After the discovery of magnesium as an essential nutrient in 1926, research focused upon the identification of effects of an acute deficiency state and determination of the requirement for the mineral for normal growth and reproduction. In this early work, marginal intakes of magnesium were reported to result in alterations of tissue composition. Since the 1970s, research has shown that the ability to adapt to a marginal intake of magnesium, which is commonplace in developed countries, is limited. In fact, a low intake of the mineral for an extended period of time may be associated with abnormalities in reproduction, growth, and development and may be a factor in the pathogenesis of disorders of neuromuscular, cardiovascular, renal, and immune function. Problems related to the use of pharmacological agents or to trace metals, such as aluminium, may be worsened in the presence of a low intake of magnesium. Evidence presented illustrates that, although physical signs of magnesium deficiency may be absent, that is to say in cases of latent clinical forms, a marginal dietary inadequacy of the mineral over a long period of time could result in significant problems.