Sunday, 2 June 2013

Everything I Know: Magnesium

How this post benefits you: If you have a magnesium deficiency or are under a lot of stress you may find it beneficial to take a magnesium supplement or consume more magnesium-rich food. From my research the best magnesium supplements are; magnesium chloride (spray and applied to skin), magnesium sulphate (Epsom salt bath), and magnesium glycinate (oral ingestion).

Under normal circumstances, in a healthy individual, there is more magnesium contained within the cells than calcium. The stress response causes this to change. Magnesium leaves the cells and calcium enters. Unfortunately for modern times, the stress response is triggered by psychological stress as well as physical stress. This means that each time a person worries about the bills or anything that provokes stress, their bodies are excreting magnesium. The significance of this is that magnesium is needed to down-regulate the stress response and its removal from the body causes hypersensitivity to stress. The same also occurs when magnesium intake is either low or inadequate in relation to calcium intake. Our ancestors grew up in a time when magnesium-rich foods were plentiful, with excess magnesium having to be excreted, and calcium having to be stored. Nowadays, however, the opposite is true. The problem is that our bodies haven't changed to storing magnesium and excreting excess calcium efficiently. The result for many people is a deficiency of magnesium and also a possible build-up of calcium. This makes us much more reactive to stress and lowers the threshold for which the stress response occurs. Therefore, it is of great importance that those suffering from anxiety and depression, and every other ailment that would benefit from this, replenish their magnesium stores in order to increase this threshold and subsequently alleviate their anxiety. However, as discussed above, the stress response removes magnesium from the body and so those under heavy stress must consume more magnesium than is given in the RDA (400 mg per day) although many sources say that this is too low and that the true number should be at least 800 mg per day for healthy individuals.

I actually had magnesium citrate supplements in my room for about half a year but never got round to taking them because I didn't know how good they were. Recently I somehow realised that they are very good for getting to sleep and have been taking them (450 mg of magnesium citrate per day) for a few days now, it definitely helps. Magnesium has many uses in the body, and a deficiency in magnesium is detrimental to our health, despite this, an estimated 68% of american adults don't consume the minimum RDA (recommended daily allowance) of elemental magnesium per day (around 400 mg per day). According to the national institute of health, magnesium citrate contains 16% of elemental magnesium by mass, meaning that my 450 mg dose contains 72 mg of elemental magnesium, however, magnesium is also obtained from various food sources such as many vegetables.

I'll attempt to list some of the ailments that magnesium treats but there are really far too many to get them all:

- Anxiety
- Chronic fatigue
- Stress
- Depression
- High blood pressure
- Atherosclerosis
- Inflammation
- Arthritis
- Osteoporosis
- Muscle twitches and tics
- some people with autism
- type 2 diabetes
- Fibromyalgia (in a test using magnesium malic acid)
- Insomnia (it is a sedative)
- And perhaps HIV (some studies have shown that 30-65% of HIV sufferers are magnesium deficient).

Stress causes magnesium to be removed from cells and be excreted from the body. However, it is not enough to simply bombard your body with magnesium in the hopes of fixing these and other ailments because magnesium interacts intimately with calcium. For this reason some recommend to take a 1:1 calcium to magnesium ratio. Calcium generally causes muscular contraction while magnesium inhibits contraction and is therefore a potent relaxer of both body and mind. These minerals compete for absorption (I have heard this claim but have found no evidence for it) so if you take too much of one, the absorption of the other is inhibited and both are necessary for healthy functioning.

Finland used to have the highest recorded incidence of heart attacks in middle-aged men out of any other country in the world until they increased magnesium intake using magnesium salt substitutes. It is estimated that before this measure was put in place, their calcium to magnesium ratio was 4:1. Now their death rate from heart-related issues is ranked 10th in the world.

Magnesium is a cofactor for over 300 enzymes and so is very useful in many different reactions which may help to explain why its deficiency can cause so many diseases.

If you're reading this; magnesium is not just some random element that sort-of helps you, it's a huge deal.

Magnesium and depression: - "Case histories are presented showing rapid recovery (less than 7 days) from major depression using 125-300 mg of magnesium (as glycinate and taurinate) with each meal and at bedtime." - "we further hypothesize that magnesium treatment will be found beneficial for nearly all depressives"

So, obviously I had to read through forum posts on magnesium supplementation to see if this is beneficial to people that have used it. There have been numerous studies, I'll do research into them at a later stage but the vast majority of them are positive, off the top of my head that is. Without further ado, the information I collected from forums:

There were a total of 60 'reports' (I googled "magnesium forum" and clicked on everything and went through all the pages of each forum thread and did this for the first 10 pages of google search results).

There were 9 negative reports, 6 reports showing insignificant change and 45 positive (showing significant positive change) reports.

As I wasn't searching for any particular magnesium supplement there is an assortment of results.

In the 9 negative reports the breakdown of supplementation went as follows:

- 4 unspecified (single magnesium source)
- 2 magnesium aspartate
- 1 magnesium oxide
- 1 magnesium malate
- 1 person used many magnesium supplements with negative effects each time

In the 6 insignificant reports:

- 3 magnesium oxide
- 2 magnesium citrate
- 1 magnesium taurate

In the 45 positive reports:

- 16 unspecified
- 8 magnesium oil (magnesium chloride)
- 5 magnesium citrate
- 6 magnesium glycinate
- 2 magnesium taurate
- 3 magnesium malate
- 3 magnesium threonate
- 1 Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate)
- 1 brand product that combined magnesium aspartate, citrate and orotate. The person who used this had social anxiety and said it had "done wonders for my anxiety. It's practically gone."

Magnesium chloride

Magnesium chloride (MgCl2) is considered by many experts to be one of the best, if not the best magnesium supplement. It is totally ionized at a pH range of around 2 to 7.4 which means that it is very well absorbed. There are three methods for absorption, oral, injection and transdermal (through the skin). While injections of magnesium chloride are typically only given by doctors to those suffering from moderate to severe hypomagnesemia, the other two methods are much more common. When taken orally, the magnesium chloride will aid the production of hydrochloric acid which in turn helps to absorb even more of the magnesium. However, higher doses taken orally increase the probability of causing diarrhoea and this reduces the length of time that the supplement spends within the gastrointestinal tract, thus reducing its absorption. Magnesium tends to stay in the intestines for around 12 hours, this would be massively decreased if diarrhoea were induced, causing drastic impairment to its assimilation. Typical side effects of oral magnesium supplementation may occur with oral magnesium chloride; difficulty breathing, muscular weakness, hypo-tension etc. but this is less common with the transdermal method of absorption. Topical application of magnesium chloride also has a higher absorption rate. The magnesium is fully ionized at the skin's pH of around 4.5 to 6. This improves its absorption greatly. This method also bypasses the problem of diarrhoea.

Magnesium chloride is also a powerful stimulant of the immune system and studies have shown that when its levels in the blood are elevated, phagocytosis (ingestion of microbes by phagocytes (an immune cell)) is greatly increased, by up to 333%.

Press ctrl+f and type in: 333 percent

I found 8 reports on forums of people using magnesium chloride, all of them were positive. The first had had ligament pain in their foot for 1.5 years which is now gone,and they have noticed much faster exercise recovery. Another used it for restless legs and said it "reduced/removed" these feelings. Someone else said it removed their depression. One woman gives it to her husband when he suffers from panic attacks, and it "works within minutes". A chronic migraine sufferer experienced significantly reduced symptoms. Another uses it to help back pain. One more person said it has a noticeable calming effect and the last person said it gives "much relief", referring to their anxiety.

Based on this research I would say that magnesium chloride is the most effective magnesium supplement, especially when absorbed through the skin instead of ingested orally, 7 of these people said they used magnesium oil which I take to mean that it was applied topically as otherwise it would be a magnesium chloride tablet or pill.

Magnesium sulphate

Magnesium sulphate (MgSO4) is the form of magnesium that people are referring to when they mention Epsom salts. This is an additive to bath water and seems to be best absorbed through the skin in these baths as opposed to being ingested orally or taken in by injection. While soaking in Epsom salts has few complications, the other two methods have some rather common side effects. When magnesium sulphate is taken orally or injected the following symptoms can arise; difficulty breathing (as magnesium sulphate is a respiratory depressant, this means that it can cause shallow breathing or shortness of breath), extreme muscular weakness (some people have difficulty standing or walking), flushing, hypotension (in some people the blood pressure can become so low that the person suffers from light-headedness or even fainting). Therefore, soaking this salt would be my personal preference for its intake. Typically, people will use around 10 grams of Epsom salts for every litre of bath water. For a standard bath of around 60 litres of water, this would require around 500 g to 600 g of Epsom salts. This form of bath can be used to treat epilepsy, magnesium deficiency, anxiety, depression, inflammation, pain, migraines, pre-eclampsia and toxicity. The sulphates within the salt can remove toxins and impurities from the body and allow them to dissolve in the bath. For this reason it is suggested that people bathe for around 10 minutes to avoid reabsorbing these toxins. An added benefit for baths in general is to induce vasodilation and improve blood flow to the extremities and vital organs.

The following link is to a study testing the effects of magnesium sulphate bathing over the course of 7 days.

I only found one person that used Epsom salts as their magnesium supplement (positive report) but they said that they felt significantly relaxed afterwords.

Magnesium Threonate

Magnesium threonate (Mg(C4H7O5)2), this compound was developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and is available as the product "Magtein". This is believed to be the only magnesium compound that readily crosses the blood-brain barrier and hence improves magnesium concentration within the brain. This has been shown in rats to improve both short and long-term memory. After 24 days of magnesium threonate supplementation it was shown that rats had approximately 15% extra magnesium in their brains compared to the start of the trial. One of its creators, Dr Liu, says that he and his friends have been using Magtein and have increased the level of magnesium in their bodies by 50%. As of now, around 100,000 people in the US are currently taking this supplement. I have little more to say about it however as there are a lack of human trials. This considered though, it does seem to be beneficial and if you would like to learn more about it here are two websites:

I found 3 reports for magnesium threonate, all of which were positive.

The first person said that during the first week of supplementation they experienced euphoria and after this week the euphoria decreased but they still had an elevated mood and increased mental alertness. They also noticed much more vivid and frequent dreaming. The second person noticed similar effects: elevated mood, more dreams, better sleep and also reduced fibromyalgia-related pain.The last person effectively used the supplement to stop cramping.

Magnesium Glycinate

Magnesium glycinate (C4H8MgN2O4) is considered to be a useful combination. It is magnesium bonded to the amino acid glycine. This particular chelate is believed to have a very high bioavailability (some sources place it at 5 times the bioavailability of magnesium oxide), also it apparently has less of an effect upon the digestive system. Some magnesium supplements like magnesium oxide and citrate can cause constipation or diarrhoea whereas glycinate is less likely to cause these upsets. While magnesium would normally passively diffuse (a relatively slow process requiring no energy usage), binding it to glycine in this way allows intestinal cells to actively take in the chelate (a faster process but which requires energy expenditure). This means that more of the magnesium is absorbed. Glycine is also an inhibitory neurotransmitter under most circumstances but it also functions as a co-agonist (works with another chemical to bind to a cellular receptor and trigger a response from the affected cell) along with glutamate (a highly stimulating neurotransmitter) to activate certain types of NMDA receptors which are excitatory. Therefore, while moderate doses can cause relaxation (around 3,000 mg is suggested by Wikipedia to improve sleep quality), extremely high doses can cause hyper-excitability by activating this receptor. The level of glycine required for this would be huge however, and very unlikely to occur unless intentional. In rats a dosage of around 4,000 mg is usually fatal, it would be significantly larger for a fully grown human though. Glycine may also help to remove mercury from the body.

I found 6 positive reports for magnesium glycinate supplementation.

The first said it improved mood and the other five said it caused significant relaxation.

Magnesium Taurate

Magnesium Taurate (C4H12N2O6S2Mg) is another chelated form of magnesium supplement. It is a complex of magnesium and taurine. Taurine may have anxiolytic (anxiety-splitting) properties but there are mixed results on this. In contrast to magnesium, whose concetrations fall when a person is under stress, taurine concentration actually increases (possible evidence for anxiogenic effects). However, taurine has been know to cause cells to retain potassium and magnesium while regulating sodium and calcium intake (possible evidence for anxiolytic effects). It could be that taurine increases simply to reduce the effects of stress but so far this is just speculation. Anyway, here are the positive studies that I found:

These show specific anti-anxiety improvements while the following study shows a possible suppression of the sympathetic nervous system due to taurine's effects. An overactive sympathetic nervous system could lead to irritability, and increased susceptibility, severity, and duration of anxiety and anger.

This next study shows that taurine has some anti-anxiety properties in mice but it seems limited, this study only lasted for 7 days though:

However, when taurine intake method was assessed it was found that chronic oral supplementation may be anxiogenic (cause anxiety), whereas acute injections where anxiolytic:

Taurine also has many other uses, it can cause weight loss, lowering of cholesterol, prevention of oxidative stress caused by exercise, preventing congestive heart failure, and is used by some as a dietary supplement in the treatment of epilepsy.

I found 2 positive and 1 insignificant self-report of magnesium taurate supplementation.

In the insignificant report the person used magnesium taurate for 5 days but felt no different.

In the positive reports, one person used it for 2 days and had noticeable reductions in depression and anxiety and reported feeling much more relaxed. The other said it noticeably relieved stress.

Magnesium Citrate

Magnesium citrate (C6H6MgO7) is magnesium attached to citric acid. This is a highly bioavailable type of magnesium supplement, one that allows your body to absorb relatively high quantities of magnesium. The magesium content in magnesium citrate varies from 11-16% and is at least 55% soluble (this is its solubility in water, but increases as pH is reduced, as it would be in the stomach), which greatly increases its absorption, though I came across so many different percentages of absorption that I am unsure which to believe. Citric acid is found in fruits like lemons and oranges, and is alkaline (has a pH above 7). Citric acid has many benefits: it functions as an anti-oxidant, removes excess calcium, prevents kidney stones (due to calcium removal and alkaline properties). However, side effects of citric acid supplementation include nausea, diarrhoea and abdominal pain and it may interact with drugs such as amphetamines or tetracyclines.

On forums I found 2 insignificant and 5 positive self-reports of magnesium citrate supplementation.

Of the insignificant reports, one person noticed slightly improved insomnia and the other noticed no change.

In the positive reports; one person took 500mg of magnesium citrate each day for a week and said "I haven't felt this good in years." Another took it and noticed a significant increase in energy levels. Reduced fatigue, more restful sleep and better ability to cope with stress was noticed with another user. The last 2 used the supplement successfully for cramps.

Magnesium Malate

A study showing the beneficial effects of magnesium citrate on exercise tolerance in patients with coronary artery disease:

Another studying showing efficacious treatment of fibromyalgia with magnesium citrate, particularly in reducing self-reported depression:

Magnesium  malate (C4H4MgO5) this is magnesium attached to malic acid. Malic acid is a compound that occurs naturally in fruits like apples and has no known serious side effects. It may cause cramping or bloating of the digestive tract but this is rare and not dangerous. For this reason it is considered to be a safe supplement to use. It has been particularly beneficial to those suffering from fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. This is probably because malic acid is an essentital component in the Krebs cycle, a cycle which is necessary for the production of ATP and consequently energy in the body. Patients with fibromyalgia seem to benefit from both malic acid and magnesium alone and moreso when these are combined. Magnesium malate also binds to aluminium which is a toxic metal. Aluminium has been linked to memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer's.

I found 1 negative report on malate and 3 positive.

The person who reported negative effects said that magnesium malate caused heart palpitations.

Of the positive reports, one had more relaxed muscles, found it easier to sleep and had less muscular pain. Another had diabetes and used it successfully to stop cramping. The last person used a high dose (1,200mg per day) for 6 months and claimed that it "got rid of fibromyalgic aches and pains, relaxed muscles and aided sleep."

There have been a few studies on fibromyalgia and magnesium malate (I couldn't find any studies on anything but fibromyalgia) but none have been proved conclusively, however, there does seem to enough evidence for its effectiveness in comparison to the risk (minimal and infrequent) to suggest that supplementation is worth trying.

Magnesium Aspartate

Magnesium aspartate (C8H12MgN2O8), is believed to be a poor choice of magnesium supplement. This is because while magnesium is a relaxant of nerve cells, aspartate is actually an excitatory neurotransmitter (stimulates the firing of nerve cells). In large doses aspartate is toxic to neurons in that it can cause them to fire until they injure and/or kill themselves. In fact, magnesium and aspartate can be considered to have opposing effects. For this reason it is important that people are aware of aspartates effects, especially those who are magnesium deficient. People who fit this category are much more likely to be affected by aspartate, for example, those suffering from anxiety, depression, any kind of pain, any form of fatigue, or other ailment caused by chronic excitation.

I found 2 negative reports on magnesium aspartate:

In both of the negative reports the persons involved said that the supplement had caused depression, though one said it also alleviated their anxiety.

A study involving supplementation of magnesium aspartate showed no benefit to high blood pressure. This may be due to either magnesium not having an effect ton the patients or the aspartate's effects cancelling out the benefits of magnesium. However, it is difficult to tell, the only thing to take away is that magnesium aspartate did not help blood pressure in this study.

In another study where magnesium aspartate was given to pregnant mothers, it was shown that this supplement was beneficial in reducing premature birth rates and improving birth weight. Disease was also reduced and side effects either didn't occur or weren't serious in the participants.

Magnesium Oxide

Magnesium oxide (MgO) has been shown to have a very low bio-availability, in one study this value was shown to be as low as 4%. This means that only 4% of the magnesium is absorbed by the living system, in this case, our bodies. Despite its 60% magnesium content by mass, inexpensive cost, and high availability on our planet, magnesium oxide is so poorly absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract that its main use is to act as a laxative.

This may help to explain the 4 results (1 negative and 3 insignificant) that I found with magnesium oxide.

In the negative report, magnesium oxide caused diarrhoea and no positive change.

In the insignificant reports it produced; a slight reduction of social anxiety, no noticeable effects, and no benefit.

There was a study in which 44 volunteers  (8-14 year old healthy girls) with elemental magnesium intake of under 220mg per day participated in a study investigating magnesium's effect on hip bone and spinal lumbar mineral content. Magnesium oxide pills were taken twice per day (each pill containing 150mg of elemental magnesium) over the course of 12 months. 23 volunteers received placebo and 21 received the magnesium oxide. From results taken both during and at the end of the study it was determined that those receiving the magnesium oxide had slightly raised spinal lumbar bone mineral content. They also had significantly elevated bone mineral content in their hips.
Source: 91/12/4866

Another study showing the beneficial effects of 9mg of magnesium oxide per kilogram of body weight (675mg of magnesium oxide for a 75kg person) on migraine sufferers presented evidence that magnesium oxide slightly reduces frequency of migraine attacks and significantly reduces the severity of them.
Source: Headache. 2003 Jun:43(6):601-10

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