Purpose: The physiological role and metabolism of magnesium, the causes of magnesium deficiency, clinical data on the benefits of magnesium supplementation, and the management of magnesium deficiency are discussed.
Summary: Magnesium is an often overlooked electrolyte that is essential to life. Magnesium plays a role in more than 300 enzymatic reactions and is critically involved in energy metabolism, glucose utilization, protein synthesis, fatty acid synthesis and breakdown, ATPase functions, and virtually all hormonal reactions. Magnesium is closely involved in maintaining cellular ionic balance through its association with sodium, potassium, and calcium. Deficiency of magnesium is becoming more common in the U.S. population and may be attributed to decreased dietary consumption and the use of diuretics; in the elderly, magnesium deficiency may be a consequence of reduced appetite, decreased mitochondrial respiratory activity, and increased myocardial collagen. Conditions that may be associated with magnesium deficiency include hypertension, congestive heart failure, arrhythmia, myocardial infarction, diabetes mellitus, and preeclampsia; in many of these, magnesium supplementation has been found beneficial in clinical studies. Supplementation should be considered for patients with risk factors for deficiency and should be instituted for patients showing symptoms of deficiency. In addition to instituting supplementation when appropriate, the clinician should identify and correct the underlying cause of the deficiency.
Conclusion: Magnesium deficiency may contribute to pathological processes. Clinicians should consider using magnesium supplementation to prevent deficiency in patients at risk and to treat deficiency when it occurs.