder. When taken as a tablet, the dose is two tablets twice daily. Each dose provides 200mg of magnesium, for a total daily dose of 400mg of magnesium if you take all 4 tablets as recommended. Although the package labeling recommends the tablets be taken with food, this does not impact absorption and is instead just less likely to cause stomach upset. Amazon users appear to like this product, which has a high rating and is a top seller.
Lastly, Doctor’s Best High Absorption Chelated Magnesium is not made from genetically modified sources. It is gluten-free and is suitable for vegans.
Anxiety-relieving Flavored Magnesium Drink
- Includes a combination of calcium and magnesium and the two work together for maximum effectiveness
- Some describe it as a “miracle” in helping them calm down
- A good before-bed drink if you struggle with sleep problems
- Very absorbable and goes into the bloodstream quickly
The second-best magnesium supplement on our list has several benefits in its favor. First, Natural Vitality Calm Magnesium Supplement Powder is made of the easily absorbed magnesium citrate. Further, the magnesium citrate is in ionized form, meaning that electrons have been removed from it to make it dissolve more easily in water. Because absorption is the biggest barrier to getting a benefit from magnesium supplements, having the product available in a form that dissolves quickly in water overcomes one of the biggest hurdles to getting it into your bloodstream. The fact that the product is a powder and that it is ionized help with its ability to dissolve. Further, the magnesium citrate is easily absorbed by your body. Together, these factors make this product one of the best magnesium supplements on our list.
Natural Vitality recommends that you start slow with this supplement to make sure you tolerate it. You should start by taking half a teaspoon once a day and then slowly work your way up to taking the full dose of 2 teaspoons once a day. Doing so will help you avoid stomach upset and diarrhea. When you work your way up to the full dose, you will get 325mg of magnesium daily.
Amazon customers also like Natural Vitality Calm Magnesium Supplement Powder, which is highly rated on the site. Flavored versions are available in both Raspberry Lemon and Orange flavors. Both flavors are sugar-free and are sweetened with stevia, a sugar substitute derived from the leaves of the plant Stevia rebaudiana.
If you prefer unflavored powders, Natural Vitality has another option for you, as the supplement also comes in Original Unflavored. The Original Unflavored version contains slightly more magnesium than its Raspberry Lemon and Orange counterparts, with 350mg of magnesium at a full dose of 2 teaspoons daily. The Original Unflavored version also has no need for a sweetener and, therefore, does not contain stevia. Although Amazon customers give the Original Unflavored version good ratings, some users note that the taste is chalky compared with the Lemon Raspberry and Orange flavors.
All Natural Vitality Calm Magnesium Supplement Powders are organic and all-natural. They are not made from genetically modified sources and are suitable for vegan users and those who require gluten-free products.
High Absorption and Easy Digestion
- Promotes a natural sense of calm as well as health muscle function
- Chelated magnesium for maximum bio availability
- Not diluted with cheap magnesium oxide
- ActivTab feature for the fastest dissolving and absorption
The next item on our list of best magnesium supplements is a chelated magnesium product. The magnesium in this product is chelated with glycine, meaning that it has been chemically altered to bind with the amino acid glycine to maximize absorption. This chemical alteration works very well for chelated magnesium glycinate, which is easily absorbed. Studies have shown that magnesium glycinate is even is well-absorbed in people who are at high risk for poor absorption after intestinal surgery.
KAL magnesium glycinate comes as tablets which disintegrate within 30 minutes of swallowing. Quick disintegration is important because unless a supplement has disintegrated and dissolved before it leaves the stomach, it has a harder time being absorbed into your body. Although the disintegration info here is provided by the manufacturer and not an outside lab, it means that KAL magnesium glycinate is very likely to have completely dissolved by the time it passes through the stomach and into your intestines. A serving size is 2 oblong tablets, which provides 400mg of magnesium. They are not scored, which means it may be a little harder to cut them. Regardless, Amazon customers are fans of this product, which has a high rating.
This supplement is suitable for vegans. Additionally, it is soy-free and gluten-free and is not made from genetically modified sources. As a bonus, a serving size of the supplement provides 1 gram of fiber, which is equal to 4% of fiber’s recommended daily allowance.
Easy to swallow capsules
- Magnesium lactate helps support health muscles, nervous and digestive systems
- Good for people with absorption disorders such as Celiac’s or Crohn’s
- Reviews say it’s helpful for migraines and leg cramps
- Packaging is made from recyclable materials
The fourth spot in our list of the best magnesium supplements goes to the magnesium lactate capsules made by American Antiaging. Magnesium lactate is an easily absorbed form of magnesium that can help to correct low magnesium levels.
The dose of this product is two capsules daily, providing a total magnesium dose of 500mg. Amazon customers like this product, which has high ratings on the site.
The capsules should be taken whole and not opened, as magnesium lactate can be irritating to the skin. Although the package labeling does not specify if the product should be taken on an empty or full stomach, research suggests that magnesium lactate has better absorption when taken on an empty stomach.
American Antiaging Magnesium Lactate Vegetarian capsules are suitable for vegetarians and Jewish consumers who eat kosher, as the gelatin in the capsules is not derived from animal products. Instead, the gelatin is derived from hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, or HPMC, a material made from South American pine bark. The product is also gluten-free, dairy-free, and does not contain genetically modified components. Further, the product is made in the United States. Lastly, the product comes in a recycled, eco-friendly paper bag.
Tasty Alternative to Pills
- If you can’t or don’t want to take pills, these magnesium chews are a great option
- Reviews say supplementing with these magnesium chews offers benefits including improved mood
- Doesn’t cause stomach discomfort or upset
- Great taste according to reviews
The fifth item on our list of the best magnesium supplements is specifically for people who have trouble swallowing meds. Because some people cannot swallow whole tabs or capsules, or even take their supplement in beverage form, GNC has come out with a chewable version of magnesium. Better still, it is sugar-free. Instead, GNC Magnesium Soft Chews use sucralose as a sweetener. While sucralose is derived from sugar, it is calorie-free because most sucralose is not broken down by the body.
GNC Magnesium Soft Chews are made from magnesium citrate, an easily absorbed form of magnesium. A serving of the product two soft chews, which together provide 250mg of magnesium. Each serving contains 30 calories, including 8 carbohydrates. Therefore, although they are low-calorie, they may not be suitable for someone on a strict low-carb diet such as the ketogenic diet.
Amazon customers tend to like this product, many stating that even their children like the taste.
A downside of the product is that it contains soybeans, therefore people sensitive to soy may want to avoid it. In addition, it is not all-natural and contains FD&C Red #40 as an inactive ingredient. Further, because the soft chews contain gelatin as an inactive product, and because gelatin is often made from animal products (specifically pork), it may not be friendly to vegetarians, Muslims, or Jewish consumers who eat kosher. However, GNC Magnesium Soft Chews are gluten-free. Further, because they are individually wrapped, they are discreet and easily transportable.
Helps Support a Healthy Stress Response
- Made with magnesium chloride instead of magnesium oxide for improved absorption
- Slow release formula reduces stomach upset
- Calcium helps promote nerve and muscle health
- Some reviews say it helps with nerve pain
The last – but certainly not the least – product on our list of the best magnesium supplements is SlowMag Magnesium Chloride with Calcium. Specifically designed to avoid stomach upset with quick-release forms of magnesium, this product puts easily absorbed magnesium citrate into a slow-release formulation. Further, because the product contains calcium, it can also double as a calcium supplement for those who would like to increase their calcium levels.
The serving size for this product is two tablets, which together contain 143mg of magnesium. Although they are not scored to be easily cut in half, Amazon users generally like this product, stating that the tablet size is small enough to easily swallow.
This product may not be ideal for all users. For example, due to the slow-release mechanism, it may not be the best option for people who already have slowed gastric mobility. For example, people who have had bariatric surgery or conditions like gastroparesis may not be good candidates for this product. Due to the changes in gastric emptying time linked to those medical conditions, and the slow-release mechanism of this agent, absorption may be unpredictable.
SlowMag Magnesium Chloride with Calcium is not all-natural. It contains multiple additives including FD&C Blue #2.
In conclusion, low magnesium intake is a pervasive problem in American today. Magnesium is often low or absent in the processed and ultra-processed foods that make up most of the American diet. Even for people who eat unprocessed foods that are generally higher in magnesium, modern issues like soil erosion and contamination have lowered the amount of magnesium that is contained in food. Therefore, your doctor may recommend a magnesium supplement. Luckily, magnesium supplements are generally very safe. Although some forms of magnesium are hard for the body to absorb, multiple forms of magnesium are available that are easy to absorb. These supplements are available in a variety of dosage forms, ranging from tablets and capsules to powders and soft chews, to safely and effectively raise your magnesium levels to optimize your health.