While some forms of magnesium are well utilized in the body, others are hardly at all. Magnesium citrate is absorbed well but causes a problem for many. Magnesium citrate is the salt formed by magnesium and citric acid, and magnesium ascorbate is the salt formed with vitamin C, particularly with its natural (L)-form. This compound does not cause a problem, and it is a source of both magnesium and vitamin C. It is less acidic and sour than traditional vitamin C, making it ideal for children and people having difficulties swallowing capsules. It can be dissolved in liquids without concern for dental enamel. It is a good source of vitamin C for those who have reflux or heartburn when taking high doses of traditional vitamin C. As outlined above, magnesium ascorbate is an ideal source of magnesium and vitamin C for everyone.
Magnesium is a particularly important mineral, which is difficult to supply in a sufficient amount through our diet. Stress, sports, foods high in phytic acid (seeds and nuts, whole-grain foods, bran, etc.) and the consumption of coffee or tea can all increase magnesium loss. Due to this, the lack of magnesium is generally common. Magnesium supplementation is important for almost everybody.
Inorganic forms of magnesium, such as sulphate, oxide, carbonate or hydroxide are hardly absorbed in all, while they can cause loose stool or diarrhoea in the most susceptible people, and they neutralize gastric acid. Magnesium chloride is the only inorganic form that has fairly good absorption and it does not neutralize gastric acid but promotes its production. Organic (chelate) forms of magnesium generally have good absorption rates, thus they are less likely to cause diarrhoea/loose stool/intestinal problems.
An exception is magnesium citrate, as this is the magnesium salt of citric acid, and large amounts of citric acid can cause loose stool. Magnesium citrate contains 15-16% elemental magnesium and over 80% of citric acid. Although magnesium ascorbate is one of the most well-tolerated forms of magnesium, for those who still experience loose stool with these products, we recommend magnesium bisglycinate, but only the fully reacted form. This is the most gentle type of magnesium with an excellent absorption rate.
Most organic (chelated) magnesium products in the market are actually not what is written on it. Many of them contain only partially reacted activated magnesium compounds, or not reacted at all. This means that for example it is written on the product that it contains magnesium malate, but actually it contains a mixture of magnesium oxide/carbonate and malic acid or a mixture of magnesium oxide and citric acid instead of magnesium citrate, or the reaction partially took place, but still, most of the magnesium in the product is not in the form marked on the packaging! The not fully reacted forms always contain more elementary magnesium, and thus they are cheaper and significantly more economic.
How can we know that the selected product is good? It is difficult to be sure, but here is some help; I will list the elementary magnesium content in % of the most common fully reacted organic forms of magnesium:
- Magnesium malate: 6 – 12% (the (mono-) magnesium malate is the real one,di-magnesium malate is not fully reacted!)
- Magnesium bisglycinate: 12 – 14%
- Magnesium citrate: 14 – 16%
- Magnesium ascorbate: 6 – 17%
- Magnesium-L lactate: 12 - 13%
The weight of 1 tablet/capsule cannot exceed 1,000 mg, including the capsule shell and excipients. That is, if we see on a product marked as magnesium malate that it contains 200 mg magnesium per capsule/tablet, we already know that this cannot be true, because the elementary magnesium content of Mg malate is a maximum of 12%, which means 1 capsule/tablet definitely cannot contain more than 120 mg, rather somewhat less. So measure one capsule/ tablet for example on a jeweller’s scale, and take the % of that weight as listed above. If the product really contains the compound as marked, that is its maximum possible magnesium content. However, this does not guarantee anything in itself, as there are not fully reacted magnesium compounds with the same amount of magnesium as fully reacted ones. Another problem is that the magnesium content of many products is marked deceptively or wrongly, as the compound itself is marked as magnesium, while only a fraction of it amounts to elementary magnesium, as the above-listed percentages also show.
Life Extension Foundation calls magnesium “the new vitamin D3” because it is similarly important and its insufficiency is as common as that of D3. The absorption of magnesium products is greatly variable, and they cause a problem, loose stool or other digestion problems for many, which may result from the fact that it neutralizes gastric acid, while low gastric acid production is already quite a common problem. (Reflux, in fact, might not the excess production of gastric acid, moreover, in many cases, it might be caused by low levels of gastric acid. A developed SIBO and/or an insufficient functioning of the pylorus causes gastric acid to regurgitate to the oesophagus, and thus it seems like there is too much gastric acid even when this is not so.)
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If you are undergoing treatment for a medical condition or if you are pregnant or lactating, please consult your medical practitioner before introducing supplementary foods to your normal routine. The dietary supplement should not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet or a healthy lifestyle. Store tightly closed in a cool and dry place.
3. The above-referenced publication of Bence Gál Szabó, with the references therein