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Celebrity and social media health trends have landed people in the hospital, turned them blue on Max, and caused other unwanted side effects. But when it comes to dietary supplements, some people really do find relief using them, and they can be incorporated into legitimate care plans—and right now, magnesium is super hot in the wellness space. So is it actually worth taking, or are people just rushing to cash in on another boom that’s based on slim scientific evidence?

The Magnesium Deficiency Industrial Complex began in earnest with the launch of expensive topical sprays in the 2010s, and the supplement has had a firm and ever growing hold in the wellness world since. With over 10 different choices of readily available, over-the-counter formulations, magnesium supplements are a $100 million market, and part of an even larger global mineral supplements sector worth billions. Is this just money chasing hype, or are these supplements actually worth taking?

What is magnesium, and who needs it?

Magnesium is an important electrolyte. It’s an alkaline elemental metal—wee number 12 on the periodic table—and like many electrolytes that are earth metals, the human body has a preferred amount it needs to incorporate into its functions. 

Magnesium is something you can absolutely be deficient in, and recent studies show that many Americans get less than the recommended amount. But before you start loading up on supplements, remember that magnesium is also something that can make you poop your pants pretty readily if you take too much—just ask anyone who’s had to guzzle it on purpose to get ready for surgery. Our urinary and digestive systems are quick to try to eliminate a magnesium overload, which can both prevent and enable deficiencies in different bodies, even at different times. 

According to Vice, doctors chalk the current mineral madness up to an increase in pandemic health consciousness, but it would seem that an increase in anxiety and more awareness of sleep issues could also be behind the buzz. There’s been a boost in sleep quality awareness since 2021, with the cause even grabbing a government grant to promote better sleep.

Magnesium glycinate in particular is being pushed hard on tTikTok, with adherents claiming it will improve your sleep, stop muscle spasms, and maybe even calm anxiety, which is a pretty prevalent health concern on that platform.

Whether it’s a feature of TikTok that magnesium is the star of the show right now, or whether it’s actually helping people, here are some things you should know before you click that link-in-bio.

Does it matter which form of magnesium you take?

It’s actually pretty cool that we’ve identified all these different ways to make magnesium available to the system. Take magnesium glycinate as an example; it’s currently the most talked-about format, and has a role in enzymatic function, including DNA and RNA synthesis, according to PubChem, and it’s being studied as a COVID medicinal aid.

Magnesium citrate is something you might be familiar with from the drugstore—or if you’ve ever had to do a godforsaken bowel prep. Magnesium sulfate is another one you might know from dumping in your bathtub, a.k.a. Epsom salt.

On the supplement shelves, you will see things like liposomal magnesium, added amino acid formulas, and a lot of unique ways to add magnesium into the mix. 

Outside of the known benefits of taking any magnesium supplement, which include boosting your heart health and maybe even managing migraines, what you choose to have inside the capsule is really up to you, your needs, and your willingness to experiment. Some are made OTC by big companies, some are more novel blends with even more novel claims, like those targeted at athletes, mental health, or sleep. The bottom line is that most online medical sources suggest first getting magnesium from your diet, with leafy greens and beans being great natural sources.

That doesn’t mean you can’t still be magnesium deficient, so check with your medical practitioner if you want to add a magnesium supplement, and they can help you choose which type. While netizens tout magnesium glycinate, readily available magnesium citrate is often cheaper, much easier to find, and will absorb easily.

Magnesium oxide, chloride, lactate, malate, and sulfate are all out there to purchase, carrying a lot of the same “maybes” as your typical supplement—that is, there is limited medical research to define what they can and can’t do for you. Magnesium can offer real improvement for some folks with diabetes, migraines, and even depression, but it’s the purview of your doctor(s) to help you choose which type and how much to use for your condition. 

Magnesium is a moneymaker for influencers

Supplements are a multi-billion-dollar empire in the US, and sometimes they’re being pushed by disingenuous folks. After all, magnesium is a cheaply available powder, so there’s nothing stopping someone from DIY-ing a bunch of capsules and then charging $50 bucks a bottle for a few cents worth of minerals prepared in unsafe conditions or concentrations. Those with more scruples can get what’s known as white-labeled products from legitimate manufacturers with certifications to make their capsules, but there’s still a changing of hands, as what is a dirt-cheap base ingredient magically multiplies in price by the time it reaches your doorstep.

Basically, selling magnesium is potentially very profitable, so it makes sense that it’s becoming a widely hawked supplement, especially over more expensive base ingredient products like those from fruits, oils, or plants that need to be cultivated and grown before processing. 

Reputable companies have some standards for their supplements. Amazon requires ISO-17052 certification to be sold on their platform, for example. But on TikTok, anything goes, and unless the supplier carries these certifications by choice, there’s little telling what you are actually purchasing.

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