Difference between magnesium oxide & magnesium citrate

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The typical western diet provides so little magnesium that nutrition expert and author Dr. Carolyn Dean recommends supplementing with this important mineral. Currently, magnesium oxide and magnesium citrate are the most widely available forms of magnesium.

Mineral Form

Magnesium oxide is an inorganic salt, whereas magnesium citrate is an organic salt chelate.

Multiple Formulas

Many multiple vitamin plus mineral formulas contain magnesium oxide. At Swanson Health Products, the top ten products in this category all provide magnesium oxide. Multiple formulas rarely provide magnesium citrate.


In her book "The Magnesium Miracle," Dean estimates that the body digests and absorbs about 4% of magnesium oxide, which means the body will only use 12 mg from 300 mg of elemental magnesium oxide. Magnesium citrate boasts a much higher bioavailability rate, perhaps as much as 50% of the elemental magnesium.

Laxative Effect

Since the body absorbs so little of magnesium oxide, the other 96% stays in the intestines and acts as a laxative. On the other hand, cells take up more of the mineral from magnesium citrate, leaving behind less of it in the intestines to stimulate the bowels.


Supplement developers frequently choose magnesium oxide for multiple formulas because of the low cost of procuring it. Binding magnesium to citric acid drives up the cost of magnesium citrate.

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