Table of contents
Why is magnesium important
The human body is dependent on several minerals such as zinc, calcium, iron and Magnesium. which are crucial to its smooth operations and a deficiency in just one of these could cause lasting problems. One highly important member of this group is Magnesium which is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body. 1
The mineral is needed for the completion of more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body including the energy generating reactions which take place within the cells. 2 Magnesium keeps the bones, muscles and heart healthy, it is essential to the contraction of the body’s muscles, it helps maintain bone density and it is essential for the production of blood platelets. Magnesium plays a major role in the conversion of food into energy and it also helps regulate our body’s clock. Magnesium has also been proven to lower the risk of certain medical conditions such as insomnia, constipation, migraines, gallstones, heart attacks, cardiovascular disease, kidney stones, osteoporosis etc. 3
Over half of the magnesium in the body is stored in the bones while the rest is found in the body’s cells and organs. Magnesium is derived from food sources such as green vegetables, nuts, seeds, cocoa, unrefined whole grains, certain legumes etc. 4 The recommended dietary allowance (RDA), according to the National Institutes of Health, is
|Adult males||400 – 420|
|Adult females||310 – 320|
|During Pregnancy||350 – 360|
|During Breastfeeding||310 – 320|
|Infants (birth to 6 months)||30|
|Infants (7 – 12 months)||75|
|Children (1 – 3 years)||80|
|Children (4 – 8 years)||130|
|Children (9 – 13 years)||240|
|Adolescent males (14 – 18 years)||410|
|Adolescent females (14 – 18 years)||360|
The amount of magnesium gotten from food sources is, in most cases, inadequate and below the RDA. According to GBHealthWatch, dietary sources account for 30 – 40% of our daily magnesium intake. Thus, it could be helpful to consider supplementation to help make up the deficit in the RDA. There are various forms of magnesium supplements available such as magnesium sulphate, magnesium oxide, magnesium citrate, magnesium chelate, magnesium glycinate etc. In this article, we will be focusing on two of these; magnesium oxide and magnesium citrate.
What is Magnesium Oxide?
Magnesium oxide is a compound of magnesium which is commonly used as a supplement to maintain adequate levels or cure low levels of the mineral in the blood. Acutely deficient persons are often prescribed this supplement to help improve their body’s levels. Apart from this, this supplement is used to cure certain conditions.
One common use of this supplement is the alleviation of migraines. Research has proved that most people suffering from this condition often have low blood levels of magnesium and magnesium oxide supplementation has helped alleviate some of the condition’s symptoms. 5
Magnesium oxide is also used as a laxative and an antacid. It is well known for its ability to neutralize acidity within the bowel, a condition which is often characterized by indigestion and stomach aches. Heartburns are another common condition for which magnesium oxide comes in handy. 6
Despite these benefits of the supplement, a percentage of users of magnesium oxide have reported diverse side effects with varying degrees of severity. Some of these side effects include nausea, diarrhoea, itching, rashes, weakness, dizziness, vomiting etc. Also, magnesium oxide could interact with a wide range of prescription, non-prescription, dietary, nutritional, herbal, recreational and illegal drugs hence it is important to take this supplement with the guidance of a doctor. 7
Magnesium oxide can be administered in capsule, liquid and tablet forms. It is important to stick to the dosage prescribed by the doctor so as to prevent overdosing. Having too much magnesium in the body could cause problems such as diarrhoea, irregular heartbeat, urine retention and even cardiac arrest, hence it is important for its long term users to regularly check up with their doctors to avoid these problems. 8
What is Magnesium Citrate?
Magnesium citrate is another popular supplement form of magnesium. It is commonly used as a laxative and it is well known for its ability to solve rectal and colon problems. 9
One of its most popular uses is for alleviating constipation. Constipation is a medical condition where your bowels find it difficult to move or do not move at all. A number of symptoms of this condition are excessive straining during bowel movements, hard and lumpy stool and lack of relief after emptying your bowels. Constipation is a normal problem and would occur from time to time. However, if left untreated, this mild condition could exacerbate and lead to complications such as anal fissures, rectal prolapse and haemorrhoids.
Magnesium citrate cures this problem by increasing the water in the intestines. It does this by attracting water into the intestines using osmosis and this water then helps ease bowel movements and get rid of constipation. This action of the supplement often takes between one to six hours. 10
Magnesium citrate is also used for curing bowel irregularities and in the medical industry; it is used to clear the bowels ahead of a surgery.
Some of its reported side effects include nausea, vomiting, bloating, diarrhoea etc. In this case also, there are certain drugs which should not be combined with magnesium citrate hence it is advisable to seek a doctor’s advice before use.
An overdose of magnesium citrate is often more severe than that of magnesium oxide. Taking too much of this supplement could result in a coma or even death. 11 However, this is only in extreme cases and moderate overdoses are often removed from the body by the kidneys.
Magnesium absorption (Magnesium oxide vs. magnesium citrate)
Magnesium is poorly absorbed in the body from its sources (absorption rate is between 35 to 45 %). 12 On a general note, if your body’s magnesium levels are very low, you will absorb more and vice versa. This poor absorption is the reason why it is advisable to take the supplement on an empty stomach.
For the two magnesium supplements compared in this article, magnesium citrate is the easiest for the body to absorb, i.e. smaller doses of the supplement would deliver equal amounts of magnesium to the body as larger amounts of magnesium oxide. 13
Both magnesium oxide and magnesium citrate are awesome sources of magnesium and they can be used to get your magnesium levels healthy once again. However, magnesium citrate is more easily absorbed and bioavailable for the body’s use. Thus, when next you are shopping for magnesium supplements, look out for magnesium citrate, if out of stock, then magnesium oxide is more than capable to handle your magnesium needs.