Back in 2013, I wrote a general article about magnesium for Vitamin Retailer magazine. In the five years since then, I’ve had the opportunity to read quite a few new studies about various forms of magnesium. I found the research on one of those forms to be so interesting, that I thought it was worthy of a new magnesium article. Specifically, I’m referring to magnesium glycerophosphate—but before I begin, let’s do a quick background review about magnesium’s functions and its adequacy in our diet.
Magnesium is an essential mineral with multiple functions in the human body. This includes a structural role in bone, cell membranes, and chromosomes. It is needed for more than 300 metabolic reactions, including magnesium-dependent chemical reactions required to metabolize carbohydrates and fats in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the “energy currency” of the body. In addition, magnesium is required for the synthesis of nucleic acids, proteins, carbohydrates, lipids and the antioxidant glutathione. Magnesium is also required for transporting potassium and calcium ions across cell membranes. The conduction of nerve impulses, muscle contraction, normal heart rhythm, cell signaling and cell migration, which may be important in wound healing, are also all magnesium-dependent activities.1
Although overt magnesium (Mg) deficiency is not common in healthy individuals who are consuming a balanced diet, the United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, has reported that 57 percent of the U.S. population does not meet the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for levels of Mg.2 Consequently, there is a good case for magnesium supplementation—and magnesium glycerophosphate is a good choice for this purpose.
Magnesium Glycerophosphate Background
Magnesium doesn’t naturally exist by itself. Rather, it is attached to some type of organic or inorganic acid. Minerals attached to acids are called mineral salts. All forms of magnesium used in dietary supplements provide one or more magnesium salts. In the case of magnesium glycerophosphate, magnesium is attached to glycerol and phosphoric acid (i.e. phosphate). Once the glycerophosphate is cleaved off of the magnesium in the body, not only is the magnesium available for use, but so is the phosphate and the glycerol. Phosphate is the most abundant element in the human body, and phosphate, glycerol and magnesium can be used to help generate ATP. In fact, one molecule of glycerophosphate can be used to produce 19 molecules of ATP after passing through the Krebs cycle.3 Of course this is only meaningful if magnesium glycerophosphate is well absorbed.
Magnesium Glycerophosphate Absorption and Tolerability
In passing through the stomach, magnesium compounds can react with stomach acid, creating salts such as magnesium chloride, which are totally soluble at this acidic pH. While soluble magnesium sounds like a good thing, that’s not the case when it’s in the stomach. The reason is that this reaction means that the magnesium is free to bind with other ions in the stomach, creating insoluble compounds.4
On the other hand, once it reaches the intestinal tract, you want magnesium to be soluble so that it can be absorbed. However, magnesium salts commonly used in supplementation begin to drop in solubility with the more alkaline pH of the intestines. Consequently, these compounds can have low bioavailability, and the magnesium can be eliminated as waste before absorption into the bloodstream.
Furthermore, when magnesium is in its dissolved state, it has an extreme attraction for molecules of water. It becomes surrounded by water molecules completely by what is referred to as a “hydration shell.” In fact, magnesium alone can hold so much water that the radius of the hydrated magnesium cation is about 400 times larger than its dehydrated radius.5 This creates a roadblock in absorption and is the reason that some magnesium salts have laxative effects. If the magnesium is chelated with the right compound, however, it is protected from forming a hydration shell, which also improves its absorption. Such is the case with magnesium glycerophosphate.
This was demonstrated in human research6 where magnesium glycerophosphate (Givomag, Seppic) was able to deliver meaningful levels of magnesium, and the form was well tolerated. In fact, it was better tolerated than magnesium aspartate, magnesium glutamate and other forms. Other research7 has also shown that orally administered magnesium glycerophosphate was well absorbed. The tolerability of magnesium glycerophosphate was further demonstrated in another clinical study,8 in which 20 volunteers received daily supplementation with a placebo and 11 different mixtures of magnesium, including magnesium glycerophosphate, for four weeks. The results showed that diarrhea did not occur in those using magnesium glycerophosphate.
Magnesium Glycerophosphate and Cardiovascular Health
Premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) are extra heartbeats that begin in one of a heart’s two lower pumping chambers (ventricles). These extra beats disrupt regular heart rhythm, sometimes causing feelings of fluttering or skipped heartbeat in your chest. A randomized, double-blind crossover study9 was conducted using magnesium glycerophosphate in 11 patients with PVCs. Each patient took either magnesium glycerophosphate (Givomag, Seppic), followed by a matching placebo, or the same in the inverse order. Patients were reviewed at two weekly intervals throughout the study so that two sets of data were obtained during each treatment period. The results were that treatment with magnesium glycerophosphate was associated with a significant decrease in ventricular ectopy (i.e. irregular heart rhythm). When compared with the baseline, the mean number of VPBs fell from 982 to 416/24 hour during magnesium therapy (P < 0.02). The results of this study suggest that treatment with magnesium glycerophosphate is associated with a decrease in PVCs.
Magnesium Glycerophosphate and Muscular Relaxation
Approximately 27 percent of magnesium in the body is found in muscles,10 which makes sense considering that—while calcium is needed for muscle contraction—magnesium is needed for muscle relaxation.11 Yet despite this physiological role, analyses of clinical research suggest that magnesium supplementation has not decreased the frequency or intensity of skeletal muscle cramps compared to placebo.12,13 However, a different result was seen when in a study on the effects of magnesium glycerophosphate on spasticity—a condition in which certain muscles are continuously contracted, causing stiffness or tightness of the muscles.
In this study,14 the subject was a 35-year-old woman with severe spastic paraplegia resulting from multiple sclerosis. The women received oral magnesium glycerophosphate doses (Givomag, Seppic) for 60 days. The spasticity was assessed by the mean of the modified Ashworth scale and the range of motion for hip flexion and abduction, knee flexion and ankle dorsiflexion. The results showed that, on average, the spasticity was reduced by 0.7 points (from 4.9 to 4.2). This improvement occurred within one week and reached its maximum after three weeks. The spasticity was efficiently reduced for the movement of the hips and the knees. The authors of the study concluded that, since it is safe, inexpensive, simple to administer and has no side effects at therapeutic dose, magnesium glycerophosphate therapy could become an interesting alternative for the treatment of the spasticity.
The majority of Americans are not consuming sufficient amounts of magnesium, a vitally important mineral involved in multiple functions in the human body. Magnesium glycerophosphate (Givomag, Seppic) is a novel form of magnesium which can help in the production of ATP, and which is readily absorbed. Unlike many forms of magnesium when supplemented in higher doses, magnesium glycerophosphate does not have the common side effect of diarrhea. In addition, supplementation with magnesium glycerophosphate has been shown to be effective in reducing premature ventricular contractions, and in relaxing contracted muscles. Magnesium glycerophosphate is a safe and effective form of magnesium for dietary supplements.
1 Rude RK, Shils ME. Magnesium. In: Shils ME, Shike M, Ross AC, Caballero B, Cousins RJ, eds. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 10th ed. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2006:223-247.
2 United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. Nutrient Intakes Percent of population 2 years old and over with adequate intakes based on average requirement. Community Nutrition Mapping Project. 2009-07-29. Retrieved June 4, 2012 from www.ars.usda.gov/Services/docs.htm?docid=15672.
3 McArdle W. Nutrition et performances sportives. Bruxelles: De Boeck Universite; 2004.
4 Bohn L, Meyer AS, Rasmussen SK. Phytate: impact on environment and human nutrition. A challenge for molecular breeding. Journal of Zheijang University Science. 2008;B9:165–191.
5 de Baaij JH, Hoenderop JG, Bindels RJ. Regulation of magnesium balance: lessons learned from human genetic disease. Clin Kidney J. 2012;5(Suppl 1):i15–24.
6 The Magnesium Book: A review of research and current applications. Isaltis; 2015.
7 Public Assessment Report UKPAR Neomag 4mmol chewable tablets (Magnesium glycerophosphate) UK License Number: PL 36116/0003 Neoceuticals Limited. Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency; 2017:22pgs.
8 Driessens FCM, Boltong MG, Planell JA. On Formulas for Daily Oral Magnesium Supplementation and Some of Their Side Effects. Magnesium-Bulletin. 1993; 15(1):10-12
9 Lewis RV, et al. Oral magnesium reduces ventricular ectopy in digitalised patients with chronic atrial fibrillation. Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 1990;38(2):107-110.
10 Shils ME. Magnesium. In: O’Dell BL, Sunde RA, eds. Handbook of nutritionally essential minerals. New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc; 1997:117-152.
11 Rude RK, Shils ME. Magnesium. In: Shils ME, Shike M, Ross AC, Caballero B, Cousins RJ, eds. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 10th ed. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2006:223-247.
12 Garrison, S. R., Allan, G. M., Sekhon, R. K., Musini, V. M., and Khan, K. M. Magnesium for skeletal muscle cramps. Cochrane.Database.Syst.Rev. 2012;9:CD009402.
13 Sebo P, Cerutti B, Haller DM. Effect of magnesium therapy on nocturnal leg cramps: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials with meta-analysis using simulations. Fam Pract 2014;31(1):7-19.
14 Rossier P, van Erven S, Wade DT. The effect of magnesium oral therapy on spasticity in a patient with multiple sclerosis. Eur J Neurol. 2000 Nov;7(6):741-4.
Gene Bruno, MS, MHS, the dean of academics for Huntington College of Health Sciences, is a nutritionist, herbalist, writer and educator. For more than 30 years he has educated and trained natural product retailers and health care professionals, has researched and formulated natural products for dozens of dietary supplement companies, and has written articles on nutrition, herbal medicine, nutraceuticals and integrative health issues for trade, consumer magazines and peer-reviewed publications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.