This article dives into the science behind why magnesium bisglycinate is the best form of a magnesium supplement to choose in most cases. It is intended to be thorough yet easy to read. There is a lot of interesting and important information in here which is essential for anyone considering taking a magnesium supplement.
A magnesium supplement is never “pure magnesium”. It absolutely can’t be. The magnesium atom (Mg 2+) is totally unstable on its own. It is a highly reactive metal and it is always bound to other atoms to form some molecule. So a “magnesium supplement” isn’t simply a bunch of magnesium atoms in a bottle. Therefore a bottle labelled “magnesium” is actually some type of compound; you need to know which specific compound you are getting because it makes a huge difference. We need to dig deeper.
Why is the type or form of a magnesium supplement important?
One of the biggest reasons is bioavailability, which is a fancy word for absorption. If you are taking your magnesium in a form where the bond is hard to break, then you might as well be taking nothing at all because almost all of it will just pass right through you. It is like a molecule where the atoms are crazy glued together, and if your body can’t break the bond to access the magnesium, then you won’t absorb any (or very little). If the magnesium isn’t properly broken down and absorbed into the blood, then there is very little point in taking it, and it could actually do more harm than good.
Some forms of magnesium absorb very well, but most forms on the market absorb very poorly (often less than 4% of the magnesium is absorbed in many forms). Since most consumers are unaware of this fact, many supplement companies are content providing this inferior form of magnesium because it’s cheaper for them. Sadly, it really is that simple.
The next thing you need to know about a magnesium molecule is what effect the supplement has on the rest of the body after you “break off” the magnesium atom. You want to find a supplement where the magnesium atom breaks off easily, AND the rest of the molecule doesn’t harm your body after this reaction takes place.
Most of the magnesium on the market is magnesium oxide. Magnesium oxide is one magnesium atom and one oxygen atom bonded together. It’s very hard to break apart and the body absorbs as low as 4% of the magnesium in this form. It is also hard on the body and can easily cause diarrhea (Some people actually take magnesium oxide to help with constipation, so it doesn’t mean this form has no use). Read this to learn about a type of magnesium that won’t cause diarrhea. Just be very careful when you are taking magnesium oxide for any purpose other than to stimulate a bowel movement. It will be very difficult to raise your magnesium levels from magnesium oxide.
What is the best form of a magnesium supplement to take?
There are many forms of magnesium supplements on the market. As mentioned above, magnesium oxide is the most common. It is also the most poorly absorbed. There are many other forms like magnesium citrate, magnesium sulphate (Epsom salts), magnesium chloride, magnesium ascorbate, and many others. The form we’ve found to be the best for a variety of reasons is magnesium bisglycinate, and that is the form we’d like to discuss for the rest of this piece.
*** Interesting note: In case you were wondering the difference between magnesium bisglycinate and magnesium glycinate, here is the answer… There is none. They are 2 names for the same thing***
Magnesium bisglycinate has become more and more popular over the last couple of years for good reason. It’s highly absorbable and it’s relatively easy on the rest of the body.
We have a magnesium bisglycinate supplement that is non-buffered with no fillers. It is the purest form we have seen on the market.
Are all magnesium bisglycinates the same?
No! This may sound surprising, but not only does “magnesium” come in many different forms, but even magnesium bisglycinate comes in many different forms. This is because a supplement is allowed to be called “magnesium bisglycinate” even if it’s not pure magnesium bisglycinate.
Pure magnesium bisglycinate is a specific magnesium molecule. Most brands of magnesium bisglycinate on the market are “buffered”, which in this case means that magnesium oxide has been “mixed in” with the magnesium bisglycinate. This makes the product cheaper, and unfortunately, companies often won’t mention whether or not they are using a “buffered” form.
The purest of the pure forms of magnesium bisglycinate have about 14% of “elemental” magnesium (definition below). Anything higher than that means it must be buffered by definition. More on this below.
What is “chelated” magnesium bisglycinate?
Magnesium bisglycinate is often called “magnesium bisglycinate chelate”. This is the full name. Magnesium bisglycinate is a “chelated” form of magnesium. “Chelated” forms of a mineral mean that an amino acid has been attached to them. In the case of magnesium bisglycinate, a glycine molecule and a lysine molecule have been attached to a magnesium atom.
What is “buffered” magnesium bisglycinate?
As mentioned above, in the case of magnesium bisglycinate, a “buffered” form means that some other molecule has been “mixed in” with the pure magnesium bisglycinate. Sneaky!
Most often, a buffered form of magnesium bisglycinate is buffered with magnesium oxide. So you may be thinking you are buying pure magnesium bisglycinate, but you are actually buying a mixture of magnesium bisglycinate and magnesium oxide. You really need to be aware of what you are buying.
What is “elemental” magnesium and what does this have to do with anything?
This is an extremely important question, and it really gets at the heart of the dosage question below. Remember, magnesium is never in a pure form and is always bound together in some molecular compound. When you look at the number of milligrams, or (mg’s) of magnesium, what exactly are we talking about?
Let’s take magnesium oxide as a very simple example, and we’ll go back to early basic high school chemistry for a second. This is one magnesium atom bound together with one oxygen atom. It is “MgO”. An oxygen atom has a molecular mass of 16, and a magnesium atom has a molecular mass of 24. So in one molecule of magnesium oxide, we have 16/40 or 40% oxygen, and 24/40 or 60% magnesium.
So 100 mg of pure magnesium oxide has only 60 mg of “elemental” magnesium. Therefore the elemental magnesium is the mass of the “pure” magnesium inside a molecule.
Magnesium bisglycinate is a more complex molecule, but the same logic applies. If you look at the entire molecule and do some simple math, you will see that the magnesium portion of the molecule is only about 14% “elemental” magnesium. That means you need 1 gram (1000 mg’s) of magnesium bisglycinate to attain 140 mg of elemental magnesium.
Even though the % of elemental magnesium is much higher in magnesium oxide, the absorption rates and the overall effects on the body make magnesium bisglycinate a far superior supplemental form.
Many companies will sell magnesium bisglycinate in a buffered form to make the amount of “elemental” magnesium appear higher on the label. The problem is that when you make the elemental magnesium higher by adding magnesium oxide (buffereing the bisglycinate) then the magnesium won’t absorb nearly as well, and it will also cause loose stool (diarrhea). In fact when you experience diarrhea from a magnesium supplement, it is your body proving to you that it isn’t absorbing very well (it ends up in the toilet instead of in the body).
What is the best dosage of magnesium bisglycinate to take?
This is an important question with no easy answer. First of all, the amount of magnesium you actually absorb is the important part, and this is dependent on a number of factors, including the food you eat and the health of your small intestine (where magnesium is absorbed). Also, the recommended dosages for magnesium supplements are often dependent on a person’s weight. If you weight twice as much as someone else, you should generally take double the amount of magnesium. Thirdly, you need to verify if someone is talking about the amount of magnesium bisglycinate, or the amount of elemental magnesium. For example, you may read something like, “Dr. X recommends taking 500 mg of magnesium per day”. This doesn’t make a lot of sense because we don’t know the person’s body weight, we don’t know the form of magnesium, and we don’t know if they are talking about elemental or molecular magnesium! The last one makes a huge difference as the elemental magnesium is only 14% of the mass of the molecule for pure bisglycinate.
You can and should check with your doctor for your specific case, but for there are benefits in taking anywhere from 20-200 mg of elemental magnesium from pure magnesium bisglycinate per day, and the real range is likely larger than this. It’s also better to take smaller doses more often than it is to take one big dose, as magnesium stores get depleted very quickly.
What is supplementing with magnesium bisglycinate good for?
There is so much scientific research backing so many uses of magnesium bisglycinate supplementation. There are many more professional studies being done as we speak. For now, I’ll list just a few of the benefits of supplementing with this:
- Decrease anxiety
- Help with sleep
- Lower stress
- Improve heart and cardiovascular health
- Control chronic pain problems
- Reduce migraine frequency and severity
- Reduce general headache frequency and severity
- Increase testosterone (both free and total) levels in men and helping women balance their own sex hormones
- Control blood sugar and protect against type 2 diabetes
This is a very impressive list and is by no means exhaustive. One last little tidbit of information you should find useful is that taking magnesium bisglycinate together with vitamin B6 will improve the absorption of the magnesium.
If you are interested in trying our magnesium bisglycinate supplement that is non-buffered with no fillers and is the purest form we have seen on the market, you can click the above link to buy it.