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Last updated: 21 Jun 2018

References for Biological Effects of Magnesium

In my discussions about the wide-ranging effects of Magnesium, I have found experienced clinicians and others who don't believe some of my claims. This page is an attempt to provide supporting literature references.

The presence of calcium ions is necessary to cause muscles to contract; magnesium ions are essential to induce muscles to relax:

Altura BM, Altura BT, New perspectives on the role of magnesium in the pathophysiology of the cardiovascular system, II. Experimental aspects, Magnesium, 4:245-271, 1985.

A lower than normal dietary intake of Mg can be a strong risk factor for hypertension, cardiac arrhythmias, ischemic heart disease, atherogenesis and sudden cardiac death. Deficits in serum Mg appear often to be associated with arrhythmias, coronary vasospasm and high blood pressure (from the paper's abstract):

Altura BM, Altura BT, Cardiovascular risk factors and magnesium: relationships to atherosclerosis, ischemic heart disease and hypertension, Magnes Trace Elem, 10:182-192, 1991-92.

Hypertension can result from an increase in sodium, or a decrease in potassium or magnesium, or either an increase or a decrease in calcium:

Shils ME, Experimental production of magnesium deficiency in man, Annals of the NY Academy of Sciences, 162:847-855, 1969.

When there is a deficiency of magnesium, the calcium must be blocked so that they still balance and you do not get the resultant muscle spasm. If the spasm is in the coronary arteries, it causes angina or arrythmia. If it's in other arteries, it causes hypertension:

Iseri LT, French JH, Magnesium: Nature's physiologic calcium blocker, Amer Heart Journal, 188-193, July 1984.

Magnesium plays a major role in regulating the vascular tone (hypertension), electrical conductivity (cardiac arrythmia), and calcium deposits in blood vessels (arteriosclerosis):

Rayssiguier Y, Role of magnesium and potassium in the pathogenesis of arteriosclerosis, Magnesium, 3:226-238, 1984.
Altura BN, et al, Magnesium deficiency and hypertension: Correlation between magnesium deficient diet and microcirculatory changes in situ, Science, 223:1315-1317, 1984.
Turlapaty PDMV, Altura BM, Magnesium deficiency produces spasms of coronary arteries: relationship to etiology of sudden death ischemic heart disease, Science, 208:198-200, 1980

Dietary magnesium (Mg) deficiency is more prevalent than generally suspected, and can cause cardiovascular lesions leading to disease at all stages of life (from the paper's abstract).

Seelig M, Cardiovascular consequences of magnesium deficiency and loss: Pathogenesis, prevelence, and manifestations - magnesium chloride loss in refractory potassium repletion, Am J Cardiol, 53:4g-21g, 1989.

In a clinical study, magnesium was administered to 8000 surgical patients over 15 years. The results showed little or no effect on patients with low or normal blood pressure, but patients with high blood pressure usually had normal blood pressures by the time surgery was performed:

Horn B, Magnesium and the cardiovascular system, Magnesium, 6:109-111, 1987.

Insufficient magnesium can cause arterial calcification, which makes blood vessels hard and brittle, resulting in hypertension:

Boskey AC, Pasner AS, Effect of magnesium on lipid-induced calcification, Calcif. Tissue Int., 32:139-143, 1980.

Magnesium sparing of calcium deposits has been known a long time:

Leonard F, Initiation and inhibition of subcutaneous calcification, Calc. Tiss. Res., 10:269-279, 1972.

Magnesium is present in many foods. Even so, only 40% of people in the U.S. consume enough to meet the RDA:

Science News, vol 133, June 1988.

Just because you consume magnesium doesn't mean that you absorb it; low stomach acid is very common:

Nicar MJ, Pak CYC, Oral magnesium deficiency, causes and effects, Hospital Practice, 116A-116P, 1987.

About 50% of body magnesium is in your bones, 49% is inside cells, and 1% is extracellular (in serum). Because of homeostasis, if your serum magnesium level gets too low, magnesium can be pumped from inside your cells into the serum. Bones are only used as a magnesium source when intracellular levels drop too low. And intracellular levels do not have to be dramatically low to induce muscular spasm.

Your kidneys can also leak magnesium. This can happen by a number of different types of chemical exposures, or perhaps more commonly, by high blood sugar levels or prescription diuretics. Diuretics also deplete potassium, which can be fatal:

Mountokalakis TD, Diuretic-induced magnesium deficiency, Magnesium, 2:57, 1983.

The total body store of magnesium in a 70kg man is about 26000mg. About 1% of total body stores (appx 260 mg) are in extracellular fluid (serum); the rest is split between bone and intracellular stores. Assuming that you might give off a liter of sweat in a day when exercising, and that there is about 20 mg of magnesium per liter, that would be 20/260, or about 7.7% of serum magnesium can be lost in a day; a substantial loss - especially if you are already magnesium deficient:

Linder MC, Nutritional Biochemistry and Metabolism, p192, 1991.

The National Research Council has recommended minimum daily consumption of 150-250mg of magnesium for children under ten, 300mg for adult females, 400mg for adult males, and 450mg for pregnant or lactating women. If you assume a woman weighs 60kg and a man 70kg, this corresponds to 5mg/kg/day.

Ryan MF, Ann Clin Biochem 28:19-26, 1991).

However, after an extensive review of the literature, one researcher concluded that an intake of 6-10mg/kg/day is optimal (that would be 360mg to 700mg/day), and also that it is a misconception that the daily requirement of magnesium is the amount that prevents signs and symptoms of deficiency or hypomagnesemia.

Seelig MS, Magnesium Bull 3 suppl 1A, 26-47, 1981.

Regardless of the adequecy of the RDA for magnesium, the majority of people in the US have an intake of magnesium below the RDA. In 1977-78 the USDA conducted a nationwide food survey that showed a lower than recommended consumption of magnesium in the U.S. Only 25% of the surveyed population had a magnesium intake at or greater than the RDA. Almost 40% were consuming less than 70% of the RDA. Most people would agree that food quality nationwide has decreased since that time:

Pao EM, Mickle SJ, Food Technol 35:58-69, 1981.

One of the reasons for the low magnesium intake is that when whole foods are processed, they lose about 80% of their trace minerals, including magnesium. Undiagnosed problems with magnesium absorbtion or undiagnosed renal magnesium leaks can further contribute to hypomagnesemia, even when recommended intake requirements are adequate:

Schroeder JA, Nason AP, Tipton IH, Essential Minerals in Man - Magnesium, J Chron Dis 21:815-841, 1969.

Discussion of essential hypertension, with normal serum and intracellular magnesium levels:

Ozono R, et al, Systemic magnesium deficiency disclosed by magnesium loading test in patients with essential hypertension, Hypertension Research 18:39-42, 1995.

Vasospastic angina, ischemic heart disease

Tanabe K , Magnesium content of erythrocytes in patients with vasospastic angina, Cardiovasc Drugs Ther, 5/4:677-680, 1991.

Coronary heart disease, diminished left ventricular stroke volume (lower than 55%). Serum magnesium normal, intracellular magnesium significantly lower (1.59mg/dl) than healthy subject (2.11 mg/dl):

Manthey J, Magnesium in serum of patients with coronary artery disease.

Other miscellaneous literature references:

Abraham GE, The importance of magnesium in the management of primary postmenopausal osteoporosis, Journal of Nutritional Medicine, 2, 165-178, 1991.
Cannon LA, Heiselman DE, Dougherty JM, Jones, J, Magnesium levels in cardiac arrest victims: Relationship between magnesium levels and successful resuscitation, Ann Emerg Med, 16:1195-1198, 1987.
Rhinehart RA, Magnesium metabolism: A review with special reference to the relationship between intracellular content and serum levels, Arch Int Med, 148:2415-2420, 1988.
Leary WP, Reyes AJ, Magnesium and sudden death, SA Med J, 64:697-698, 1983
Roubenoff R, et al, Malnutrition among hospitalized patients: Problem of physician awareness, Arch Intern Med, 147:1462-1465, 1987.
Oral magnesium successfully relieves premenstrual mood changes, Obstet Gynecol, 78/2:177-181, 1991
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