The body needs all sorts of elements and nutrients to function, including numerous elements in tiny quantities. Moreover, these need to be in balance, and for most people, they are out of balance (eg far too little magnesium relative to calcium*).
The body needs relatively large quantities of the following elements vs trace elements:
- Sodium (Na) — salt, the stuff you sprinkle on food and that excessively permeates nearly all processed foods.
- Magnesium (Mg) — most people have subclinical magnesium deficiency, which drives cardiovascular disease and many very serious problems. Magnesium is relatively difficult to get with ordinary diet and especially with today’s processed food supplies and depleted and chemically-treated soils.
- Calcium(CA) — excessive intake for most. Very damaging to the body over time, precipitating and depositing into arteries, brain, bladder, kidneys, etc when other nutrients are lacking, eg magnesium and Vitamin K2.
- Potassium (K) — relatively easy to get but many people are likely deficient, a claim I make based on assessing my food to the gram; it is relatively difficult to get to 4500mg per day and that figure is the minimum recommendation. True needs are probably double that, and some estimates are up to 10X.
- Iron — dependent on trace amounts of copper and can compete with other elements. I’m personally having trouble with iron, probably due to thyroid disease.
* Solid evidence suggests that a 2:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium is best, but the modern diet trends towards 15:1 or so (because of low magnesium foods). Which would explain dozens of chronic health issues affecting the bulk of the population in at least one way, even if not clinically obvious.
One thing rarely mentioned is chloride. Yet it is as essential as the others. You will see it on your annual physical lab blood tests, as it is a critical substance to have at proper levels. A chloride imbalance is a serious health concern, albeit rare.
The most natural form of Na, Mg, Ca, K are the chloride form. Barring some compelling reason (not in evidence!), why would you ingest a glycinate/malate/citrate molecule instead of chloride*? Maybe you are being sold a bill of goods by supplement companies?
For example, chloride channels are key in controlling the amount of water and the type of compounds and nutrients that go in and out of cells. Overall, they play an important role in keeping the balance of our bodies’ fluids (thus, helping to regulate our blood pressure) as well as the pH.
Chloride has a major physiological significance, which includes regulation of osmotic pressure, electrolyte balance and acid-base homeostasis. Chloride is present in all body fluids, and is the most abundant extracellular anion which accounts for around one third of extracellular fluid's tonicity.
Chloride is an essential electrolyte, playing a key role in maintaining cell homeostasis and transmitting action potentials in neurons. It can flow through chloride channels (including the GABAA receptor) and is transported by KCC2 and NKCC2 transporters.
The concentration of chloride in the blood is called serum chloride, and this concentration is regulated by the kidneys. A chloride ion is a structural component of some proteins; for example, it is present in the amylase enzyme. For these roles, chloride is one of the essential dietary mineral (listed by its element name chlorine). Serum chloride levels are mainly regulated by the kidneys...
Which leads me to this question...
Non-chloride forcing physiological rebalancing?
If you’re not heard of it, I have personally witnessed hyponatremia in two cycling buddies and come very close to it myself. It’s not fun and can be deadly. And it can happen in just 6 or 7 hours, showing that the electrolyte balance of the body has only a modest operational range. I think of such things when shoveling non-natural salts of magnesium/potassium/etc—the body requires electrolyte balance. Forcing the body to re-establish equilibrium by metabolic processes just seems like a bad idea. If you were to suggest I take my electrolytes during a double century as sodium/magnesium/potassium glycinate, I’d have very serious concerns about chloride imbalance. So why would I do that to myself every day with a supplement?
What if you are (daily) unbalancing the chloride level, via supplementation? A lot of people who supplement magnesium end up choosing the much-hyped glycinate/citrate/malate/threonate forms. All of these forms lack chloride.
What are the implications of taking, say, 400mg of elemental magnesium (or other compound) as magnesium glycinate vs magnesium chloride? What about 1000mg elemental, or 2000mg elemental, as I did for months (as MgCl) with a magnesium deficiency? Those other forms lack chloride and also requires metabolism, but the MgCl form is exactly what the body needs—inherently balanced.
AFAIK, nature does not provide fruits and vegetables or fauna flesh with magnesium malate/citrate/glycinate. Nor do we sprinkle sodium glycinate/citrate/glycinate on our food.
Why use magnesium glycinate/citrate/malate/etc vs chloride*? I’ve seen various claims on absorption,but (excepting MgO, awful stuff), those arguments look piss-poor in terms of findings, designed perhaps to sell product. My personal experience* tells me that MgCl is close to 100% absorbed until and unless I fully top up my body stores, which took me nearly a year of heavy supplementation.
Does taking non-chloride forms of magnesium create a chloride imbalance? Magnesium ions floating around need chloride companions before the body can use it (ditto for K and Na). The body must actively deal with glycinate/citrate/malate/etc before it is usable. And what about the required chloride?
Where does the chloride come from and what must be excreted?
Excess stores of chloride are not just going to be sitting around on the chance event of some magnesium glycinate showing up. The body is going to have to find it somewhere, which surely means excreting excess something eg Mg or K or Na or whatever. Balance and physiological statis must be reestablished. Excess Na+, Ca+, Mg+ cations floating around lacking Cl- anions—the body will have to deal with that imbalance.
Am I wrong? I’m no biologist, but the logic seems simple enough. And seem my comments above on hyponatremia, which one can experience in as little as 5-6 hours, by electrolyte imbalance.
Providing MgCl directly bypasses the physiological need to metabolize and make-ready the other forms of magnesium. Evolution did not design us for getting a big influx of glycinate/malate/citrate/etc every day. Is this a real concern which a physiological scientist could weigh in on with credible assertions? Dunno.
* Dubious marketing hype aside, that hype being based on extremely limited science regarding absorption. My own personal experience is near-100% absorption of MgCl, based on being able to take large quantities without any toilet trips.