Optimising absorption of zinc and magnesium
Fusion co-founder Paul Keogh explains how to choose a readily absorbed form of zinc or magnesium so that you get the most out of your mineral supplement.
We live in a fertile country, with an abundance of fresh produce that can contribute to a healthy, nutritious diet. But the diets of many Australian adults are low in some of the nutrients most essential to our health.1
Many Australians are consuming less than the recommended dietary intake of important minerals such as zinc and magnesium.1 More than one in three men and teenage boys aren’t including enough zinc in their diet.1 And, one in three people over the age of two are missing out on enough dietary magnesium.1
Increasing dietary sources of zinc and magnesium is the obvious first choice here. Foods that are high in zinc include chicken, beef, dairy, shellfish, oysters, cereals, chickpeas, spinach and pumpkin seeds. Source of dietary magnesium include fish, almonds, bananas, avocados, spinach, black beans and yoghurt.
But if you aren’t getting enough of these minerals from your diet, you could consider taking a good quality mineral supplement.
However, your ability to absorb minerals from a supplement can be affected by the form the mineral comes in.2
Organic versus inorganic minerals
Minerals come in two forms: organic and inorganic. In this context the word 'organic' doesn't refer to pesticide-free farming, but refers to compounds that contain organic acids e.g. amino acids (the building blocks of protein).2
In many instances, the minerals found in supplements are inorganic. For example, zinc is often found bound with sulfur to form zinc sulfate, while magnesium may be bound to oxygen to form magnesium oxide.2
Absorption of inorganic minerals
When you consume an inorganic mineral, your body starts to break it down quickly due to the acidic environment of the stomach. This free mineral can then bond to other compounds it encounters during digestion. For example, when an inorganic mineral like zinc is consumed in or with wholegrains, nuts and some vegetables, it may get bound to (or ‘trapped in’) compounds called phytates that are naturally present in these foods, and consequently the body may not be able to absorb it.2
Organic minerals are readily absorbed
In contrast, organic minerals are readily absorbed. When zinc or magnesium is bound to an amino acid such as glycine to form zinc glycinate and magnesium glycinate, they are in a more highly bioavailable form (easy for the body to absorb and use). This is because glycine binds to the mineral in two places, making it stable enough to pass through the stomach without being split apart.2
Once it arrives in the intestines, the zinc or magnesium glycinate can be absorbed into the gut lining intact making it easy for the body to use.2
Choose your minerals wisely
Look for products containing organic minerals such as zinc glycinate, magnesium glycinate, magnesium citrate and magnesium aspartate – these tend to be more readily absorbed and more usable by your body than inorganic minerals such as zinc sulfate and magnesium oxide.2
Why is zinc so important?
Zinc is required by every one of your cells, and is involved in a myriad of physiological processes including:
- Immunity: zinc is required for the healthy functioning of immune cells
- Skin, hair and nails: zinc is essential for the production of collagen and the maintenance of healthy skin, hair and nails
- Reproductive health: zinc is essential for men's prostate health, sperm production and the maintenance of a healthy reproductive system
- Antioxidant support: zinc provides antioxidant benefits and may help protect against free radical damage
- Healthy eyesight: this important mineral also assists the maintenance of healthy vision3
If you’re keen to take a supplement to top up the levels of zinc in your diet, consider Fusion Zinc Advanced, which combines zinc glycinate with vitamins B6 and C.
Why might you want more magnesium?
Like zinc, magnesium is involved in hundreds of physiological functions. If you aren’t getting enough magnesium in your diet, it can help with functions such as:
- Energy production: your cells need magnesium in order to generate energy. No wonder it's often used to reduce fatigue and enhance stamina!
- Electrolyte balance: magnesium is lost during perspiration, so supplementing dietary magnesium will compensate for this loss
- Muscle function: magnesium is required for muscle contraction and relaxation and may relieve muscle spasms and cramps
- Blood sugar: like zinc, magnesium is involved in the maintenance of healthy blood glucose metabolism
- Nervous system: magnesium can help with restlessness and disrupted sleep
- Premenstrual syndrome: taking magnesium may help relieve premenstrual symptoms such as mood swings, irritability and breast tenderness if your dietary intake of it is inadequate4
Paul Keogh is the co-founder of Global Therapeutics P/L trading as Fusion Health.
1. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Food Standards Australia New Zealand. Australian health survey: usual nutrient intakes 2011-12. Commonwealth of Australia, 2015.
2. Albion minerals. Viewed 3 Oct 2019, albionnutritionalfacts.com/index.php/home/mineral-benefit
3. Ho E. Zinc. Linus Pauling Institute 2019. Viewed 2 Oct 2019, lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/zinc
4. Volpe SL. Oregon State University 2019. Viewed 19 Sep 2019, lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/magnesium