Intestinal absorption of magnesium from food and supplements

J Clin Invest. 1991 Aug;88(2):396-402. doi: 10.1172/JCI115317.


The purpose of this study was to measure magnesium absorption over the wide range of intakes to which the intestine may be exposed from food and/or magnesium-containing medications. Net magnesium absorption was measured in normal subjects after they ingested a standard meal supplemented with 0, 10, 20, 40, and 80 mEq of magnesium acetate. Although absorption increased with each increment in intake, fractional magnesium absorption fell progressively (from 65% at the lowest to 11% at the highest intake) so that absorption as a function of intake was curvilinear. This absorption-intake relationship was almost perfectly represented by an equation containing a hyperbolic function plus a linear function. Our results are statistically compatible with a magnesium absorption process that simultaneously uses a mechanism that reaches an absorptive maximum, plus a mechanism that endlessly absorbs a defined fraction (7%) of ingested magnesium. Compared to previous studies of calcium absorption, much less magnesium that calcium was absorbed at intakes above 8 mEq/meal, apparently due to greater restriction of intestinal permeability to magnesium. We also found that magnesium from a high magnesium-containing food source, almonds, was just as bioavailable as from soluble magnesium acetate. In contrast, magnesium absorption from commercially available enteric-coated magnesium chloride was much less than from magnesium acetate, suggesting that enteric coating can impair magnesium bioavailability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption*
  • Magnesium / administration & dosage
  • Magnesium / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Nuts
  • Phosphates / metabolism
  • Regression Analysis


  • Phosphates
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium