The Health Benefits of Magnesium Malate

How it differs from other magnesium supplements

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Magnesium malate is a nutritional supplement that combines magnesium, one of 16 essential minerals, with malic acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid found in apples and pears. Sometimes referred to as a magnesium salt of malic acid, magnesium malate offers distinct benefits over other forms of magnesium.

Unlike elemental magnesium, which is poorly absorbed in the intestines, magnesium malate is one of the most bioavailable forms of the mineral alongside magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate. This enhanced absorptive capacity means that more magnesium is available for the body to use.

Magnesium malate is believed to enhance natural energy production, remove certain toxic metals from the body, support over 300 vital enzyme processes, and even aid in the treatment of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Health Benefits

When used as a nutritional supplement, magnesium malate can ensure that the recommended dietary intake (RDI) of magnesium is met. This is especially important given that the magnesium content in many foods, including cereal grains, has declined in recent years due to agricultural industrialization, leaving people at an increased risk of magnesium deficiency.

General Benefits

Low magnesium intake is associated with an array of health concerns, including type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, atherosclerosis, osteoporosis, and colon cancer.

By contrast, optimal magnesium intake translates to numerous health benefits, including:

This should not imply that magnesium malate can treat these or other health conditions. What it does suggest is that the optimal intake of magnesium can better regulate heart, lung, nerve, and hormonal functions to the benefit of your overall health.

A 2012 review of studies from the Center for Magnesium Education and Research concluded that 48% of Americans consumed less of the required amount of magnesium from food, making supplementation all the more important.

Increased Energy

Unlike other forms of magnesium, magnesium malate can enhance energy production on a cellular level. Much of this is due to malic acid, an organic acid produced by all living cells.

Human cells synthesize malic acid in the form of malate. Among its functions, malate transports of nutrients in and out of the mitochondria (tiny rod-shaped compartments inside of cells that generate energy). The nutrients are broken down in the mitochondria into a chemical known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP), commonly referred to as the "energy molecule."

By supplementing the dietary intake of malic acid, this process can be enhanced, leading to increased energy levels and improved exercise tolerance.

According to a 2015 review in Open Biomedical Engineering Research, athletes provided malic acid supplements achieved faster lactic acid recovery and increased endurance compared to athletes who weren't.

Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) are complex, interconnected diseases whose causes and mechanisms are poorly understood. There are some who believe that both are the same disease in which the fatigue may or may not be accompanied by pain and other characteristic symptoms.

Magnesium malate has long been investigated as a possible treatment for the fibromyalgia/CFS. Some studies have suggested that magnesium can temper the inflammation that drives the disease, while malic acid can relieve fatigue by increasing ATP production.

This is evidenced in part by a 2013 study in which low magnesium levels translated to worsening fibromyalgia symptoms. The same study found that magnesium combined with the antidepressant amitryptiline decreased the number of tender points on the body.

A similar result was seen in an early study in the Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine. According to the research, 1,200 to 2,400 milligrams (mg) of malic acid and 300 to 600 mg of magnesium per day decreased tender point symptoms by over 50% after two weeks.

Unfortunately, those early results were not replicated in later studies, and the conclusions to date have been largely contradictory.

A 2019 review in Medwave, evaluating 10 studies and one randomized controlled trial, concluded there was no evidence that magnesium and malic acid had any impact on fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue symptoms.

Neuromuscular Disorders

Another benefit unique to magnesium malate is the chelation of aluminum. Chelation is the term used to describe the binding of a metal to a non-metal substance. With magnesium malate, malic acid molecules will bind to aluminum, enabling its removal from the body.

Although aluminum generally poses little risk to one's health (as it is readily secreted in urine), there is evidence that aluminum is linked to neuromuscular disorders like Alzheimer's disease. It was a concept first proposed in 1965 and one that has some validity.

According to a 2011 review in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, aluminum acts as a neurotoxin in the brain and promotes the formation of plaques characteristic of the disease.

Proponents believe that the chelation of aluminum may help slow the progression of the disease, but evidence of this remains scant. Nevertheless, scientists agree that magnesium has its place in maintaining the good health of people with Alzheimer's and other neuromuscular disorders.

For its part, increased magnesium intake is believed by some to maintain the plasticity of the brain and preserve cognitive function. Further research is needed to support these claims.

Absorption

Because malic acid is such a large molecule, only a small amount of magnesium is needed to reach the optimal concentration in blood. This means that less is left behind in the intestines. Unabsorbed, residual magnesium has an osmotic (water-attracting) effect, leading to looser stools and diarrhea.

These properties differ from other forms of magnesium:

  • Magnesium citrate is similar to magnesium malate in that it is bound to an organic acid (in this case, as citrate). The resulting salt has a more pronounced effect on the intestines, drawing out larger amounts of water. This is why magnesium citrate is commonly used as an osmotic laxative prior to colonoscopy.
  • Magnesium glycinate is a chelated supplement in which a metal ion (magnesium) is bound to a non-metal ion (glycine). Unlike malic acid and citrate, which break apart during absorption, glycine remains intact and carries more magnesium into the bloodstream. Because of this, magnesium glycine has fewer gastrointestinal side effects.
  • Magnesium oxide is one of the least bioavailable forms of magnesium, but its small molecular size allows it to pass through the intestinal walls on its own, albeit slowly. The slow rate of absorption increases the intestinal osmosity and, with it, the risk of diarrhea.
  • Magnesium sulfate, also known as Epsom salt, has poor bioavailability and is more often used for therapeutic baths or to treat occasional constipation.

While it is not entirely clear which formulations yields the best absorption in humans, animal studies suggest that magnesium malate offers superior bioavailability and longer sustained concentration in the blood.

Possible Side Effects

Magnesium malate supplements are well tolerated and pose minimal risk of overdose or toxicity. Any excess magnesium is typically eliminated by the kidneys through urine.

The risk of diarrhea, cramping, and bloating from its osmotic effect can vary from person to person, but is generally dose-dependent. The higher the dose, the higher the risk of side effects.

Interactions

Magnesium malate may interact with certain drugs, often by blocking their absorption in the intestines. This can reduce the effectiveness of the co-administered drug, sometimes significantly. Possible interactions include:

Adjusting the dose or separating doses by two to four hours may be enough to avoid interactions. At other times, you may need to temporarily stop magnesium to avoid undermining a treatment (especially antibiotic therapy).

To avoid interactions, always advise your doctor about any drugs you are taking, whether they are prescription, over-the-counter, herbal, or recreational.

Contraindications

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not issue contraindications for dietary supplements like magnesium malate. With that being said, you may need to avoid magnesium if you have any of the following conditions:

  • Diarrhea
  • Kidney disease
  • Hypermagnesemia (excessively high magnesium levels caused by hemodialysis, thyroid disease, laxative abuse, and other conditions)

Speak with your doctor if you have any of these conditions and are planning to take a magnesium supplement.

Dosage and Preparation

When used as a dietary supplement, magnesium malate is dosed in the same way as any other magnesium supplement. It is available over the counter in soft gel, tablet, capsule, and powder formulations.

According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of magnesium varies by age and gender.

RDA for Magnesium
Age Women Men
19 to 30 years 310 mg 400 mg
31 and older 320 mg 420 mg

Magnesium malate can be taken with food to decrease the risk of diarrhea, bloating, and cramps.

Athletes, people with diabetes, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and growing adolescents may benefit from higher magnesium doses. Speak with your doctor to weigh the benefits and risks before increasing your magnesium intake.

What to Look For

Always read the product label before buying a magnesium malate supplement. This is especially true if you have a wheat allergy, experience gluten intolerance, or are strictly vegetarian. Some supplements contain wheat-based fillers, while gel caps are often made with animal-based gelatin.

Nutritional supplements are not strictly regulated by the FDA and can vary in quality from one brand to the next.

To better ensure quality and safety, opt for supplements that have been voluntarily submitted for inspection by an independent certifying body like ConsumerLab, U.S. Pharmacopeia, or NSF International. The certification confirms that the product is safe for use and contains the amount of ingredients listed on the product label.

Most magnesium supplements can be stored at room temperature. Avoid excessive heat or direct sun exposure, and dispose of any supplement that is expired, discolored, or foul-smelling.

Supplements are not the only means to increase magnesium intake. To meet your daily intake requirements, opt for quality food sources such as:

  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Dark chocolate
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Fatty fish
  • Legumes and beans
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Whole grains
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Article Sources

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