Health Functions

The metabolism of carbohydrates and fats to produce energy requires numerous magnesium-dependent chemical reactions. Magnesium is required by the protein that produces molecules (‘adenosine triphosphate’, ATP) in mitochondria, which provide energy for almost all metabolic processes (3).

Magnesium is required for a number of steps during nucleic acid (DNA and RNA) and protein production.

Several enzymes participating in the synthesis of carbohydrates and lipids require magnesium for their activity. Glutathione, an important antioxidant, requires magnesium for its synthesis (3).

Magnesium plays a structural role in bone, cell membranes, and chromosomes (3).

Magnesium is required for the active transport of ions like potassium and calcium across cell membranes, affecting the conduction of nerve impulses, muscle contraction, and normal heart rhythm (3).

Cell signaling requires the magnesium-ATP complex for activation of proteins and formation of the cell-signaling molecule (‘cyclic adenosine monophosphate’, cAMP), which is involved in many processes (3).

Calcium and magnesium levels in the fluid surrounding cells affect the movement (‘migration’) of a number of different cell types. Such effects on cell migration may be important in wound healing (3).

Nutrient interactions

High doses of zinc in supplemental form apparently decrease magnesium uptake in the body (‘absorption’) (2).

Large increases in the intake of dietary fiber have been found to decrease magnesium utilization (3, 4).

Dietary protein may affect magnesium absorption (5).

The active form of vitamin D (calcitriol) may slightly increase absorption of magnesium in the digestive tract (3,4). However, magnesium absorption does not seem to be calcitriol-dependent as is the absorption of calcium and phosphate.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which provides scientific advice to assist policy makers, has confirmed that clear health benefits have been established for the dietary intake of magnesium in contributing to:

  • electrolyte balance;
  • normal energy-yielding metabolism;
  • normal muscle function including the heart muscle;
  • normal nerve function;
  • normal cell division;
  • normal development of bone;
  • the maintenance of normal bone;
  • the maintenance of normal teeth;
  • normal protein synthesis;
  • normal psychological functions;
  • a reduction of tiredness and fatigue.


Authored by Dr Peter Engel in 2010 and reviewed and revised by Angelika Friedel on 22.05.2017.