Magnesium is one of the most important minerals in the body. Involved in over 300 biochemical functions, it is instrumental in processes ranging from regulating heart beats, helping neurotransmitter functions, reducing muscle tension to helping strengthen bones and improving sleep.
It is disheartening that, at best, only 30% of US adults consume the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of Mg, and 20% get only half the amount they need to remain healthy (Combs GF, et al. Calcium and Magnesium in Drinking Water: Public health significance. Geneva: World Health Organization Press; 2009). Magnesium deficiency is rampant!
Compounding this issue is the difficulty in assessing Mg status, because most magnesium is inside cells or in bone. So, for many people, it is symptoms like aches or spasms, poor digestion,, heart palpitations, mood swings or trouble sleeping that indicate deficiency.
With today’s dietary habits, excessive manufacturing practicesMg content in food is not what it used to be.
In my view, Mg supplementation is not a choice any more; it’s a necessity. However, to complicate this issue, there are many forms of Mg now available in supplements, and they’re definitely not all the same.
The common complaint for someone who takes Mg is diarrhea/loose stools. This laxative effect is due to the water-loving (osmotic) activity of unabsorbed Mg salts in the digestive tract, which ultimately stimulates gastric motility.
While we know that some forms are better absorbed than others, there are limits, even with a good, highly-absorbed form. The rate-limiting step that greatly influences efficacy is in the absorption of magnesium into the cells.
The process of cellular absorption is dependent on mitochondrial energy. So, when people are in low-energy states--as is in the case for many with chronic health conditions—Mg uptake into the cells is blunted. Ironically, these are the people that require Mg the most.
Fortunately, there’s a simple fix: Choline citrate.
Neutralizing Charge Differentials
Choline, a water-soluble vitamin-like nutrient is recognized for its role in methylation, liver detoxification, bile production, and neuro-hormonal support.
In the energized choline citrate form, when combined with magnesium glycinate, citrate, and ascorbate, choline can help bypass the energy-dependent mechanism (Ca-Mg ATPase pump) that regulates transport of Mg into cells.
Choline also neutralizes any extracellular charge differential, and facilitates easier transport of magnesium into the cell by forming micelles that contain two molar equivalents of Mg and choline, along with 3 molar equivalents of citrate. This forms an electrically neutral complex.
So, while supplementing with Mg, it is smart to add choline citrate as well. The ideal ratio is 220 mg of Mg to 1300 mg Choline Citrate.
My other recommendations for improving your Mg intake are:
- Eat minimally processed, whole foods – especially quinoa, pulses and beans, nuts & seeds (like sesame, cashews, almonds), and greens.
- Check 1st morning urine pH. It should be between 6.5 and 7.5. Mg is an alkalinizing mineral. When the pH is below 6.5, it’s a safe bet you need more Mg.
- Avoid taking Mg in the poorly absorbable forms such as carbonate, chloride, gluconate, and oxide (Ranade VV, Somberg JC. Am J Ther 2001; 8:345-57)
- Use magnesium glycinate, citrate and ascorbate along with choline citrate in the recommended ratio.
Russell Jaffe, MD, is a pioneering immunologist, researcher and entrepreneur. From 1973-1979, he did immunological research at the National Institutes of Health, later developing an allergy testing platform known as ELISA/ACT (advanced culture technique). He is the CEO and chairman of Perque Integrative Health, a physician-focused nutraceutical company.