More and more consumers are taking magnesium supplements, and arguably for good reason. Subclinical magnesium deficiency (meaning magnesium deficiency below the severe levels that would be listed as deficient on a standard blood draw) has been proven in medical research to cause cardiovascular disease. The magnesium levels in produce have eroded due to modern farming practices, so magnesium supplementation may be worthwhile for many consumers.
In this article we’ll review the research on magnesium to determine which types are the best-absorbed. We’ll recommend a magnesium supplement at the end of the article with an effective form and dosage and without any harmful additive ingredients.
Unlikely nearly every other article on the top magnesium supplements, our content is unsponsored. We don’t receive any compensation from brands we review which allows us to be objective and unbiased.
Which Type Is Best-Absorbed?
There are a variety of different magnesium supplements on the market. Some, like magnesium oxide, are just magnesium bonded with oxygen, in which case magnesium is the only active ingredient.
Other magnesium supplements like magnesium glycinate are formed by combining elemental magnesium with an amino acid called glycine. In this case, there are two active ingredients as glycine has its own effects.
It can be confusing to consumers which is the best type of magnesium to purchase, but thankfully we can let the medical research guide us. A research review published in the Biological Trace Element Research journal in 2019 analyzed the bioavailability of different popular types of magnesium.
Interestingly, the most popular magnesium supplements performed the worst in the medical trial. Magnesium oxide and magnesium citrate, which are often the cheapest forms of magnesium, led to the lowest increase in plasma magnesium levels in the animals tested.
Magnesium malate caused the largest increase in plasma magnesium levels, indicating that this format is absorbed better as a supplement than other forms.
Magnesium malate is formed by combining magnesium with malic acid.
When choosing a magnesium supplement, it’s important that the product contains no harmful additives. Many supplement companies contain filler ingredients or added sugars which may negatively impact health.
We recommend a brand called Designs for Health magnesium malate. As we’ve established in the previous section, magnesium malate is the most bioavailable form of magnesium and this brand only contains two inert inactive ingredients which are safe: cellulose and vegetable stearate.
More importantly, the brand also passed ConsumerLab testing, which is an independent organization that tests supplements for label accuracy and contaminants. ConsumerLab found that Designs for Health magnesium malate contained the listed amount of magnesium, and had contaminant levels which passed the strict benchmarks.
Designs for Health magnesium malate appears to be effectively dosed, with one serving providing 360 milligrams (mg) of magnesium which is right in line with the Tolerable Upper Limit (UL) guidelines developed by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) of the U.S.
Alternative Magnesium Format
Some consumers don’t like taking oral supplements. For those consumers, magnesium oil or epsom salts may be a good method of increasing levels of magnesium.
It’s been proven in medical research that topical magnesium increases magnesium levels in the body through transdermal absorption. The magnesium absorbs directly into the bloodstream from the skin.
Magnesium oil and Epsom salts are both forms of magnesium sulfate. The oil is applied to the body for a short period of time (usually label recommendations range from 15-25 minutes) and then washed off. Epsom salts are typically used in a bath or foot soak, dissolved in hot water.
The transdermal method of magnesium may be a good option for patients with impaired intestinal absorption. Patients with Crohn's disease, for example, may not absorb much of an oral magnesium supplement due to their gastrointestinal issues. These patients may wish to speak to their doctor about transdermal magnesium use.