Biological Trace Element Research

, Volume 177, Issue 1, pp 43–52 | Cite as

Data from Controlled Metabolic Ward Studies Provide Guidance for the Determination of Status Indicators and Dietary Requirements for Magnesium

  • Forrest H. NielsenEmail author
  • Lu Ann K. Johnson


Determination of whether magnesium (Mg) is a nutrient of public health concern has been hindered by questionable Dietary Recommended Intakes (DRIs) and problematic status indicators that make Mg deficiency assessment formidable. Balance data obtained since 1997 indicate that the EAR and RDA for 70-kg healthy individuals are about 175 and 250 mg/day, respectively, and these DRIs decrease or increase based on body weight. These DRIs are less than those established for the USA and Canada. Urinary excretion data from tightly controlled metabolic unit balance studies indicate that urinary Mg excretion is 40 to 80 mg (1.65 to 3.29 mmol)/day when Mg intakes are <250 mg (10.28 mmol)/day, and 80 to 160 mg (3.29 to 6.58 mmol)/day when intakes are >250 mg (10.28 mmol)/day. However, changing from low to high urinary excretion with an increase in dietary intake occurs within a few days and vice versa. Thus, urinary Mg as a stand-alone status indicator would be most useful for population studies and not useful for individual status assessment. Tightly controlled metabolic unit depletion/repletion experiments indicate that serum Mg concentrations decrease only after a prolonged depletion if an individual has good Mg reserves. These experiments also found that, although individuals had serum Mg concentrations approaching 0.85 mmol/L (2.06 mg/dL), they had physiological changes that respond to Mg supplementation. Thus, metabolic unit findings suggest that individuals with serum Mg concentrations >0.75 mmol/L (1.82 mg/L), or as high as 0.85 mmol/L (2.06 mg/dL), could have a deficit in Mg such that they respond to Mg supplementation, especially if they have a dietary intake history showing <250 mg (10.28 mmol)/day and a urinary excretion of <80 mg (3.29 mmol)/day.


Magnesium Magnesium requirement Magnesium status assessment Magnesium recommended dietary allowance Magnesium estimated average requirements Magnesium deficiency Serum magnesium reference range Magnesium balance 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

All experiments were approved by the Institutional Review Board of the University of North Dakota.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. 1.
    Volpe SL (2012) Magnesium. In: Erdman Jr JW, Macdonald IA, Zeisel SH (eds) Present knowledge in nutrition, 10th edn. Wiley, Ames, IA, pp. 459–474CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Vormann J (2013) Magnesium. In: Stipanuk MH, Caudill MA (eds) Biochemical, physiological, and molecular aspects of human nutrition, 3rd edn. Elsevier Saunders, St. Louis, MO, pp. 747–758Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Nielsen FH, Milne DB, Klevay LM, Gallagher S, Johnson L (2007) Dietary magnesium deficiency induces heart rhythm changes, impairs glucose tolerance, and decreases serum cholesterol in post menopausal women. J Amer Coll Nutr 26:121–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Lukaski HC, Nielsen FH (2002) Dietary magnesium depletion affects metabolic responses during submaximal exercise in postmenopausal women. J Nutr 132:930–935PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Nielsen FH, Milne DB, Gallagher S, Johnson L, Hoverson B (2007) Moderate magnesium deprivation results in calcium retention and altered potassium and phosphorus excretion by postmenopausal women. Magnes Res 20:19–31PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Nielsen FH (2003) Milne DB (2003) Some magnesium status indicators and oxidative metabolism responses to low-dietary magnesium are affected by dietary copper in postmenopausal women. Nutr 19:617–626CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Hunt CD, Johnson LK (2006) Magnesium requirements: new estimations for men and women by cross-sectional statistical analyses of metabolic magnesium balance data. Am J Clin Nutr 84:843–852PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Food and Nutrition Board, National Research Council (1989) Recommended dietary allowances, 10th edn. National Academy Sciences Press, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Nielsen FH, Lukaski HC (2006) Update on the relationship between magnesium and exercise. Magnes Res 19:180–189PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    European Food Safety Authority, EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition, and Allergies (NDA) (2015) Scientific opinion on dietary reference values for magnesium. EFSA J 13:4186 (63 pp)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine (1997) Dietary reference intakes for calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin D, and fluoride. National Academies Press, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Moshfegh A, Goldman J, Ahuja J, Rhodes D, LaComb R (2009) What we eat in America. NHANES 2005–2006: usual nutrient intakes from food and water compared to 1997 dietary reference intakes for vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. Available at: Accessed November 2009.
  13. 13.
    Committee DGA (2016) Scientific report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Accessed February 2016Available at:
  14. 14.
    Elin RJ (2010) Assessment of magnesium status for diagnosis and therapy. Magnes Res 23:1–5Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Nielsen FH (2010) Magnesium, inflammation, and obesity in chronic disease. Nutr Rev 68:333–340CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Nielsen FH (2014) Effects of magnesium depletion on inflammation in chronic disease. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 17:525–530CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Volpe SL (2013) Magnesium in disease prevention and overall health. Adv Nutr 4:378S–383SCrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    USDA and HHS (2010) Dietary guidelines for Americans, 7th edn. United States Department of Agriculture/Department of Health & Human Services, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Lakshmanan FL, Rao RB, Kim WW, Kelsay JL (1984) Magnesium intakes, balances, and blood levels of adults consuming self-selected diets. Am J Clin Nutr 40:1380–1389PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Nielsen FH (2015) Importance of plant sources of magnesium for human health. Crop Pasture Sci 66:1259–1264CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Anke M, Glei M, Vormann J, Müller R, Hoppe C, Schäfer U (2006) Magnesium in the nutrition of man. In: Porr PJ, Nechifor M, Durlach J (eds) Advances in magnesium research: new data. John Libbey Eurotext, Montrouge, France, pp. 175–186Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Palacios C, Wigertz K, Braun M, Martin BR, McCabe GP, McCabe L, Pratt JJ, Peacock M, Weaver CM (2013) Magnesium retention from metabolic-balance studies in female adolescents: impact of race, dietary salt, and calcium. Am J Clin Nutr 97:1014–1019CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Witkowski M, Hubert J, Mazur A (2011) Methods of assessment of magnesium status in humans: a systematic review. Magne Res 24:163–180Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Joosten MM, Gansevoort RT, Mukamal KJ, van der Hurst P, Geleijnse JM, Feskens EJM, Navis G, Bakker SJL, for The PREVEND Study Group (2013) Urinary and plasma magnesium and risk of ischemic heart disease. Am J Clin Nutr 97:1299–1306CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Yamori Y, Sagara M, Mizushima S, Liu L, Ikeda K, Nara Y (2015) An inverse association between magnesium in 24-hr urine and cardiovascular risk factors in middle-aged subjects in 50 CARDIAC Study populations. Hypertens Res 38:219–225CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Lowenstein FW, Stanton MF (1986) Serum magnesium levels in the United States, 1971-1974. J Am Coll Nutr 5:399–414CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Guerrero-Romero F, Rodriguez-Morán M (2002) Low serum magnesium levels and metabolic syndrome. Acta Diabetol 39:209–213CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Almoznini-Sarafian D, Berman S, Mor A, Shteinshnaider M, Gorelik O, Tzur I, Alon I, Modai D, Cohen N (2007) Magnesium and C-reactive protein in heart failure: an anti-inflammatory effect of magnesium administration? Eur J Nutr 46:230–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Khan AM, Lubitz SA, Sullivan LM, Sun JX, Levy D, Vasan RS, Magnani JW, Ellinor PT, Benjamin EJ, Wang TJ (2013) Low serum magnesium and the development of atrial fibrilliation in the community: the Framingham Heart Study. Circ 127:33–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Misialek JR, Lopez FL, Lutsey PL, Huxley RR, Peacock JM, Chen LY, Soliman EZ, Agarwal SK, Alonzo A (2013) Serum and dietary magnesium and incidence of atrial fibrillation in Whites and African-Americans—Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study. Circ J 77:323–329CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Qu X, Jin F, Hao Y, Li H, Tang T, Wang H, Yan W, Dai K (2013) Magnesium and the risk of cardiovascular events: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. PLoS One 8:e57720CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Del Gobbo LC, Imamura F, Wu JHY, de Oliveira Otto MC, Chiuve SE, Mozaffarian D (2013) Circulating and dietary magnesium and risk of cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Am J Clin Nutr 98:160–173CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Lutsey PL, Alonso A, Michos ED, Loehr LR, Astor BC, Coresh J, Folsom AR (2014) Serum magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium are associated with risk of incident heart failure: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study. Am J Clin Nutr 100:756–764CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York (outside the USA) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.USDA, ARS, Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research CenterGrand ForksUSA

Personalised recommendations