Chelated Magnesium vs. Non-Chelated Magnesium: A Beginner’s Guide

The type of magnesium you choose will largely determine whether or not you reach your desired health goals—whether you’re using it to treat muscle cramps, mood issues, tiredness, depression, or for better sports performance. 

For this and other reasons we’ll discuss below, chelated magnesium is a hot topic within health-conscious circles. But seriously, what’s the difference between chelated and non-chelated magnesium, and is chelated magnesium better to take?

Taking magnesium chelate can make a massive difference especially if you’re trying to treat magnesium deficiency since it’s better absorbed by the body. Furthermore, you may benefit from choosing chelated magnesium if other magnesium forms happen to lower your blood pressure or give you other uncomfortable symptoms.  

Wrapping your head around different forms of magnesium can be challenging. That’s why this practical beginner guide should nudge you in the right direction if you’re unsure which magnesium would suit you best. 

We’ll help you differentiate between chelated and non-chelated magnesium so we make this choice easier for you. We made sure to review reliable sources so you can be sure you’re taking in the best with your supplement. 

But first, let’s check what exactly chelated magnesium means. 

What Is Chelated Magnesium?

The word chelate signifies the creation of ring-like complexes, but it’s even better explained by the phrase “to grab and to bond to”. So, what does chelated magnesium do? Chelated magnesium is a form of magnesium that bonds to chelating agents. 

Most chelated formulas attach to protein molecules, such as amino acids and organic acids (examples of those include citrate for organic acids and glycine for amino acids). By creating such kinds of bonds, these magnesium formulas are easier to absorb and be fully utilized by your body

Common forms of chelated magnesium include: 

  • Magnesium citrate
  • Magnesium glycinate
  • Magnesium malate 

Common forms of non-chelated Magnesium include:  

  • Magnesium oxide
  • Magnesium sulfate
  • Magnesium chloride

Chelated Magnesium vs Non-Chelated—What’s the Difference?  

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Magnesium is a mineral known for its high chemical activity. This is why its formulas are combined with other supplement-form substances. This is also why without exception what you’ll find at the pharmacist are magnesium formulas combined with citric acid, sodium, glycine, oxygen, vitamin C, etc.

But what’s the difference between chelated and non-chelated magnesium and how should you know which one is best for you? First things first, chelated magnesium bonds to organic molecules such as amino acids while non-chelated magnesium doesn’t make such bonds. Yet, what stands out as the major difference between these two is that they’re differently absorbed by the body. 

More precisely, chelated magnesium has superior bioavailability to non-chelated magnesium. Taken on the whole, and given that chelated magnesium is more absorbable, it makes sense that your body will more fully utilize the benefits magnesium has to offer (but more on that later).  

So how do you decide between magnesium citrate versus oxide or magnesium glycinate versus chloride? To further help you sort out your chelated magnesium vs non-chelated dilemma, let’s look at some of the benefits you can derive from different mineral forms—both chelated and non-chelated. 

Having it all laid out in a table will put things into perspective so you can make an educated decision and figure out what works best for you. 

By and large, this decision will depend on which symptoms you’re looking to target and whether this magnesium form or another creates problems and side effects for you. 

Chelated vs Non-Chelated Magnesium 
NameFunction
Non-Chelated Magnesium FormsMagnesium oxideMagnesium oxide can benefit people experiencing constipation as it’s likely to speed up digestion. Alongside that, it can help minimize heartburn, sour stomach, or acid indigestion. [1
Magnesium chlorideMagnesium chloride can help offset a decline of gastric acid secretion in the stomach and can also be used as a mild laxative. [2]
Chelated Magnesium FormsMagnesium citrate Magnesium citrate is often used to help with occasional constipation on a short-term basis as well as replenish low magnesium levels. [3
Magnesium glycinateMagnesium glycinate, also called magnesium bisglycinate, is used to produce a calming effect and maintain a regular heart rhythm. It can also help treat depression episodes triggered by magnesium deficiency. [4]

Now, let’s tackle chelated magnesium benefits in detail.

What Are the Benefits of Chelated Magnesium?

Chelated magnesium shares more general benefits with its non-chelated counterparts, including maintaining healthy bone and muscle function, helping proper functioning of the heart and nervous function, as well as supporting healthy sleeping patterns. [5

But let’s get to the meat of it—how can chelated magnesium benefit you differently from other forms of magnesium?

Increased Bioavailability

As mentioned before, chelated magnesium is characterized by increased bioavailability. But let’s explain this in more detail. Some nutrients will fail to be adequately absorbed when exposed to the digestive system. It makes a massive difference, since as a result, your body won’t be capable of utilizing these nutrients fully.  

Unlike non-chelated magnesium which binds with inorganic sources or mineral salts (which tend to be poorly assimilated), chelated magnesium is bound to organic compounds—and the good news is that they boost nutrient absorption and utilization

And we have science to back this up. One study explored the absorption potential of magnesium glycinate, a chelated form, when compared to the non-chelated variant, magnesium oxide. The results showed superior bioavailability of the chelated form when measured against the non-chelated one. [6]  

Another study looked at magnesium absorption rates in magnesium citrate and magnesium oxide respectively by measuring the rise in urinary magnesium. The results of this in vivo study showed that magnesium citrate has better absorbability when compared to magnesium oxide. [7]

Better Stability

Other chelated magnesium benefits include better stability of the mineral. Chelated magnesium forms a complete ring structure making the mineral more stable. 

But what does this mean and how consequential is it for you while choosing the right magnesium supplement? The more stable a mineral is the less chance of adverse reactions you’ll have when taking your fat-soluble vitamins.

Calming Effect

Magnesium is generally known for promoting a relaxed mood as it regulates the production of the calming neurotransmitter, otherwise known as GABA. On top of that, there is some evidence that chelated magnesium can help curb anxiety symptoms and promote feelings of calm. 

Research has found that glycine is the main culprit behind the calming properties of chelated magnesium. These forms of magnesium supplementation have been found to calm the brain and help promote a good night’s sleep. They’ve been found to do this by regulating N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors in the brain. [8, 9]

Other research suggests magnesium can benefit individuals suffering from subjective anxiety. [10] However, more well-designed randomized controlled trials are needed to further confirm the link between chelated magnesium and improved anxiety symptoms. 

Helps You Go Around Potential Gastrointestinal Issues

Last but not least on the chelated magnesium benefits topic, this form of magnesium can also help if you’re suffering from diarrhea and loose stools—which are the symptoms often paired with taking higher doses of magnesium. 

Simply put, unabsorbed magnesium pulls water from surrounding tissues into the colon, overstimulating the bowel in this way. Chelated magnesium, being more bioavailable than traditional forms, is less likely to provoke these issues.

Pro tip: Another way to avoid gastrointestinal upset triggered by your magnesium supplementation is to make sure you take your magnesium with food.

So, Which Type of Magnesium is Right for You?

What do you do when the symptoms you’re trying to target with your magnesium supplements are not clearing out? Finding the right form of magnesium should do it.

But how do you know which form of magnesium is best for you? Let’s review some of the above-listed data so you can have some pointers when weighing your magnesium supplement options. Scanning through the list below should help you do just that.  

  • Magnesium oxide (the non-chelated form) is widely available on the market but due to its low absorption rates, it’s not the first option to go for if you’re aiming to treat magnesium deficiency. Instead, this magnesium form is rather more suitable for constipation relief. This can explain why many different over-the-counter constipation medications contain this form of magnesium. Also, magnesium oxide can be a good option for those who seek relief from heartburn, indigestion, or migraines
  • Magnesium chloride (the non-chelated form) can help you produce stomach acid and can therefore be useful to those who underproduce it. Having low stomach acid can disrupt your absorption of minerals and vitamins, such as iron, calcium, and vitamins C, B6, and B12 leaving you with more deficiencies to worry about. This is why magnesium chloride is a smart choice if you’re facing any of these issues. 
  • Magnesium glycinate (the chelated form) is a form of magnesium more easily absorbed by the body. It’s very well tolerated and can be used to help treat depression and anxiety, as well as mitigate pain. In addition, it’s likely to help you enhance sleep more than other forms of magnesium. 
  • Magnesium citrate (the chelated form) is a highly absorbable form of magnesium that is also typically very well tolerated, meaning it’s a good go-to solution for people having issues with magnesium side effects. Furthermore, thanks to its high bioavailability, magnesium citrate can also benefit people wanting to boost their lower baseline serum magnesium levels as well as those looking for a laxative effect.  

Want to help your body use up most of the magnesium you take in? Magnesium citrate is a highly absorbable form of magnesium suitable for those who want to boost their baseline blood levels.  
But we’re not through yet—this magnesium citrate supplement can also help support magnesium-dependent functions throughout your body. These include supporting muscle function, neurotransmission, bone mineralization, energy production etc. Buy NutriDyn Magnesium Citrate capsules here

Best Chelated Magnesium Supplements On Demand

At the end of the day, it’s not insignificant which form of magnesium—chelated or non-chelated—ends up in your medicine cabinet. That said, we hope the data listed above has helped you learn more about the topic so you’re at least a tad closer to making an informed decision. 

Want to shop chelated magnesium supplements from Simply Nutrients? We’re a doctor-owned nutritional supplement supplier stocking exclusively supplements from reputable brands.

We realize finding the right supplements that should support your health and wellness needs is not a walk in the park. That’s why we love to meet our customers halfway—being always available for them to help with any questions.

Feel free to reach out to us and we’ll be happy to help you find the best chelated magnesium supplement that works for you. Want to learn more about chelated magnesium? Check out related articles on this topic: 

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Resources: 

[1] https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a601074.html

[2] https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Magnesium-Chloride#section=Structures

[3] https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a619019.html

[4] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16542786/

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5926493/

[6] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7815675/

[7] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2407766/

[8] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25533534/

[9] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11447329/

[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5452159/

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Medically reviewed by Dr. Jamy Antoine, D.C. — by Chris Bowman — On December 28, 2023

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Chris Bowman

Chris Bowman is the CEO and Co-Founder of SimplyNutrients.com and has over 15 years of experience in nutritional sciences and wellness. Simply Nutrients is a part of Dr. Jamy Antoine's Select Health Practice in Edina, Minnesota. Chris is passionate about helping people live healthier lives by using the best practices of nature, nutrition, and medicine.