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 test) has been proven in medical research to cause cardiovascular disease.
The magnesium levels in produce have eroded due to modern farming practices, and 80% of magnesium can be lost in food processing according to medical research, so magnesium supplementation may be worthwhile for many consumers.
But what's the best magnesium supplement on the market based on research? What should consumers look for when selecting a magnesium supplement? And how does topical magnesium compare to oral magnesium?
In this article we’ll review the research on magnesium to determine which types are the best-absorbed. We’ll recommend two magnesium supplements based on their formulation and discuss the differences between oral and topical magnesium.
A YouTube video by Dr. Eric Berg is under 3 minutes long and overviews some of the benefits of magnesium:
What's the Best-Absorbed Magnesium?
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 biological effects.
It can be confusing to consumers to choose a magnesium supplement given that there are so many different types of magnesium. A research review published in the Biological Trace Element Research journal in 2019 analyzed the bioavailability of different popular types of magnesium to determine which types are the best-absorbed.
Interestingly, the most popular magnesium supplements performed the worst in this medical review. 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 in this trial.
Magnesium malate is formed by combining magnesium with malic acid.
Another type of magnesium chelate called magnesium bisglycinate was shown in a 2020 clinical trial to be more effective and better-absorbed in the intestines than a more standard formulation.
We consider these two types of magnesium to be the best options on the market.
Our Magnesium Supplement Recommendations
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.
A brand called Designs for Health sells a magnesium malate supplement that we recommend. As we’ve established in the previous section, magnesium malate is highly absorbable compared to more common forms of magnesium, and this supplement contains an effective magnesium dose of 360 milligrams (mg) and is free of any questionable additive ingredients.
Designs for Health's supplement also passed ConsumerLab testing, which is an independent organization that tests supplements for label accuracy and contaminants.
Interested consumers can check out Designs for Health Magnesium Malate at this link to its official Amazon listing.
A brand called Future Kind sells a magnesium bisglycinate supplement that we recommend. It contains an effective magnesium dose (200 mg) and is free of any questionable additive ingredients.
Interested consumers can check out Future Kind Vegan Chelated Magnesium at this link to its official product page.
Is Topical Magnesium Effective?
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.
Ancient Minerals is the brand we recommend for topical magnesium products.
Here is a link to the official Amazon listing for Ancient Minerals Magnesium Bath Flakes.
Here is a link to the official Amazon listing for Ancient Minerals Magnesium Oil.