Magnesium glycinate is one of the most bioavailable forms of magnesium and common among so-called ‘chelated’ magnesium supplements. It’s part glycine-part elemental magnesium and renowned not only for its ability to boost magnesium levels but also to calm the mind.
Magnesium glycinate is comprised of one part elemental magnesium and two parts glycine. Other names for this organic magnesium compound include Magnesium Diglycinate, Bisglyinate, and Aminoacetate. Many health professionals I’ve spoken with recommend this form of magnesium to help address symptoms of magnesium deficiency since it has a minimal impact on the GI tract. Understanding some of the finer points of why this compound is recommended can help recognize whether its the best choice for you.
Magnesium isn’t absorbed well by the body on its own and is bonded to different compounds in order to make it more accessible to our body. The compounds used to bond with elemental magnesium range from magnesium salts such as acetate or amino acid chelates such as magnesium glycinate. Typically speaking, most of these compounds result in organic magnesium which is more easily absorbed by our body. Organic simply means that the final magnesium compound contains a carbon molecule, compared to inorganic magnesium which does not.
Magnesium Glycinate is a compound that consists of two glycine molecules bonded to a single magnesium molecule
Magnesium Glycinate is a compound that consists of two glycine molecules bonded to a single magnesium molecule. The resulting compound is roughly 600% larger than the single magnesium compound containing 14% magnesium by weight. For example; a 100mg magnesium glycinate supplement would contain ~14mg of elemental magnesium and 86mg of glycine.
This illustrates the integral role these types of chelated compounds play in the finished product. You want to ensure your magnesium is highly bioavailable and offers a decent amount of elemental magnesium. Beyond that, comparing different types of magnesium can be like splitting hairs unless you look to the benefits of the bonded molecules. In this case, you’ll want to consider the known benefits of Glycine.
The benefits of magnesium glycinate should largely be considered within the context of the benefits of glycine. Consider roughly 86% of magnesium glycinate is comprised of glycine. One of the issues and potential side effects of magnesium supplements is with bowel tolerance.
Larger doses of magnesium are known to cause watery stools and/or diarrhea. Liquid forms of magnesium citrate are often taken in preparation for medical procedures such as colonoscopies—because they completely clear the bowels. These are administered in much higher doses typical of oral supplements. Magnesium supplements have all demonstrated different tolerance levels, with organic forms such as citrate, malate, and glycinate being the best tolerated .
Among these well-absorbed forms, magnesium glycinate is often recommended as the preferred form to address a magnesium deficiency
These types of magnesium can be taken in higher doses relative to other types such as carbonate or oxide—while reducing the stress on the GI tract. Among these well-absorbed forms, magnesium glycinate is often recommended as the preferred form to address a magnesium deficiency. It’s not necessarily the most well-absorbed form, but it’s regarded as being the least likely to cause GI stress by many health practitioners.
One potential framework for understanding the bowel tolerance levels of amino acid chelates is in considering the relative size of the compound. For instance, glycine has a molecular weight of 75 g/mol; malic acid measures as 134 g/mol; lysine measures as 146 g/mol; citric acid measures as 192 g/mol. By this logic, the most well-tolerated magnesium supplements, in descending order, would be glycinate, malate, lysinate, and citrate. This should not be considered as supported fact, however, and is little more than a suspicion to help explain anecdotal accounts.
Glycine is a non-essential amino acid, meaning that our bodies do not produce it. Animal studies have noted that low-glycine diets have a significant impact on overall growth rates . This highlights that while Glycine isn’t technically considered essential to proper nutrition—it really is. Glycine, also known as Aminoacetic Acid among chemists, is an organic compound that has demonstrated activity in several aspects of our health.
Magnesium helps our bodies produce new DNA, lipids, collagen, and is responsible in part for the release of energy. Glycine is the co-agonist of NMDA receptor function (along with glutamate) and is critical to learning and memory . Glycine’s integral role in many other neural pathways leads many to classify it as a neurotransmitter working alongside such other compounds as GABA to promote calm and placid neural function . Glycine is involved in many other systems in our bodies, and understanding some of these roles can help better understand the benefits of magnesium glycinate.
As mentioned, Glycine helps to modulate the NMDA receptor sites in our body. These receptors are found in nerve cells help balance their responses to activation signals. NDMA receptors are activated by two distinct compounds—glutamate and glycine. When both of these compounds are bound to an NDMA receptor site, the flow of ions through the opening at this receptor is slowed. This helps to mediate nervous system responses and helps prevent over-excitation. Basically, this means that glycine will help to calm nervous system responses and make them more resilient to stress. Magnesium has also been noted as playing a role in regulating the function of NDMA channel ions as well . Effectively, magnesium glycinate is able to address NDMA receptor functions twofold!
When talking about muscle mass, there are usually two considerations to make. The first being the increased rate of muscle growth; the second being the decreased rate of muscle decay. Anabolic processes build muscle and catabolic process break muscle down. Each of these two processes is dependent on many aspects of our physical and nutritional health, but generally, are taking place in some capacity all the time.
During periods of less physical activity or certain illness, catabolism can become an issue that leads to uncontrollable muscle wasting. This is often seen in cancer patients—called Cachexia— both in response to tumor growth and in chemotherapy. Research has shown that glycine is able to reduce the expression of genes associated with the breakdown of skeletal muscle, as well as to reduce the impacts of catabolic related inflammation . Other research found that a supplement containing mostly glycine (also contained niacin and glutamine) increased serum Growth Hormone levels by 70% .
Researchers found that among healthy sleep-deprived individuals that 3 grams of glycine at night was able to help reduce next-day daytime fatigue, though not for multiple days in a row . Cognitive function was noted as being improved among those receiving glycine for multiple days and was measured in a much less subjective manner. These findings suggest that occasional glycine at bedtime may help improve the impairments of sleep deprivation on fatigue and cognitive performance.
Further research has also confirmed that glycine offers this type of decreased sleepiness in non-sleep deprived people as well . Researchers note that these results illustrate glycine’s ability to improve sleep quality in a non-disruptive manner as seen with compounds such as benzodiazepines. Animal studies have described potential links to glycine’s impact on sleep quality to be central to the lowering of core body temperature .
Science has firmly established the connection between sleep cycles and body temperature changes. As we go to sleep, our core body temperature slowly begins to decrease. It continues to decrease as we go into deeper states of sleep, and begins to rise once more upon waking. Glycine acts as a vasodilator which effectively promotes the lowering of core temperature—likely useful in supporting natural sleep/wake cycles.
Collagen is a compound produced by our bodies that is used to build and repair many types of soft tissues such as cartilage, tendons, skin, and hair. Hydrolyzed collagen, in particular, has been shown in research to provide great support for collagen as an effective treatment for such conditions as osteoarthritis that generally center around joint health .
The most prevalent amino acid found in collagen is glycine—at about 26% by weight. Further research has shown that among patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, nearly all among test groups showed the inability to maintain serum glycine levels as well as non-RA control subjects . This research suggests that, for whatever reason, a decrease in the body’s ability to maintain serum levels of glycine under certain circumstances may be a strong indicator of joint-related disease.
Also noteworthy was that among the control subjects in this study, the only people to show similar glycine responses to those with RA were suffering from another illness their self. This isn’t anything more than an inkling of correlation—but might warrant further investigation into the role of glycine and inflammatory disease.
One of the most common aspects of any disease is inflammation, which is mediated by a great many cellular pathways. The dynamics of how inflammation affects our body are still being understood, and are evolving as more research is done. Inflammation commonly occurs in our body near areas of constant irritation and infection. Cancer is largely being understood as an end-result in unmediated chronic inflammation. While the root causes may vary, the ultimate means of progression is largely inflammation related .
Many of the damaging effects of inflammation are caused by specific cell types that appear in response to types of physiological stress, such as inflammatory cytokines. One example of how glycine can help reduce inflammation can be illustrated by how our bodies react to exposure to Escherichia Coli (E.Coli). Research has observed increases in cytokines such as interleukin-1 alpha, interleukin-1 beta, tumor necrosis factor alpha, and tumor necrosis factor beta in response to E.Coli exposure among epithelial cell structures .
This type of cytokine response has been demonstrated in response to many pathogenic bacteria, though further research has investigated glycine’s specific role in that of E.Coli. One such animal study found that a 5% glycine diet given to rats completely eliminated mortality in those exposed to E.Coli as well as reducing noted levels of tumor necrosis factor alpha . Rats in the control group of this study saw a 50% mortality rate and much higher levels of cytokine production. These findings have been replicated in several other animal studies, though more data is needed to confirm its translation into human models.
Magnesium compounds are all unique compositions of elemental magnesium and other compounds used to make them more bioavailable. Supplements such as magnesium malate or citrate are considered to be magnesium salts. These compounds are the resultant compound of combing an acid and base compound together. Magnesium compounds such as glycinate and lysinate are the results of metal chelation—where amino acids are bound to certain types of compounds.
This is often discussed in the context of heavy metals detoxification, where chelating agents are used for binding and facilitating the removal of accumulated toxic metals like mercury, lead, or aluminum. These types of bonds are very efficient and are capable of removing considerable percentages of toxic metals. Glycine and lysine are both potential chelating compounds able to perform such action within our bodies. These amino acids can also be used to bind to beneficial compounds such as magnesium, providing us with more easily-absorbed forms suited for a wider range of uses.
It’s best to compare magnesium glycinate vs. citrate in the context of comparing glycine vs citric acid. These are the two compounds these two types of magnesium are bound with, and ultimately the main separating factors. Magnesium glycinate is roughly 14.1% elemental magnesium by weight compared to the 11.39% of citric acid. While this compound offers slightly more elemental magnesium, the majority of each compound is non-magnesium. There isn’t much research available to offer discerning comparisons between different types of magnesium. Most studies investigating the benefits of magnesium use a single type, and many fail even to describe which type they’ve.
One study compared the effectiveness of different types of magnesium on increasing measurable amounts of magnesium in blood, urine, and saliva. This study compared a magnesium amino acid chelate, magnesium citrate, and magnesium oxide, along with two placebos. After a 6 month period of testing, researchers found that magnesium citrate was the best form of magnesium for boosting long-term levels and that amino acid chelates and citrate were both effective in boosting measurable amounts in the short term .
Unfortunately, researchers didn’t bother to specify which type of amino acid chelate they chose to use for this study. The general takeaway here is that organic magnesium compounds such as citrate, malate, and glycinate offer superior absorbability to that of inorganic forms such as oxide. These compounds are best suited for helping to maintain healthy levels of magnesium and avoid issues with bowel intolerance.
Magnesium is an essential nutrient vital to driving hundreds of critical enzymatic processes in our body. Organic forms such as magnesium malate, citrate and glycinate all offer forms that have been demonstrated by research to offer better absorption. The benefits of glycine on areas of health such as inflammation and cognition are important to consider along with magnesium glycinate.
Magnesium Glycinate exists as one of the smallest molecular forms of magnesium which might help explain its relative grace within our digestive system. It’s commonly recommended by licensed health professionals to address issues of magnesium deficiency and is often preferred over types such as magnesium citrate. The only way to truly understand if this is the best type of magnesium for you is to work closely with your doctor and monitor your tested magnesium levels before and in response to any magnesium treatment.
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