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Magnesium supplements - which are best?

Magnesium is a vital mineral involved in hundreds of reactions in the body. It is involved in making proteins, energy production and reproduction. It also plays a critical role in maintaining normal nerve, muscle and heart function, and maintaining blood sugar balance. Magnesium is called the relaxing mineral as we need it to allow our muscles to relax. Low levels of magnesium are associated with many health conditions including migraine, Alzheimer's disease, insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, anxiety, depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Magnesium is found in green vegetables, pulses (bean, peas and lentils), nuts and seeds, and dark chocolate. Despite this around 60% of people in the UK are estimated to be deficient in magnesium. The obvious solution is to eat more greens, but for some people that isn't enough and they turn to magnesium supplements.

Magnesium comes in many different forms, and they are not all the same. Many of the cheaper forms are not well absorbed and pass straight through the body. Forms to avoid include magnesium oxide and magnesium sulphate.

Because magnesium has a relaxing effect some forms can be used to treat constipation as they have a mild laxative effect. These include magnesium citrate (one of the most most commonly found forms) and magnesium chloride.

The different forms have specific benefits:

Magnesium Citrate is generally well absorbed and is good for most people, but for some people it can cause digestive issues. It might also not be suitable for people with histamine intolerance. Magnesium citrate is thought to help improve energy levels and has been shown to help with depression and anxiety.

Magnesium bisglycinate (or glycinate) is one of my favourite forms. The magnesium is bound to the amino acid glycine. Glycine is essential for production of GABA, the relaxing neurotransmitter. Because of this magnesium bisglycinate is the best for sleep issues, stress, depression and anxiety. It has also been used to treat inflammatory conditions, including heart disease and diabetes.

Magnesium taurate is used to help balance blood sugar levels and high blood pressure.

Magnesium malate is one of the most easily absorbed forms and among other conditions has been used to treat fibromyalgia.

Magnesium L-threonate is easily absorbed and some research shows that it is the best form for increasing magnesium concentration in brain cells. Magnesium L-threonate is used for depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and age-related memory loss.

Epsom salts, or magnesium flakes can be used in baths to increase magnesium levels. The scientific evidence to support magnesium absorption through skin is not strong, but anecdotally a lot of people benefit from magnesium baths (particularly for relaxation) and from using magnesium sprays topically.

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