Magnesium is a mineral essential for good health. Over 50% of the body’s magnesium is concentrated in the bones and teeth, with 25% in muscles and a tiny amount in the extracellular milieu (1%).
Involved in more than 300 metabolic reactions, this key substance ensures a number of vital functions, helping, in particular:
As the body is unable to produce magnesium, we need to obtain sufficient amounts from the diet. In 2014, the EFSA (European Food Safety Agency) set an Adequate Intake for magnesium of 350 mg/day for men and 300 mg/day for women.
Among the best sources of this mineral are cocoa, nuts and dried fruits, wholegrains, molluscs and crustaceans, and highly mineralised waters.
However, magnesium deficiency remains widespread; it’s the most common deficiency in Europe after vitamin D (4). Besides a diet low in magnesium-containing foods, other factors such as stress, intensive exercise, intestinal complaints or taking certain medicines can all contribute to malabsorption or excessive renal excretion of this mineral (5).
Difficult to detect, a lack of magnesium initially presents as nausea or vomiting, persistent fatigue , loss of appetite or cramps. Over time, it can lead to numbness or an irregular heartbeat (6). Many people therefore choose to supplement with magnesium to optimise their daily intake and prevent deficiency.
Magnesium supplements are based on a combination of magnesium salt and a natural mineral or organic vehicle which facilitates its entry into cells. So there are:
However, these magnesium supplements are not all the same. Some have a lower dose of elemental magnesium, while others are poorly absorbed by the body as they have low bioavailability (7). In the latter case, inadequate solubility in the gut is often the reason.
In addition, some magnesium salts retain water in the colon, potentially causing a laxative effect.
In short, there are genuine differences in terms of uptake, efficacy and tolerance.
Among all the forms on the market, magnesium orotate is the one to choose because of its content of orotic acid. Long known as vitamin B13, this organic compound is secreted by gut flora and binds to alkaline minerals (zinc, potassium, calcium, and magnesium), ensuring they are transported effectively to priority sites in the body (8).
Taking magnesium in its orotate form closely reproduces the natural uptake of minerals provided by the diet.
Magnesium orotate supplements therefore offer maximum bioavailability (which is the case, for example, with the exceptional supplement Magnesium Orotate).
The classic magnesium malate form remains a satisfactory alternative to orotate (9). Here, the magnesium salt is combined with malic acid, a substance present in many types of fruit, such as apples, pears and grapes.
In addition to having good bioavailability, magnesium malate acts as a chelator: in releasing the magnesium salt, malic acid captures molecules of aluminium, a heavy metal that tends to accumulate in the body (10). Its excellent solubility means it is very well tolerated by the digestive system. Another point in its favour is its affordable price (an example is the supplement Magnesium Malate).
If you’d rather not choose between them, opt instead for a supplement that combines several forms of magnesium (such as OptiMag, which offers 8 forms carefully selected for their excellent bioavailability and excluding the least absorbable forms such as magnesium oxide, carbonate and hydroxide). It’s a little more expensive than malate, but offers a more synergistic effect.
Do you want to take a magnesium supplement for a specific reason? If so, consider a cutting edge combination supplement which will target magnesium’s effects:
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