Should You Take Zinc & Magnesium Together? Experts Weigh In
Zinc and magnesium are two essential minerals—essential meaning that you have to meet your needs daily by consuming them (i.e., food and supplements) since your body can't make them itself.
While zinc and magnesium are equally important, there's a misconception that you shouldn't take the two together. However, when they are taken at the correct dosages, it can actually be beneficial to get them both down at once.
Reasons to incorporate a zinc supplement.
Zinc has a number of benefits. It helps promote healthy skin and healing, has anti-inflammatory actions, and supports the health of your eyes.*
The mineral also plays a huge role in your immune function.* It's vital for the production of immune cells, like neutrophils, macrophages, B-cells, and T-cells, and ensures your innate immune system—your body's first line of defense—is functioning as it should.*
Yet around one in six people are falling short of their needs. "Considering food sources alone, 15% of U.S. adults are not getting enough zinc. Because this statistic comes from nationally representative data, that means that approximately 50 million Americans have an unaddressed zinc gap," says mbg vice president of scientific affairs Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., R.D. A high-quality supplement with meaningful amounts of zinc can help close this gap.
Reasons to take magnesium supplements.
Magnesium is involved in more than 600 chemical reactions1 in the body. And like zinc, it's absolutely critical for optimal health.
"The ability of our nerves to transmit signals throughout our entire central nervous system (brain, spinal cord, etc.) is dependent on magnesium. The metabolism of carbohydrates and fats for ATP energy requires magnesium. The regulation of blood pressure and heart rate directly involves magnesium. This mineral is even required for the production of DNA, RNA, and proteins. Talk about ubiquitously important,"* says Ferira.
Magnesium also promotes healthy sleep: The mineral helps regulate your circadian rhythm2 and plays a role in producing gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that modulates the sympathetic nervous system and promotes relaxation.* "As an agonist of GABA pathways, magnesium is thought to directly and positively impact relaxation and sleep architecture,"* explains Ferira.
While 15% of Americans are falling short of their zinc needs, even more than that are missing the mark on their magnesium intake. It's estimated that a shocking 43% of U.S. adults3 are failing to meet their daily magnesium needs through diet alone.
This is due to a variety of factors, like fewer nutrients in our crops4, a higher intake of processed foods that are stripped of nutrients, and other health factors that interfere with magnesium absorption. A deficit in magnesium intake becomes even more common5 as you get older. This is where a magnesium supplement can come in handy.
The power of the zinc-magnesium pair.
All nutrients interact with each other in some way. They can work together, boosting and enhancing absorption, or sometimes work against each other, competing for absorption.
Zinc and magnesium are synergistic minerals that work together when taken at the right dosages. "These minerals are often combined because of their overlapping benefits," says board-certified cardiologist Vimal Ramjee, M.D. "You may see them frequently combined in a 'ZMA' supplement—zinc, magnesium, B6 for this reason."
If you suspect that you're not meeting your needs for zinc or magnesium, a supplement that combines the two—or simply taking the supplements on the same day—can help you normalize your levels.*
What to look for.
When you're taking zinc and magnesium together, it's all about the dosages. The best supplement dosage for you depends on your individual needs—so make sure you're discussing any new supplements with your own health care provider first—but there are some general guidelines.
While the two minerals work synergistically, research shows that taking too much zinc, or about 50 milligrams per day6, can decrease the amount of magnesium you absorb and negatively affect magnesium balance. But that's a hefty amount of zinc, exceeding the recommended upper limit of 40 milligrams per day.
For daily magnesium needs7, the National Academies recommends that women consume 310 to 320 milligrams of magnesium each day, while men need 400 to 420 milligrams. Daily zinc needs8 are 8 milligrams for women and 11 milligrams for men, respectively. The forms matter, too.
According to integrative physician Robert Rountree, M.D., magnesium becomes more bioavailable when it's bound to certain organic compounds: "Magnesium absorbs water. So when you take straight-up magnesium, like magnesium oxide, it forms these clusters of water, and that basically hurries things along in the gut." While this form may help digestion and regularity, it doesn't do as much to increase serum levels of magnesium.
To boost absorption and really get the most out of your supplement, you'll want to opt for a chelated form. "[Chelated] simply means the magnesium is bound to an organic compound that basically helps ferry it across the lining of the gut," Rountree says. He recommends the gentle magnesium glycinate, and research agrees. A study that compared the different forms of magnesium found that magnesium glycinate has superior absorption 9versus inorganic magnesium oxide. Other forms like magnesium citrate, chloride, lactate, and aspartate are good and bioavailable options10, too.
As for zinc? Ferira recommends (and takes) it in the chelated form of zinc bisglycinate, which she gets from mbg's immune support+ supplement. Research shows that this specific form of zinc is about 43% more bioavailable11 than another common form, zinc gluconate.* Zinc bisglycinate has also been shown to beat out other forms (e.g., zinc picolinate and oxide) when it comes to absorption and improving your zinc status in the body.*
The bottom line.
Zinc and magnesium are two essential minerals that 15% to 43% of American adults don't get enough of through diet alone (that's over 100 million folks, mind you). Taking this macromineral (magnesium) and trace mineral (zinc) separately or together in supplemental form in their optimal forms can enhance absorption, keep your levels balanced, and support many areas of health, from immunity to sleep.*
Lindsay Boyers is a holistic nutritionist specializing in gut health, mood disorders, and functional nutrition. Lindsay earned a degree in food & nutrition from Framingham State University, and she holds a Certificate in Holistic Nutrition Consulting from the American College of Healthcare Sciences.
She has written twelve books and has had more than 2,000 articles published across various websites. Lindsay currently works full time as a freelance health writer. She truly believes that you can transform your life through food, proper mindset and shared experiences. That's why it's her goal to educate others, while also being open and vulnerable to create real connections with her clients and readers.