Getting confused with all the different types of magnesium? There’s magnesium glycinate, taurate, citrate, orotate… the list goes on.

What ever happened to the days where a magnesium supplement was just a magnesium supplement?

Magnesium can be an incredibly useful health supplement. It’s used in well over 300 different enzyme reactions in the human body, helps to relax muscles, initiate sleep, and supports cardiovascular and cognitive health. It’s also one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the modern era.

With so many different forms of magnesium, it’s hard to know what’s best for us.

This article aims to demystify the magnesium confusion by highlighting the uses behind each type, and outline its main positives and negatives.

What Makes Magnesium Different?

Elemental magnesium itself will always be the same. The difference is what the magnesium is bound to. Magnesium is an alkaline earth metal, and therefore won’t be absorbed from the gut in its pure form. It’s also a highly unstable compound that will react with many different chemicals, sometimes violently.

Watch this video on magnesium reacting with water if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

This is why we bind magnesium to other compounds like glycine, threonine, or taurine. We call this process chelation.

Chelating magnesium to these compounds changes the oxidation state and allows us to absorb them more efficiently through the gastrointestinal tract.

The compounds bound with magnesium will eventually be separated in the body, where they can go on to deliver benefits of their own.

For example, magnesium glycinate will provide both magnesium, and the amino acid glycine. Magnesium threonate on the other hand will break apart to provide magnesium and threonine.

Each will have different uses in the body. This is why some forms of magnesium are better for sleep promoting effects, and others for specific organ systems like the heart, brain, or gut.

1. Magnesium Glycinate

Magnesium glycinate is one of the most common forms of magnesium available, and is the most common version used in medical practice for treating magnesium deficiencies.

This is because magnesium glycinate is both highly bioavailable, and cost effective to manufacture.

This form of magnesium is water soluble, which means that if it isn’t absorbed quickly in the gut, it can draw water into the digestive tract through a process called osmosis. This gives it some mild laxative effects if the dose it too large.

Magnesium glycinate is the best for people who are magnesium deficient, and who suffer from chronic gastrointestinal inflammation due to the glycine content.


Highly absorbable form of magnesium
Unlikely to cause gastrointestinal issues


Doesn’t cross the blood brain barrier as easily as other forms
Can have some mild laxative effects


2. Magnesium Citrate

Magnesium citrate is a common form of supplemental magnesium, but has some downsides.

It’s been shown to reduce levels of a compound called ceruloplasmin [1], which is used to regulate iron and copper levels in the body. Without adequate ceruloplasmin, copper and iron are more likely to roam freely through the body, which can lead to oxidation and inflammation.

Magnesium citrate isn’t absorbed as easily as other forms of magnesium, and is water soluble. This means that it tends to draw water into the digestive tract through osmosis. This makes magnesium citrate more likely to produce laxative effects in the body than more absorbable forms.

Magnesium citrate is one of the most common forms of magnesium, but isn’t the best option for most people. It is, however, great for supporting bone health by improving calcium uptake in the gut.


Reduces constipation symptoms
Easy to find in supplement shops
Improves calcium absorption to support bone health


Poorly absorbed
Can inhibit ceruloplasmin
Can be laxative in higher doses


3. Magnesium Taurate

Magnesium taurate is generally marketed for its calming effects on the body. It does this by delivering both magnesium and taurine to the muscles and brain.

Magnesium is required for muscle relaxation, which is why deficiencies in the mineral often leads to muscle tension. By relaxing the muscles, magnesium can help reduce the feeling of stress, and helps people fall asleep at night.

The taurine portion is quickly liberated from the magnesium molecule in the body is used as an anxiolytic (reduces anxiety).

Taurine activates the GABA receptors in the brain [2], which are used to reduce stimulation in the nervous system, and is essential in the process of relaxation.

Magnesium taurate is the best form of magnesium for people looking for the relaxation benefits of magnesium supplementation.


Offers potent relaxation effects
Useful for muscle cramps and athletic injuries
Supports healthy cardiovascular function


Not as well absorbed as other forms of magnesium


4. Magnesium Orotate

Magnesium orotate is a combination of magnesium and orotic acid, which is sometimes referred to as vitamin B13. It’s important to note that although orotic acid has many uses in the body, it is not actually a B vitamin.

This form of magnesium isn’t very water soluble, which means it has the lowest potential for laxative effects in the body compared to other forms of magnesium, even in higher doses.

Magnesium orotate is well absorbed, and offers specific benefits to the cardiovascular system. It’s been shown to reduce heart palpitations [3], improve cardiac output during exercise [4], and improve energy production in the heart tissue [5].

Magnesium orotate is the best form of magnesium for patients looking for the cardiovascular benefits of magnesium.


Well absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract
Doesn’t have laxative effects like other forms of magnesium


Not as strong a muscle relaxer to other forms of magnesium


5. Magnesium Malate

Combining malic acid and magnesium gives you magnesium malate.

This form of magnesium is often found in the green superfood chlorella, which has well-known heavy metal chelating effects. At least some of these effects are due to the magnesium malate levels in this nutritional algae.

Magnesium malate is well absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract. The malic acid portion of the compound provides support to the kreb cycle in the cells, which is responsible for energy generation.

This makes magnesium malate especially useful for people with mitochondrial dysfunctions, or those suffering from chronic fatigue symptoms.


Improves energy production
Useful for heavy metal chelation


Can have laxative effects in higher doses


6. Magnesium Threonate

Magnesium threonate is a combination of magnesium and threonine, a common amino acid used in the manufacture of various proteins in the body.

Magnesium threonate is considered the best form of magnesium for crossing the blood brain barrier. This allows the benefits of magnesium to become more available to the brain directly. It’s common in nootropic formulas for this reason, and is often used to improve both long and short term memory, reduce headaches, and boost overall cognitive function. [6].

Like all forms of magnesium, it offers some broad relaxing and antianxiety benefits. The main benefit of this form of magnesium isn’t what it’s bound to, but in how effectively it delivers magnesium to the brain. Once in the brain, magnesium is used to regulate neurotransmitter production and improves the repair process of nerve cells. [8].

Magnesium threonate is the best form of magnesium for cognitive health, and is the most common form found in nootropic formulas.


Crosses the blood brain barrier more efficiently than other forms of magnesium
Promotes relaxation
Improves both short and long term memory


Not as absorbable from the gut
Can have a laxative effect in higher doses


7. Magnesium oxide

This form of magnesium is common in many citrus fruits like limes, lemons and oranges. It’s one of the oldest forms of magnesium supplementation. It offers a high amount of elemental magnesium by weight, but is poorly absorbed in the gut.

This is not generally considered a great source of supplemental magnesium.


The Bottom Line

Although it’s best to get most of your nutrients, including magnesium, from your diet, it’s common in the modern era for our diets to be deplete in this important nutrient. It’s therefore useful to supplement magnesium into our diets.

Depending on what benefits you want from magnesium will determine what the best form is for your body.

The bottom line, however, is that all the common forms of magnesium aside from magnesium oxide will provide your body with the magnesium it needs to function.


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Zhang CG & Kim SJ (2007). Taurine induces anti-anxiety by activating strychnine-sensitive glycine receptor in vivo. Ann Nutr Metab, 51(4):379-86. doi: 10.1159/000107687
Branea, I., Gaiţă, D., Drăgulescu, I., Socoteanu, I., Luca, C., Mancaş, S., … & Fluture, A. (1999). Assessment of treatment with orotate magnesium in early postoperative period of patients with cardiac insufficiency and coronary artery bypass grafts (ATOMIC). Romanian journal of internal medicine= Revue roumaine de medecine interne, 37(3), 287-296.
Geiss, K. R., Stergiou, N., Neuenfeld, H. U., & Jester, H. G. (1998). Effects of magnesium orotate on exercise tolerance in patients with coronary heart disease. Cardiovascular drugs and therapy, 12(2), 153-156.
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