Which types of magnesium are useful for specific conditions?

January 2021

The human body needs various minerals to function properly. One of these is magnesium, which is required for more than 300 biological processes vital to human health. These include, for example, producing RNA and DNA molecules, regulating the amount of various nutrients contained in the blood and tissues, helping to prevent health conditions like osteoarthritis, and manufacturing new proteins [1, 2, 3].

Although magnesium in general has been demonstrated to provide wide variety of health benefits, some research has focused on specific forms of magnesium being administered for specific health conditions. Here is the run down of the research:

Magnesium Glycinate

According to one study, magnesium glycinate can alleviate chronic pain and improve overall muscle flexibility [4]. It also has been used to effectively treat fibromyalgia [5], chronic fatigue syndrome [6], and depression [8, 29], as well as reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart failure, diabetes, and all-cause mortality [7]. Magnesium glycinate is chelated and research has shown it to be better absorbed and assimilated by the body than other forms. 

Magnesium Oxide

Studies are mixed regarding the effects of magnesium oxide on athletic performance. One study found that supplementation with this form of magnesium improved physical performance in healthy elderly women, suggesting that it might help prevent or delay age-related physical decline [10]. However, another determined that it had no effect on physical performance or recovery in younger athletes with low or normal magnesium levels [11, 12]. Magnesium oxide can also lower blood pressure, especially in people with hypertension [16, 17, 19], and it might help treat migraines [26]. Finally, magnesium oxide has been shown to reduce premenstrual fluid retention [28]. Magnesium oxide is not as well absorbed as other types, however, and large doses need to be taken to achieve a therapeutic rise in body magnesium levels. 

Magnesium Sulfate

One study found that magnesium sulfate has been shown to improve aerobic exercise performance in stable chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients [9].

Magnesium Chloride

Daily magnesium chloride supplements of 450 mg were determined to effectively treat depression in elderly patients with type 2 diabetes and hypomagnesemia [13]. In addition, oral supplementation with magnesium chloride improved metabolism and insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetic patients who had low  serum magnesium levels [14]. However, this effect was not observed in people with type 2 diabetes who had normal serum magnesium levels [15]. Like magnesium oxide, magnesium chloride can lower blood pressure [18]. Finally, low magnesium levels have been associated with chronic inflammation and related conditions such as obesity and chronic illness [23, 24, 25]. Magnesium chloride has been shown to reduce plasma C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation [22].

Magnesium Citrate

Like magnesium chloride, magnesium citrate can reduce inflammation. In one study, a daily 320 mg magnesium citrate supplement reduced CRP and other inflammatory markers [20, 21]. This form of magnesium also shows promise in relieving migraine symptoms [27]. However, some people have digestive distress as a result of taking magnesium citrate.

It’s unclear whether these research results bear a general improvement in the condition as a result of taking magnesium, or the particular form of magnesium administered to the study participants. We are hopeful that this distinction will be borne out in future research. For now, we recommend taking magnesium glycinate as it’s best absorbed with no unpleasant side effects.

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1. Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Fluoride.” Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1997, 190-240. Available at:
2. Jahnen-Dechent, W., Ketteler, M. “Magnesium Basics.” Clinical Kidney Journal 5, 3-14 (2012).