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.
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 malate was not among the other forms tested).
Magnesium citrate has been clinically shown to be absorbed at a 60% rate when taken with food, as we documented in our magnesium citrate vs glycinate article.
We consider these two types of magnesium to be the best options on the market.
Our Clean Magnesium Picks
Bulletproof Magnesium is our top magnesium citrate pick because it provides an effective magnesium dose, and is one of the most affordable magnesium supplements on the market at only $16.99 for a one-time purchase and $13.56 for a subscription purchase at the time of updating this article.
Interested consumers can check out Bulletproof Magnesium at this link to the product page on the brand's official website.
Designs for Health Magnesium Malate is our top magnesium malate pick, because it provides an effective magnesium dose and also passed ConsumerLab testing, which is an independent organization that tests supplements for label accuracy and contaminants.
This supplement is priced at a more premium rate of $49.99 at the time of updating this article.
Interested consumers can check out Designs for Health Magnesium Malate at this link to the product's official Amazon listing.
Both of the supplements recommended in this section are entirely free of any additive ingredients that we consider to be unhealthy.
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.
Ancient Minerals Magnesium Oil is a spray-on oil that can be washed off.
Ancient Minerals Magnesium Bath Flakes are epsom salts that dissolve into warm/hot water in the bath.