Do you take a multivitamin or mineral supplement? What about magnesium? Some heart patients require a chelated magnesium supplement to maintain adequate heart health, among other normal bodily functions.
In this article, I talk about what chelated magnesium is, what it does, and why someone with heart issues may need it.
Keep reading to see if this mineral may benefit you.
Note: Nutritional supplements are not necessarily for everyone. I strongly urge you to speak with your doctor before taking any new vitamin or mineral supplements, as they could interfere with your current medications or overall health status.
Table of Contents
Why Magnesium Is Important
- muscle and nerve function
- regulation of blood sugar
- energy production
- synthesis of proteins, DNA, and bone tissue
- blood pressure regulation
- normal heart rhythm
Most of the magnesium present in our bodies resides in our bones and soft tissues. A much smaller amount (less than 1%) is circulating in our blood. Our kidneys do a great job of regulating the amount of magnesium in our body by eliminating some in our urine.
Unfortunately, magnesium deficiency is not uncommon, and supplementation may be necessary to maintain optimal health. Lab tests can help determine if your magnesium level is too high or too low.
What Happens When Magnesium Level Is Low?
When magnesium levels are only mildly low, you may not have any symptoms at all. However, if they continue to decline you may experience some very unpleasant symptoms of hypomagnesemia. These may include:
- muscle stiffness, cramps, or twitches
- nausea or vomiting
- weakness or fatigue
- increased urination which can lead to the depletion of other electrolytes
- cardiac arrhythmias or atrial fibrillation (abnormal heartbeat or rhythm)
- cardiac ischemia
The recommended daily allowances (RDA) of magnesium for adults of various ages are listed in the table below.
What Is Chelated Magnesium?
First off, I’ll explain briefly what “chelated” means.
A chelated mineral is one that is attached to one or more amino acids. Since our bodies absorb amino acids quite easily, chelated forms of minerals are absorbed more effectively and efficiently.
In the case of magnesium glycinate for example, magnesium is bonded with the amino acid glycine. This chelation process also makes the mineral gentler on our stomachs because they don’t require much stomach acid to break down.
Keep in mind that chelated minerals can be more expensive than non-chelated forms. And that non-chelated minerals aren’t necessarily “bad” however, they will not likely be as effectively absorbed or “bioavailable” as chelated forms.
Other Types of Magnesium Supplements
Not all magnesium supplements are equal! Different forms have VERY different effects on the body.
For example, you would NOT want to get chelated magnesium bisglycinate mixed up with magnesium citrate, as this would result in very unpleasant symptoms. Here are some (but not all) types of magnesium with their typical uses.
Magnesium Chloride: This can be used as a supplement to increase magnesium levels in your blood, often called Slow-Mag.
Magnesium Citrate: This is often used as a laxative to relieve constipation.
Magnesium Carbonate: This type of magnesium supplement is often used as an antacid to relieve heartburn and upset stomach.
Magnesium Malate: This is often used to improve low magnesium levels, fatigue, weakness, and muscle pain. It is more absorbable than magnesium citrate and has less of a laxative effect.
These are just a few forms of magnesium. There are many others. However, it is important to know that the absorption of different magnesium forms and supplements can vary greatly.
As a rule of thumb, the forms of magnesium that dissolve instantly in liquid (e.g. magnesium glycinate, citrate, and taurate forms) absorb much better in the gut than less soluble forms (e.g. magnesium sulfate or oxide forms).
What is the Difference Between Magnesium Glycinate and Magnesium Bisglycinate?
Two popular forms of magnesium supplements are magnesium bisglycinate and magnesium glycinate. Both of these supplements are a type of chelated magnesium, meaning they are bonded to an amino acid.
Magnesium bisglycinate is a highly absorbable form of magnesium. It consists of magnesium that is bonded to two glycine molecules.
Magnesium glycinate, on the other hand, is a form of magnesium that is bound to only one glycine molecule.
This magnesium-glycine bond allows for better absorption of magnesium in the body.
When it comes to choosing between magnesium bisglycinate and magnesium glycinate, it ultimately comes down to personal preference and individual needs. However, for heart patients, magnesium bisglycinate may be the better option as it may improve endothelial function and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
What is Chelated Magnesium Good For?
Chelated magnesium bisglycinate is often recommended for individuals who are prone to digestive issues. This supplement does not typically cause diarrhea or other digestive problems that may occur with other forms of magnesium.
Additionally, magnesium bisglycinate may help with muscle and nerve function, heart health, and bone health.
In contrast, magnesium glycinate can help treat individuals with anxiety, insomnia, or other sleeping disorders. This supplement may also help with migraine prevention, muscle relaxation, and nerve function.
Magnesium and Heart Health
Maintaining adequate blood levels of magnesium and consuming dietary sources of magnesium can help keep your heart strong and prevent heart disease.
Studies show that higher levels of magnesium in the blood are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Additionally, a higher dietary intake of magnesium (around 250 mg/day) may lower the risk of ischemic heart disease from reduced blood flow to the heart.
This is because magnesium is responsible for the regulation of smooth muscle contractions. Because the heart itself is a muscle that needs to contract, this is very important!
In contrast, long-term magnesium deficiency in humans (hypomagnesemia) may negatively impact cholesterol, triglyceride, and blood sugar levels.
Additionally, a low magnesium level increases oxidative stress which may lead to atherosclerosis (thickening and hardening of arteries caused by plaque build-up).
Magnesium Supplementation Needs
In my experience dealing with heart patients, low magnesium levels can occur in specific situations. Some of the reasons heart patients may have low magnesium levels include:
- Low intake of magnesium-rich foods in the diet
- History of celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, gastric bypass, or other diseases causing malabsorption
- Extended periods of diarrhea or vomiting
- Medication-related (from loop diuretics, thiazine diuretics, or proton-pump inhibitors)
In the population I work with in the clinical setting, episodes of low magnesium are mainly related to diuretic medications and protein pump inhibitors.
People taking large doses of vitamin D may also be depleting their magnesium levels unknowingly. For more on vitamin D toxicity, read “Vitamin D Toxicity and Heart Palpitations: What You Need to Know“.
Magnesium can easily be replaced using IV magnesium in a hospital setting. However, if you’re not in the hospital your doctor may recommend taking a daily magnesium supplement (hopefully a highly-absorbable chelated magnesium form).
Magnesium supplements are available in pill, powder, and liquid form. The upper limit amount for magnesium from supplements is 350 mg per day.
Can I Get Magnesium From Food?
Many heart-healthy foods contain magnesium. Magnesium-rich foods are usually also high in fiber. Some examples of high-magnesium foods include:
- pumpkin seeds
- chia seeds
- nuts and peanut butter
- enriched cereals
- kidney beans
- and more!
For more information on which foods contain magnesium, read “Maintaining a Healthful Diet During Times of Stress“.
As you can see, magnesium is a “VIP” nutrient for many reasons. It is essential in keeping your nerves, muscles, and heart functioning well. Most individuals do not need magnesium supplementation, as our bodies naturally do a great job of regulating, distributing, storing, and absorbing the magnesium we need from the foods we eat. BUT…your body cannot make magnesium.
Additionally, some health conditions may lead to low magnesium levels. In these circumstances, chelated magnesium can be highly beneficial.
Chelated magnesium is highly absorbable, making it the most bioavailable form of magnesium we can get. In contrast, non-chelated forms of magnesium can cause more gut issues, have a laxative effect, and will not help raise your magnesium level as effectively.
Magnesium glycinate and magnesium bisglycinate are two types of chelated magnesium that can quickly raise your magnesium level and restore the balance that was lost. Either of these choices (or any other chelated form of magnesium) is adequate at replacing the magnesium in your blood as long as they are taken in the recommended amounts and under the supervision of your primary care physician.
To help maintain adequate health, including your magnesium level, continue regular check-ups with your physician as well as any lab work. I also recommend that you ask for a referral to see a registered dietitian if you ever experience a vitamin or mineral deficiency.
Stay heart-healthy and safe everyone!
Kiran Campbell is a registered dietitian and entrepreneur with 14 years of experience. She also has a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and is a proud member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Cardiovascular Health and Well-being Dietetics Practice Group. Kiran proudly presents and promotes the most up-to-date, science-based nutrition information on all things heart-related. She aims to serve not only individuals with heart disease, but also those wanting to protect against it. Learn more about Kiran by visiting her About Page.