Key to Keto: Magnesium Citrate

    The phrase “I’m doing keto” is proudly stated by those millions who are following the diet.

    One of the most popular diets ever shows no signs of slowing down. According to the report Ketogenic Diet Food Market – Growth, Trends and Forecast (2020-2025) from global market research firm Modo Intelligence, “the global ketogenic diet food market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 5.3% during the forecast period” between 2016 and 2024. Europe has the largest population of consumers who are following the ketogenic diet trend, followed by consumers in North America.

    The medical community is also deep into exploring keto. According to Clinical, there are approximately 80 studies registered and in phases of “not yet recruiting” to “active,” all investigating the effects of the ketogenic diet in various health parameters.

    Because a ketogenic diet extremely restricts carbs in all forms (including fiber) in favor of fats and protein, there are conflicting theories as to how following it can impact health later in life. For example, authors of one published paper observed that the diet has been given high acclaim as a way to treat obesity and related type 2 diabetes. But they caution, “the enthusiasm for its potential benefits exceeds the current evidence supporting its use for these conditions.”

    There are side effects such as fatigue and discomfort that can be draining, which is often referred to as “keto flu.” It also causes “keto breath,” which is the odor of ketosis. However, once the body adjusts, keto dieters express that they feel less hunger, more energy and better ability to focus. And of course, some report that they quickly achieve the weight and fat loss they desire.

    The attraction to following a keto diet has accelerated CPG research and development. According to Innova Market Insights’ Innova Diet Trends Survey 2019, although keto claims remain niche, they “show significant growth.” In 2018 there were 292 global new product launches positioned directly for keto, of which 80% were in North America. Illustrating keto’s bombastic growth, Innova showed 114 product launches for 2019 as of April of that year.

    In its report, Mordor Intelligence found that a high growth area in keto CPG consists of high-fat and low-carb beverages that are formulated to provide sustained energy and help accelerate the metabolic state of ketosis. Many are featuring MCT (medium-chain triglycerides) found in coconut and other sources. According to the report, “almond butter in to-go pouches, and nutritional drinks and bone broth with keto-specific packaging are some of the most popular products on the market.”

    Further, the report observed, “With the surge in popularity of the keto diet, the nutraceutical marketplace has experienced an arrival of high-fat supplements. The beverage segment is leading the market for the ketogenic diet, followed by supplements and meals, sauces and condiments, sweeteners, and dark chocolate.” The products are varied, yet there is one humble but critical ingredient that brands may want to include: magnesium citrate.

    Ohad Cohen, CEO for Israeli-based magnesium citrate manufacturer, Gadot Biochemicals Ltd., states, “Minerals are often overlooked when formulating supplements for diet-specific support. Consumers and industry tend to still think they are simply ‘essential for overall health and great in a multivitamin, and that’s it.’ But minerals are powerful protectors in specific situations.”


    Why Magnesium Citrate is Key 

    Remember the mention of the “keto flu?” One reason that may lie behind these symptoms is the loss in magnesium, a mineral that is the eighth most common element in the earth’s crust and critical for human health. Magnesium is a vital mineral for all humans and is the fourth most abundant in the body. It is involved in almost all major metabolic pathways, such as in energy generation, protein synthesis and neuromuscular stability.

    Consider that the average daily recommended intake of magnesium is 250 mg for women and 300 mg for men, but most people only achieve between 175 and 225 mg. Keto dieters tend to lose more.

    In her article, The Importance of Magnesium in Low-Carb Diets, keto diet expert Emily Maguire, BsC, MSc, explains, “In the first few weeks of a low carbohydrate diet, you can lose a lot more water from the body. As glycogen is stored in the body as one-part glycogen and three parts water, it means that more water is dumped through the kidneys. Since magnesium levels are controlled through the kidneys, this can then inadvertently cause a drop-in serum magnesium levels.”

    Low levels of magnesium can cause muscle cramps and spasms, heart palpitations, nausea, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and headaches. Further, vitamin D needs magnesium to be properly metabolized. When magnesium is low, vitamin D is stored by the body and remains inactive. Lack of sufficient magnesium halts vitamin D synthesis and metabolism.

    Of all the magnesium ingredients on the market, the most bioavailable are those that are organic; in the organic sector, citrate-based minerals provide a high percentage of organic mineral content.

    Magnesium citrate participates in most metabolic reactions and helps to promote the production and consumption of energy. As a nutrient, magnesium in its citrate form has high bioavailability. Organic magnesium is known to provide higher bioavailability than inorganic forms. For example, one study showed that magnesium oxide was only 43% soluble in simulated peak gastric acid secretion, while magnesium citrate was 86% soluble under these conditions. In volunteers, magnesium absorption is measured by the increase in urinary magnesium following the consumption of either magnesium oxide or magnesium citrate. This study showed a significantly higher absorption from magnesium citrate.

    Magnesium citrate also has other valuable attributes over other forms. Its absorption is independent of gastric acid secretion and therefore does not cause stomach upset. It can easily be taken on an empty stomach. Additionally, when compared to magnesium lactate, magnesium carbonate, magnesium oxide and magnesium gluconate, the citrate form provides a neutral taste as opposed to a bitter or sandy one, making it more palatable and easier to work within a variety of formulations.

    “High—sufficient—absorption of any nutrient, but specifically a mineral, is absolutely critical. If it is not absorbed, it is not utilized and its benefit is not realized,” said Cohen. “Additionally, and this is very key when it comes to formulating with any mineral, magnesium citrate has no metal taste—it is virtually indistinguishable in the palate.”

    As keto continues to be raved about by millions of followers, expect more to jump on the bandwagon. The dynamic consumer product space for keto-friendly foods, supplements and beverages will likewise grow at a rapid clip. Magnesium needs to be at the forefront of a keto diet to ensure that those who may be sensitive to the symptoms of low magnesium will stick with the diet for as long as they want to.

    “Low-carb diet in any form will likely stand the test of time for individuals who want to watch not only their weight, but their blood sugar levels,” Cohen commented. “No matter what the low-carb diet’s next incarnation may be, supplements containing magnesium citrate will help the dieters/followers feel better and thus stick to it to reach their ultimate wellness and fitness goals.”


    Note: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author(s) and contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and editors of WholeFoods Magazine.



    Joshi, S., Ostfeld, RJ, McMacken, M, “The Ketogenic Diet for Obesity and Diabetes—Enthusiasm Outpaces Evidence.” JAMA Intern Med. 2019;179(9):1163-1164

    Glasdam, S-M, Glasdam, S, Peters, GH. “The Importance of Magnesium in the Human Body: A Systematic Literature Review” Adv Clin Chem 2016 73, 169-93

    Jahnen-Dechent, W, Ketteler, M. “Magnesium basics” Clink Kidney J 2012 Feb; 5(Suppl 1): i3-i14

    Lindberg JS, et al. “Magnesium Bioavailability From Magnesium Citrate and Magnesium Oxide” J Am Coll Nutr 1990 Feb;9(1):48-55.

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    David Foreman is a pharmacist, author and media personality known internationally as, “The Herbal Pharmacist.” His background in both pharmacy and natural medicine put Foreman in an elite class of health experts who can teach integrative medicine practices. Foreman’s focus is to help all to achieve the health and vitality they seek by teaching his 4-Pillars of Health: Diet, Exercise, Spirituality and Supplements. Foreman is also highly sought for his abilities as a science engineer by helping connect science to sales and marketing.  Additionally, Foreman provides R&D for formulating scientifically substantiated and innovative nutraceuticals. Foreman is a graduate of the University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy, currently serves on Organic & Natural Health Association’s Scientific Advisory Board and is author of, 4 Pillars of Health: Heart Disease, Life Begins in the Gut, Improving Patient’s Understanding of the Clinical Benefit of EPA and DHA Omega-3s and several other health related books.