Magnesium is an essential mineral that is important for numerous physiological functions and critical for maintaining health. Although magnesium is found in a wide variety of foods, there may be times when a supplement is warranted. With countless supplements on the market, knowing which one is best for your needs can be difficult.
Chelated magnesium is a magnesium supplement that is bound to a carrier, making it more readily absorbed by the body so you can reap the benefits of this essential mineral.
In this article, we’ll learn about magnesium, its absorption in the body, and its importance for health. Then we’ll discuss chelated magnesium, the different types of supplements, and what you should be aware of before introducing a magnesium supplement into your routine.
Magnesium in the Body
Magnesium is a mineral abundant in the body. It participates in numerous physiological processes and plays a key role in energy production, protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood sugar control, and blood pressure regulation.
The body holds roughly 25 grams of magnesium, with about 50% to 60% stored in the bones and the remainder in soft tissue. Less than 1% of total magnesium is circulating in body fluids at any one time. Normal magnesium blood levels range from 0.75 to 0.96 millimoles (mmol) per liter (L). Magnesium concentrations below 0.75 mmol/L constitute hypomagnesemia (low magnesium).
It is difficult to truly assess your magnesium status, as most magnesium in the body is inside cells or bone. A serum magnesium test is used to evaluate magnesium levels in the blood, but it doesn’t tell us much about how much magnesium is stored in the body. (Source)
What Is Chelated Magnesium?
Chelated magnesium is a form of magnesium found in supplements. The term chelated refers to the binding of molecules. In the case of chelated magnesium, magnesium is attached to another molecule (or two). Chelation increases bioavailability, or the amount of a substance the body can absorb.
The various molecules used for chelation contribute to the plethora of chelated magnesium supplements available, and influence the bioavailability of each. For example, magnesium oxide supplements may provide large amounts of magnesium, but relatively little of that magnesium is actually available for the body to use. Magnesium citrate supplements, on the other hand, may contain smaller amounts of magnesium, but more of it is absorbed by the body. (Source)
How Is Magnesium Absorbed in the Body?
Your body absorbs roughly 30% to 40% of the magnesium you consume. Magnesium is primarily absorbed in the small intestine, with a small amount taken up by the large intestine. Intestinal absorption is affected by the level of magnesium your body has on hand. If your magnesium is low because you’re not taking in enough of the mineral, more of what you do take in will be absorbed. Furthermore, multiple factors — endogenous (within the body) and exogenous (external to the body) — influence magnesium absorption. (Source, Source)
What Factors Influence Magnesium Absorption?
Endogenous factors include magnesium status and age. The kidneys are actively involved in regulating magnesium levels, holding on to the mineral when levels in the body are low, and excreting more of it in the urine when levels are high. Additionally, magnesium absorption becomes less efficient with age. (Source)
Certain foods and nutrients can positively or negatively influence magnesium absorption. Some foods — such as those containing lactose, protein, medium-chain triglycerides (coconut-based products), or indigestible carbohydrates (for example, resistant starch, short-chain fructo-oligosaccharides, and lactulose) — may improve absorption. On the other hand, compounds in certain foods — such as oxalic acid (found in spinach and cruciferous vegetables) and phytic acid (present in bran and whole-grain bread) — may decrease magnesium absorption. (Source)
Magnesium and Health
Besides its role in more than 300 enzymatic reactions in the body, magnesium may also confer numerous health benefits. In particular, an adequate magnesium status may improve sleep, while reducing inflammation, migraines, and symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Magnesium may reduce inflammation. Supplementing with magnesium may play an important role in reducing inflammatory markers, particularly C-reactive protein (CRP), a protein made by the liver that increases with inflammation. Some studies have suggested that magnesium supplementation may decrease CRP. (Source)
- Magnesium levels may be correlated with migraines. Some research suggests that magnesium supplementation may reduce the number of migraine attacks and the severity of symptoms. Low magnesium levels can affect blood flow and the release of neurotransmitters, factors that can lead to headaches and migraines. Though research is limited, the American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society include magnesium in their guidelines, believing there is sufficient evidence to conclude that magnesium therapy is “probably effective” at migraine prevention. (Source, Source, Source)
- Magnesium intake is inversely associated with anxiety and depression. Magnesium is essential for converting tryptophan (an amino acid) to serotonin, a neurotransmitter vital for mental health and mood. Supplementing with magnesium may prevent depression and benefit symptoms. (Source)
- Supplementing with magnesium may improve insomnia. Magnesium may improve sleep time and efficiency in at least two ways. First, it blocks the actions of the neurotransmitter N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) and binds to (GABA) receptors to exert a relaxing and sleep-inducing effect. And second, supplementing with chelated magnesium may decrease nighttime restless leg syndrome, improving sleep quality. (Source)
Magnesium and Autoimmune Diseases
Research is ongoing on the relationship between magnesium and autoimmune disease. But maintaining adequate magnesium levels may be important for managing symptoms associated with and reducing the risk of developing an autoimmune disease.
There May Be a Link Between Magnesium and Hashimoto’s Disease
The exact relationship between magnesium and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is unclear. But research indicates that low serum magnesium levels may be associated with an increased risk of Hashimoto’s disease. And magnesium deficiency may worsen symptoms of Hashimoto’s. (Source, Source)
Magnesium and Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) — a term that includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease — causes intestinal inflammation that can affect the absorption of nutrients, including magnesium. Furthermore, diarrhea, which can accompany IBD, causes loss of nutrients and can exacerbate already low magnesium. (Source)
Intestinal inflammation from IBD can limit the usefulness of serum magnesium levels, and research has suggested hair can be tested for a more accurate picture of magnesium status. A 2022 study found lower hair magnesium concentrations in people with IBD than in healthy controls. Study participants with Crohn’s disease had even lower magnesium levels than participants with ulcerative colitis. The study also discovered an association between hair magnesium concentration and IBD activity. (Source)