The purpose of this review is to summarize experimental findings showing that magnesium modulates cellular events involved in inflammation. Experimental magnesium deficiency in the rat induces after a few days a clinical inflammatory syndrome characterized by leukocyte and macrophage activation, release of inflammatory cytokines and acute phase proteins, excessive production of free radicals. Increase in extracellular magnesium concentration, decreases inflammatory response while reduction in the extracellular magnesium results in cell activation. Because magnesium acts as a natural calcium antagonist, the molecular basis for inflammatory response is probably the result of modulation of intracellular calcium concentration. The priming of phagocytic cells, the opening calcium channel and activation of N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors, the activation of nuclear factor-kappa B (NFkappaB) have been considered as potential mechanisms. Moreover, magnesium deficiency induces a systemic stress response by activation of neuro endocrinological pathways. As nervous and immune systems interact bidirectionally, the roles of neuromediators have also been considered. Magnesium deficiency contributes to an exaggerated response to immune stress and oxidative stress is the consequence of the inflammatory response. Inflammation contributes to the pro-atherogenic changes in lipoprotein metabolism, endothelial dysfunction, thrombosis, hypertension and explains the aggravating effect of magnesium deficiency on the development of metabolic syndrome. Further studies are still needed to assess more accurately the role of magnesium in immune response in humans, but these experimental findings in animal models suggest that inflammation is the missing link to explain the role of magnesium in many pathological conditions.