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The Truth About Magnesium Bis-Glycinate

Magnesium (Mg) is involved in more than 300 metabolic reactions in our body including metabolism of macro-nutrients, synthesis of neurotransmitters, energy production and storage, cell growth etc. It is a co-factor for more than 500 enzymes. It can be depleted easily when our body is under chronic mental and/or physical stress. In addition, due to years of pesticide use and overly processed farm lands, our soil is depleted of minerals and vitamins and as a consequence we no longer receive a sufficient intake through our diet. Therefore, Mg supplementation becomes very crucial in the maintenance of our health.


The current American recommended daily allowance for Magnesium is a minimum of 320 mg for females and 420 mg for males. However, the mean intake in the U.S.A., according to the department of Agriculture, is much less. As a result, more than 65 – 75 % of the North American population falls far short of the daily Mg requirements.

Mg Bis-Glycinate is a unique chelate form of Magnesium that is readily up-taken into the blood stream and able to participate in the vital reactions in the body. Studies show its absorption rate is over 220 percent of Mg Citrate, which is considered one of the better absorbable Magnesium salts.

Magnesium is often viewed as a stool softener and given to people with hard stools or constipation. Is this the truth or just a myth? This understanding is partially incorrect. It is not the Magnesium itself that acts this way, but the type of salt it is bound to. Mg supplements are available in many forms, have different purposes and different absorption rates. When a Mg salt is not readily absorbed in the colon, it draws water from the interstitial space into the lumen resulting in softened stool or even diarrhea.

Magnesium Oxide (MgO), for instance, is often used in conventional medicine as a stool softener, as the fractional absorption rate is only around 4 %. Other Mg salts, such as citrate and sulfate, have higher absorption rates, (30 – 40 %) but will still draw water into the lumen due to their ionic nature and result in loose stool. Mg salts can be used on a daily basis as a stool softener without causing dependence. This is not the case for stimulating laxatives for constipation. Mg salts are indicated for elderly patients with decreased bowel muscle tone, especially those with high risk of stroke, due to that fact that straining to defecate is one of the leading causes of hemorrhagic stroke in elderly.

Mg Bis-Glycinate is the most bio-available form of Magnesium that is readily up-taken into the blood stream and able to support some of the vital reactions in our body. In addition, it supports our cardiovascular and immune systems and helps keep our bones strong. We also recommend it after workouts to support muscle recovery and prevent cramping. Its absorption rate is more than twice that of Magnesium salts and other Magnesium chelates. It also does not depend on the pH level in the stomach or food intake.

Below is a summary of the different forms of magnesium and the % of magnesium in each form.

Magnesium Form Mg
Description and Summary Key Clinical Uses
Mg oxide 58% Commonly used in OTC laxatives Laxative
Mg citrate 11% Commonly used form – good absorption but still can be laxative Laxative, general magnesium support
Mg (bis)glycinate 11-14% Amino acid glycine has calming effect on nerves Insomnia, restless legs, anxiety, muscle spasm
Mg malate 11% Malate increases energy production inside cell Fibromyalgia, muscle pain
Mg aspartate 7% Aspartate helps transport fats inside the cell Chronic fatigue
Mg taurate 8.80% Normalizes electrical activity across membranes in heart and brain Cardiovascular disease, Arrhythmia


Together with our head pharmacist Jason and compounding department manager Grace, I analyzed several different Mg-Bis-Glycinates sold in Canada. We opened one capsule of each of the products to find out the weight. The chelation ratio of Mg Bis-Glycinate is inversely proportional to its percentage of Magnesium content. Since each capsule is limited to a certain filling amount we then found out that some of the products out there were either not pure Magnesium Bis-Glycinate or they didn’t meet their elemental Magnesium claim on their label. The impurity would then also explain why some people experience loose stool or diarrhea when taking “diluted” Magnesium Bis-Glycinate, since “diluted” Magnesium Bis-Glycinate is part Magnesium Bis-Glycinate and part Magnesium Oxide. Further analysis showed that only approximately 60% of the elemental Magnesium comes from Magnesium Bis-Glycinate while the rest is delivered as Magnesium Oxide. As a result, those products are not pure Magnesium Bis-Glycinate.So why are some patients still experiencing the unwanted laxative effect even though they were prescribed a Mg Bis-Glycinate? Something doesn’t add up.

How is this allowed to happen? For Health Canada this sort of violation is lower on the priority list for dealing with complaints as there is no imminent health threats, i.e. allergen potential or adverse reactions. As far as the regulatory bodies are concerned, the company has a license to sell magnesium and is selling magnesium. The form of the magnesium is considered to be nuance. The concern speaks to a larger issue in the natural health product industry. Consumers of natural health products have a right to knowing exactly what is in a product they are purchasing. Cutting corners to make more money or being ignorant about what’s in a product they are selling is no longer acceptable. This is exactly what gives the whole industry a bad name when investigations and media outlets uncover shady ethics and adulterated products. As an industry that is still evolving its standards and that has been riddled with scrutiny for efficacy and safety, it benefits the entire industry when supplement manufacturers thoroughly vet their suppliers for medicinal and non-medicinal ingredients and then clearly communicating that with their customers.


Since we want our clients to have the very best, we did two things. First, we informed many companies who manufacture “diluted” Magnesium Bis-Glycinate to change their labels accordingly in order to not mislead the general public.

Second, we created a 100% pure Magnesium Bis-Glycinate that comes in a veggie capsules. It contains absolutely no fillers. This product has 855 mg of Magnesium Bis-Glycinate which is equivalent to 100 mg of PURE elemental Magnesium. As of today, this product is the most economical and pure product on the market. It is available for purchase here.

For those of you who are currently taking our other Finlandia Magnesium products, I would encourage you to try out this new formulation. However, if you would like to continue with what you are already taking, those products are still available behind the counter. Please ask a product specialist if you would like to acquire them.

Markus Guggenberger,
Finlandia Pharmacy