Magnesium and trace elements in the elderly: intake, status and recommendations

J Nutr Health Aging. 2002;6(2):147-53.


Imbalances between mineral intakes and recommended amounts have been observed in different groups of elderly subjects. Nevertheless, assessment of the status of magnesium and trace elements in the elderly is difficult, even for iron because infection and inflammation increases ferritin. Mineral bioavailability may change due to ageing. Therefore, formulation of mineral recommendations is complex and individual recommendations are sometimes necessary. A number of surveys show magnesium, zinc, selenium and chromium intakes by old persons to be lower than the corresponding reference nutrient intakes. Contrarily, intakes of iron are generally adequate or higher than recommended, and it has been suggested that increased storage of iron in the elderly may be related with the development of age-related diseases through the increase in oxidative stress. Low iron status together with iron excess may be common in an elderly population. The same applies for zinc. Magnesium and selenium deficiencies among the elderly are also well documented, especially among the institutionalised and people with pathologies. Chromium deficiency is associated with type II diabetes mellitus. Recommended iron intake is lower for elderly women compared to young, because menstruation ceases after menopause, but in old men, it is similar to that of young men. Dietary Reference Values for the rest of the elements are similar to those of adults, although several suggestions have been made about the quantities. This review examines various aspects of the changes in mineral bioavailability due to ageing, of data published on mineral intakes and status, and finally the dietary recommendations for this vulnerable population group.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aging / metabolism
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Biological Availability
  • Chromium / administration & dosage
  • Chromium / pharmacokinetics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Iron / deficiency
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Iron, Dietary / administration & dosage
  • Iron, Dietary / pharmacokinetics
  • Magnesium / administration & dosage*
  • Magnesium / metabolism
  • Magnesium / pharmacokinetics
  • Magnesium Deficiency / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Nutritional Status
  • Selenium / administration & dosage
  • Selenium / blood
  • Sex Factors
  • Trace Elements / administration & dosage*
  • Trace Elements / metabolism
  • Trace Elements / pharmacokinetics
  • Zinc / administration & dosage
  • Zinc / blood
  • Zinc / pharmacokinetics


  • Iron, Dietary
  • Trace Elements
  • Chromium
  • Iron
  • Selenium
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc