Magnesium Glycinate vs. Citrate Vitamin Supplements

Magnesium glycinate and magnesium citrate are two similar sounding but distinct chemical compounds that can have differing effects on the human body when consumed orally. Both may also be effective at treating magnesium deficiency.

If you find yourself in the supplements aisle, weighing the pros and cons of magnesium glycinate vs. citrate, read on to learn more about the effects of both chemicals, possible side effects and other ways you may increase magnesium levels in your personal diet.

What Is Magnesium?

Magnesium is an alkaline metallic element similar to sodium and lithium. It can also be an essential mineral in human cell biology, helping the body to regulate blood sugar, control motor function, maintain bone health, and produce new DNA.

Like other alkali metals, elemental magnesium is highly reactive in pure form and cannot be absorbed by the human body. It has to be combined with something else to create a salt compound that we can digest. Two of these compounds — magnesium glycinate and magnesium citrate — are popular over-the-counter magnesium supplements.

Magnesium Glycinate: Uses and Effects

Chemical Makeup

Magnesium glycinate is created by combining elemental magnesium with the simple amino acid glycine. Glycine itself is useful for building muscle in the body and is commonly found in protein-rich foods like meat.

When mixed together, they form a compound that can easily be digested by the intestinal walls of the body. For this reason, it can easily be packaged and sold as a magnesium supplement.

Dosage and Effects

Magnesium glycinate naturally looks like a white powder, but it can also be purchased in capsule or gummy pill form. Glycinate supplements are often marketed as helping to relieve anxiety or aid in sleep. These effects could be associated with increased consumption of magnesium compounds, but they aren't specific to magnesium glycinate.

The compound may also be less likely than other magnesium supplements to cause adverse effects like diarrhea. The glycine amino acid component of the magnesium salt is already required for a balanced diet and is not likely to cause any side effects by itself — assuming that the recommended dosage of magnesium glycinate is taken.

Potential Side Effects

According to Healthline, taking higher than recommended dosage of magnesium glycinate can lead to symptoms including low blood pressure, nausea and vomiting, arrhythmia and muscle weakness.

An extreme over-dosage may also lead to cardiac arrest, so contact a poison control center immediately if you or someone else swallows much more than the recommended amount of magnesium supplements.

These symptoms are due to higher than normal magnesium levels in the body and are not likely to be caused by the amino acid portion of magnesium glycinate. As with most supplements, none of these issues are likely to arise if you stay within the recommended dosage.

Consult with a doctor if you are unsure of the correct dosage, especially when giving magnesium glycinate supplements to children and teenagers, or if you are pregnant.

Magnesium Citrate: Uses and Effects

Chemical Makeup

Magnesium citrate is made up of equal parts magnesium oxide and citric acid molecules. Citric acid is naturally found in lemons, oranges and other fruits. This common source of Vitamin C is also used as a preservative in hundreds of varieties of processed foods. You'll find concentrated mixtures of the chemical used as disinfectants and as an ingredient in cleaning solutions as well.

Since it is a mild acid, taking citric acid is not likely to lead to health issues unless consumed in abnormally high doses or an extremely concentrated form. As a magnesium supplement, magnesium citrate can be purchased in liquid form, as a powder or in pill form.

Dosage and Effects

Unlike magnesium glycinate, magnesium citrate is commonly used within hospital settings. A doctor may prescribe magnesium citrate as a laxative in order to evacuate a patient's bowels completely prior to surgery or colonoscopy.

It may also help with symptoms of constipation and heartburn. Magnesium citrate speeds up the rate that our intestines absorb water, so plenty of fluids should also be consumed along with the compound.

Magnesium citrate can also be used as a magnesium supplement, albeit in much smaller doses. It's important not to take magnesium citrate labelled as a laxative for supplementary purposes. Doing so may lead to accidental magnesium overdose, along with diuretic symptoms.

Potential Side Effects

Similarly to magnesium glycinate, magnesium citrate can cause many of the same symptoms when consumed in higher than recommended amounts, including low blood pressure, nausea and vomiting, arrhythmia, muscle weakness and cardiac arrest in extreme cases. The laxative effect of magnesium citrate could also cause diarrhea or dehydration if you are not drinking enough water along with it.

As mentioned before, always stay within recommended dosages for medication and supplements. Consult a doctor if you have additional questions about magnesium supplementation.

Should I Take Magnesium Glycinate or Magnesium Citrate?

Although chemically distinct, magnesium glycinate and magnesium citrate are both salt compounds that can by used as a magnesium supplement in the body. As such, they have very similar effects — and similar side effects, if consumed in excess.

One primary difference between the two is that magnesium citrate also has a laxative effect. You may want to choose magnesium glycinate over magnesium citrate if you frequently suffer from digestive issues like diarrhea.

Once again, ask a doctor if you would like to know more.

Do I Need a Magnesium Supplement?

An important thing to remember when researching and purchasing dietary supplements is that the supplement industry is not regulated by the FDA, and companies that sell these compounds are not required to verify claims through scientific study.

As a result, marketers often make big sweeping claims about how a certain supplement will help your case while the real-world results are marginal.

That being said, vitamin deficiency can be a real problem for those with abnormal diets or certain pre-existing conditions, and dietary supplements like magnesium glycinate and citrate may help to restore magnesium levels in the body.

It may also be well-advised to treat an apparent deficiency by eating magnesium-rich foods before attempting a form of magnesium supplementation. If you feel like you aren't getting enough magnesium in your diet, it's best to first consult with a doctor who can help put you on the right track.

How Much Magnesium Should the Body Have?

The National Institutes of Health recommend about 300 mg for women (between 360 and 400 mg for pregnant women) and 420 mg of daily magnesium consumption for men, with slightly higher doses needed for those in puberty and over the age of 30. For children under 14, the recommended dose is much lower.

If you are already eating a balanced diet with plenty of fresh foods, then you likely are getting enough magnesium to satisfy this daily allowance. However, certain diseases could interfere with your body's ability to process magnesium, which is where a magnesium supplement comes in.

According to NIH, the health conditions most commonly associated with magnesium deficiency are Crohn's disease, celiac disease, enteritis and Type 2 diabetes. Excess consumption of alcohol may lower bodily magnesium levels by causing it to be filtered through the kidneys. Elderly people may also absorb less magnesium from their food than younger adults.

What Are the Symptoms of Low Magnesium Levels?

Consistently getting less than the recommended amount of magnesium can be a cause of frequent migraine headaches.

Magnesium is integral to heart and bone health. Long-term deficiency may lead to cardiovascular disease or osteoporosis, according to NIH. Low magnesium may also impair the body's ability to regulate insulin and contribute to the development of Type 2 diabetes.

Elderly people are much more likely to develop health issues related to low magnesium levels than young people. If you experience any of these health conditions and think they may be tied to low magnesium, bring it up to your doctor for further testing and treatment.

Alternative Magnesium Supplements

Magnesium Oxide

Magnesium oxide is made up of elemental magnesium and free oxygen atoms. It may be used to treat illnesses like migraine and constipation. It may also provide some benefits for lowering blood pressure and blood sugar.

Compared to magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate, magnesium oxide does not appear to be as effective as a magnesium supplement. It lacks the acid component of the other two compounds, which makes it less likely to be absorbed by the body during digestion.

Magnesium Chloride

Magnesium chloride (MgCl2) is one of the most common forms of magnesium salt we have on Earth, as it can easily be extracted from seawater or dried up sea-beds.

One magnesium chloride molecule is made up of one elemental magnesium ion and two chlorine ions. This compound is integral to the preparation of tofu. It is also used as road salt, as a plant fertilizer and in many other industrial applications.

When ingested as a supplement, this compound is more readily absorbed by the body than magnesium oxide. In supplemental form, this magnesium compound features the same effects and side effects as other forms of magnesium like magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate.

Magnesium Sulfate

Magnesium Sulfate is a salt mixture made up of magnesium and sulfuric acid. Like magnesium citrate, this compound sees regular use in the medical industry, but it's more than just a laxative. When mixed with other compounds, magnesium sulfate can be prescribed as an anti-seizure medication, cardiovascular treatment, an anesthetic, an anti-arrhythmia med or a painkiller.

Doctors may also recommend magnesium sulfate as a treatment to restore magnesium levels in the body. As a supplemental magnesium treatment, you will likely need a prescription to obtain this compound.

Over the counter, the compound is often available under the name "epsom salt." However, this powder is meant to be mixed with water and applied on the skin to help relieve sprains and joint pain, not to be taken orally.

9 Magnesium-rich Foods

Before taking supplements like magnesium glycinate or magnesium citrate, it may be wise to get this essential mineral by incorporating magnesium-rich foods into your diet. Magnesium can naturally be found in meats, dairy, nuts and vegetables. Specialty diets like vegetarianism and veganism should be able to get enough magnesium by focusing on certain foods.

NIH lists the following foods as some of the highest sources for magnesium.

  1. Almonds: 80 mg per 1 oz serving

  2. Spinach: 78 mg per 1/2 cup serving

  3. Cashews: 74 mg per 1 oz serving

  4. Peanuts: 63 mg per 1/4 cup serving

  5. Shredded wheat: 61 mg per serving

  6. Black beans: 60 mg per 1/2 cup serving

  7. Potatoes: 43 mg per 3.5 oz serving

  8. Brown rice: 42 mg per 1/2 cup serving

  9. Low fat yogurt: 42 mg per 8 oz serving

When dieting to increase vitamin intake, it's important to select as many fresh foods as possible. Overly processed "junk" foods may contain some of the necessary nutrients, but the body has a much more difficult time absorbing them than it does with freshly-cooked or raw food ingredients.

Original article: Magnesium Glycinate vs. Citrate Vitamin Supplements

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