Magnesium Citrate vs. Glycinate: Which Absorbs Better?

Magnesium Citrate vs. Glycinate: Which Absorbs Better?

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Magnesium is becoming a more popular supplement in the US, and for good reason. Low blood levels of magnesium are present in 20-40% of adults in some developed countries according to a 2018 medical review.

But which type of magnesium is the best-absorbed? Is magnesium citrate or magnesium glycinate the best choice for health-conscious consumers? What's the difference between the two? And does either type have side effects?

In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more, as we review medical studies on magnesium supplementation to share our thoughts on whether magnesium citrate or magnsium glycinate is a better choice.

We'll compare the cost of the two supplements, and feature real user reviews of both.

Which Type is More Effective?

Before diving into the research to determine whether magnesium citrate or magnesium glycinate is more effective, let's first define the two terms.

Magnesium citrate is made from the combination of magnesium and citric acid, and is around 12% magnesium by weight.

Magnesium glycinate is made from the combination of magnesium and glycine, and is around 14% magnesium by weight.

Because elemental magnesium is thought to provide most of the health benefits, we will consider effectiveness to be determined by which form of magnesium is better-absorbed (which leads to higher levels of blood magnesium).

While we can't find any research studies directly comparing the absorption of magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate, there are studies analyzing the specific absorption of magnesium citrate.

A clinical trial published in the Magnesium Research journal found that magnesium citrate led to the greatest increase in blood magnesium levels compared to other forms (although magnesium glycinate was not among the other forms tested).

A medical review published in the Nutrients journal reported the absorption of magnesium citrate to be around 60% when taken with food.

A 2019 medical review concludes that supplementation with organic magnesium compounds (which both magnesium glycinate and magnesium citrate are) is more effective than supplementation with inorganic magnesium compounds (like magnesium oxide).

Overall, we consider magnesium citrate to be the better choice because its specific absorption levels have been reported in clinical studies, but we expect both compounds to be absorbed at similar rates.

But how does the price compare? We'll provide a cost breakdown in the next section of this article.

Which Type is Cheaper?

The price of magnesium citrate versus magnesium glycinate varies by brand, but we've found that magnesium citrate is generally slightly cheaper given that it can be cheaper to manufacture.

The price can be hard to directly compare because serving sizes and doses vary between brands as well.

To simply this for consumers, we've published a price breakdown below per-gram of magnesium.

Nature Made Magnesium Glycinate is the top organic result on Amazon at the time of publishing this article, and Bulletproof Magnesium is our top value pick for magnesium citrate:

Nature Made: $2.12 (link to official Amazon listing)

Bulletproof: $1.77 (link to brand's official website)

Bulletproof's magnesium citrate is currently 16% cheaper than Nature Made's magnesium glycinate, although the Amazon listing has free shipping so the best value will depend on what order size the customer is seeking.

Ancient Minerals Magnesium Bath Flakes is a topical form of magnesium that may be even cheaper than oral magnesium per-use.

These epsom salts can be added to a bath, and a one-pound tub costs under $11 at the time of updating this article.

Is Citrate or Glycinate Safer?

Oral magnesium supplementation has an excellent safety profile in otherwise healthy adults.

A 2017 medical review described magnesium supplementation as "a safe, useful and well-documented therapy."

However, the same review noted that magnesium supplementation can have increased risk for individuals with kidney disease or impairment, so patients with such conditions should speak with their doctor prior to supplementing with magnesium.

Magnesium supplementation has such a favorable safety profile in healthy adults that some researchers are calling for an increase of the Tolerable Upper Intake Level, which is established by the US Institute of Medicine (IOM).

A paper published in the Advances in Nutrition journal found only 40 total cases of side effects from magnesium supplementation reported in 18 years, with those side effects being mild gastrointestinal disturbances like diarrhea.

We can't find any studies suggesting that either magnesium citrate or magnesium glycinate has a higher risk of side effects, and we expect the risk to be very low for either compound when used by otherwise healthy adults.

Real People Try Magnesium Supplements

A TikTok creator named Lea Kaydine claims that magnesum citrate helped her with bloating:

@leakaydine Magnesium citrate has helped my gut SO much. It helps to break down excess in your gut and gets things moving, make sure you drink enough water to allow the magnesium to work. This has helped my bloating SO much 10/10 recommend! (Also helps you sleep too!) #guttok #gymtok #guthealth #guttips #womenshealth #bloatingtips #bloatinghack #fyp #foryourpage ♬ original sound - Beyinternet

A TikTok creator named "Busy Belle" suggests that magnesium glycinate supplementation helped with anxiety and ADHD:



♬ original sound - Busy Belle
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Both magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate have been clinically shown to increase magnesium levels in the body.

We consider both supplements to be better choices than magnesium oxide (which has worse absorption), and the differences between the two supplements are marginal.

There seem to have been significantly more research studies on magnesium citrate than magnesium glycinate, and we could only find a specific absorption rate for magnesium citrate (around 60% when taken with food).

For this reason, we give magnesium citrate the slight edge in regard to efficacy.

Most magnesium citrate supplements we came across while researching this article were cheaper per-gram of magnesium than magnesium glycinate, but again the difference is slim. 

Magnesium has a fantastic safety profile, and neither magnesium citrate nor magnesium glycinate should cause side effects in otherwise healthy adults.