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Magnesium: The Mineral Panacea

Why is there so much emphasis on magnesium? Elementary, my dear Watson! This is because it contributes to most of the physiological processes of the body, and without this essential nutriment, our body cannot maintain its balance and stability.

There are hundreds of biochemical processes in which magnesium is involved. Magnesium is essential within cell-membrane ion-transport channels to guarantee a good electrolyte balance, with calcium for muscle contraction, or with potassium and sodium for nervous system sensitivity. Magnesium allows the activation of B vitamins and potentiates the bioavailability of vitamins D, E, and C; as well as that of potassium, calcium, and silica. It regulates blood pressure, prevents atheroma plaques and calcium lithiasis, stimulates immunity, regulates heart rate, is involved in bone architecture, etc.

In the brain, magnesium is an antagonist of stimulating molecules such as glutamate as well as an agonist of GABA, a relaxing molecule of the nervous system. Without magnesium, most of our enzymes would be unable to properly work or would not be activated. By the way, without enzymes, our body cannot function properly, because these proteins catalyze (in other words accelerate and optimize) the body’s metabolic reactions. Without enzymes, everything happens in slow motion… or not at all! Enzymes are not only digestive; they also condition, for example, hormone synthesis, nerve conduction, detoxification, and cellular energy production. However, most of these enzymatic reactions depend on magnesium, right up to the heart of our cells, where the Mg2+ ion is also an enzymatic cofactor for most genetic processes in the formation, defense, and maintenance of genetic material. This is just a hint of the importance of magnesium for our general health.

Unfortunately, magnesium is high on the list of minerals that our population is sorely lacking. Nearly one in three Canadians are not getting the 300 mg recommended daily intake for an adult. Sings of deficiency are numerous: muscular troubles, depression and anxiety, osteoporosis, premenstrual syndrome, insulin resistance, etc. Asymptomatic subdeficiencies, because the body constantly seeks balance and distributes its reserves between organs, may contribute to cancer and degenerative diseases.[1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7]

Refinements in food production and land depletion are major causes of magnesium deficiency. Between 1940 and 1991, the loss of magnesium was on average 16% to 24% for fruits and vegetables, respectively, and as high as 70% in carrots![8] But that is not all: Age and chronic inflammatory intestinal diseases limit intestinal absorption; stress and its hormone, cortisol, need magnesium for their regulation; pregnancy; pollutants; multiple drugs (antacids, antibiotics, diuretics, corticosteroids, contraceptives, etc.); phosphorus-rich foods (industrial drinks); excess tea and coffee; oxalic acid from spinach or phytic acid from cereals; calcium and iron supplements (magnesium antagonists)—all these factors prevent or hinder the action of magnesium.

Conversely, excess magnesium, hypermagnesemia, is a very rare disorder. Generally, the main symptom suggestive of excess magnesium is looser stools. Not everyone has the same reaction to magnesium, so it is customary to start with a low dose and increase as needed.[9], [10], [11] Start low, go slow.

However, your favourite market’s magnesium aisle may offer so much choice as to make you dizzy. Here are a few of the most common magnesium forms on the market, with their main use.

Magnesium Bisglycinate

The form getting most of the attention is magnesium bisglycinate. Strongly chelated to two molecules of glycine, a soothing amino acid which optimizes absorption, it is clearly the most bioavailable of all forms of magnesium.[12] It is the best choice if you want a supplement for preventing or treating magnesium deficiency.

Magnesium Orotate

Magnesium orotate is best for virtually any and all heart problems. Chelated to orotic acid, it improves blood-vessel elasticity, lowers cholesterol levels, and strengthens the heart muscle’s energy state, thereby preventing hypertension, ischemic damage, arrhythmia, or atherosclerosis.[13]

Magnesium Malate

A chelate of magnesium and malic acid, magnesium malate relieves very sore muscles, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue pain through its relaxing action on smooth muscles, its dilating properties at the vascular level, and its ability to normalize nerve conduction.[14]

Magnesium ʟ-⁠Threonate

Magnesium ʟ-⁠threonate is most relevant for cognitive function support, mental health, and anything generally brain-related, as it more easily crosses the blood-brain barrier. Magnesium ʟ-⁠threonate potentiates receptors involved in memory and learning processes, and it regulates inflammatory reactions. In addition, ʟ-⁠threonate improves mitochondrial function, synaptic density, and neuroplasticity.[15], [16]

Magnesium Citrate

Magnesium citrate, with its slight laxative effect, is useful to alleviate constipation. Its osmotic effect attracts water into the intestine, hence requiring greater hydration to prevent dehydration.[17], [18]

Finally, the addition of the amino acid ʟ-⁠taurine to certain magnesium formulas is due to its “magnesium-fixing” power, which allows a better cellular use of magnesium.[19], [20]

In short, if there was another item to add to the kitchen counter, alongside the salt and pepper shakers, it would be one containing magnesium!


[1]       Collery, P., L.J. Anghileri, P. Coudoux, and J. Durlach. “Magnésium et cancer : Données cliniques.” Magnesium-Bulletin, Vol. 1 (1981): 11–20.

[2]       Ames, B.N. “Low micronutrient intake may accelerate the degenerative diseases of aging through allocation of scarce micronutrients by triage. » Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 103, No. 47 (2006): 17589–17594.

[3]        Veronese, N., A. Zurlo, M. Solmi, C. Luchini, C. Trevisan, G. Bano, E. Manzato, G. Sergi, and R. Rylander. “Magnesium status in Alzheimer’s disease: A systematic review. » American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias, Vol. 31, No. 3 (2016): 208–213.

[4]        Qu, X., F. Jin, Y. Hao, H. Li, T. Tang, H. Wang, W. Yan, and K. Dai. “Magnesium and the risk of cardiovascular events: A meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. » PloS One, Vol. 8, No. 3 (2013): e57720.

[5]        Veronese, N., S. Watutantrige-Fernando, C. Luchini, M. Solmi, G. Sartore, G. Sergi, E. Manzato, M. Barbagallo, S. Maggi, and B. Stubbs. “Effect of magnesium supplementation on glucose metabolism in people with or at risk of diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis of double-blind randomized controlled trials. » European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 70, No. 12 (2016): 1463.

[6]        Zheng, J., X. Mao, J. Ling, Q. He, J. Quan, and H. Jiang. “Association between serum level of magnesium and postmenopausal osteoporosis: A meta-analysis. » Biological Trace Element Research, Vol. 159, No. 1–3 (2014): 8–14.

[7]        DiNicolantonio, J.J., J.H. O’Keefe, and W. Wilson. “Subclinical magnesium deficiency: a principal driver of cardiovascular disease and a public health crisis. » Open Heart, Vol. 5, No. 1 (2018): e000668. Erratum in: “Correction: Subclinical magnesium deficiency: a principal driver of cardiovascular disease and a public health crisis. » Open Heart, Vol. 5, No. 1 (2018): e000668corr1.

[8]        Thomas, D. “A study on the mineral depletion of the foods available to us as a nation over the period 1940 to 1991. » Nutrition and Health, Vol. 17, No. 2 (2003): 85–115.

[9]        Grosdidier, R. Le guide des compléments alimentaires. Paris: Guy Trédaniel, 2011, 296 p.

[10]      Dean, C. The magnesium miracle, Second Edition. New York: Ballantine Books, 2017, 608 p.

[11]      Laires, M.J., C.P. Monteiro, and M. Bicho. “Role of cellular magnesium in health and human disease. » Frontiers in Biosciences, Vol. 9 (2004): 262–276.

[12]      Hartle, J.W., S. Morgan, and T. Poulsen. “Development of a model for in-vitro comparative absorption of magnesium from five magnesium sources commonly used as dietary supplements. » The FASEB Journal, Vol. 30, No. S1 (2016): 128.6.

[13]      Torshin, I.Yu., O.A. Gromova, A.G. Kalacheva, E.V. Oshchepkova, and A.I. Martynov. “[Meta-analysis of clinical trials of cardiovascular effects of magnesium orotate] » [article en russe]. Terapevticheskii Arkhiv, Vol. 87, No. 6 (2015): 88–97.

[14]      Russell, I.J., J.E. Michalek, J.D. Flechas, and G.E. Abraham. “Treatment of fibromyalgia syndrome with Super Malic: A randomized, double blind, placebo controlled, crossover pilot study. » The Journal of Rheumatology, Vol. 22, No. 5 (1995): 953–958.

[15]      Abumaria, N., L. Luo, M. Ahn, and G. Liu. “Magnesium supplement enhances spatial-context pattern separation and prevents fear overgeneralization. » Behavioural Pharmacology, Vol. 24, No. 4 (2013): 255–263.

[16]      Liu, G., J.G. Weinger, Z.L. Lu, F. Xue, and S. Sadeghpour. “Efficacy and safety of MMFS-⁠01, a synapse density enhancer, for treating cognitive impairment in older adults: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. » Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, Vol. 49, No. 4 (2016): 971–990.

[17]      Lim, Y.J., and S.J. Hong. “What is the best strategy for successful bowel preparation under special conditions? » World Journal of Gastroenterology, Vol. 20, No. 11 (2014): 2741–2745.

[18]      Manes, G., A. Repici, C. Hassan; MAGIC-⁠P study group. “Randomized controlled trial comparing efficacy and acceptability of split- and standard-dose sodium picosulfate plus magnesium citrate for bowel cleansing prior to colonoscopy. » Endoscopy, Vol. 46, No. 8 (2014): 662–669.

[19]      Katakawa, M., N. Fukuda, A. Tsunemi, M. Mori, T. Maruyama, T. Matsumoto, M. Abe, and Y. Yamori. “Taurine and magnesium supplementation enhances the function of endothelial progenitor cells through antioxidation in healthy men and spontaneously hypertensive rats. » Hypertension Research, Vol. 39, No. 12 (2016): 848–856.

[20]      Jeon, S.H., M.Y. Lee, S.J. Kim, S.G. Joe, G.B. Kim, I.S. Kim, N.S. Kim, et al. “Taurine increases cell proliferation and generates an increase in [Mg2+]i accompanied by ERK 1/2 activation in human osteoblast cells. » FEBS Letters, Vol. 581, No. 30 (2007): 5929–5934.