Effects of magnesium on skeletal metabolism

Magnes Trace Elem. 1990;9(1):1-14.


Magnesium (Mg) makes up 0.5-1% of bone ash and is therefore not a trace element in the skeleton. Mg influences both mineral and matrix metabolism in bone by a combination of effects on hormones and other factors that regulate skeletal and mineral metabolism, and by direct effects on bone itself. The skeletal content of Mg is very variable both between and within species, and reported values range between 150 and 440 mmol/kg ash weight (AW). Dietary Mg has a direct influence and age an inverse influence on skeletal Mg content. It is unclear whether skeletal Mg content varies from region to region. In humans, reported values cluster around the 200 mmol/kg AW level, 30-40% lower than most rat data. Human iliac crest cortical bone has 10-20% less Mg per unit weight than iliac crest trabecular bone. Mg depletion adversely affects all phases of skeletal metabolism. In the rat, cessation of bone growth is noted with a decrease in both osteoblast and osteoblast activity, decreased bone formation, osteopenia, increased fragility and development of a form of 'aplastic bone disease'. The epiphyseal growth plate is thinned and the percent ash weight of the growth plate is increased, possibly due to enhanced crystallization of bone salt under conditions of Mg depletion. In contrast, in chicks and in rats with severe Mg deficiency, these 'antianabolic' effects are not observed but instead, predominant inhibition of bone resorption occurs with increased cortical thickness rather than osteopenia, and the occasional development of subperiosteal hyperplasia or of fibrous tumors of the periosteum. It is probable that this unusual response under conditions of severe Mg deficiency is in part an indirect effect secondary to a defect in secretion and/or skeletal responsiveness to parathyroid hormone (PTH) and vitamin D metabolites. Mg excess also has adverse biologic effects on bone. Crystallization of bone salt is severely impaired and an osteomalacia-like picture may be produced with decreased osteoblastic activity, widened growth plates, excessive osteoid seams and short, thickened bones. In some studies, especially in mice, Mg excess stimulates bone resorption, independently of PTH. The role of Mg deficiency and excess in human skeletal conditions requires more extensive investigation. Bone Mg is uniformly increased in renal insufficiency and may play a role in renal osteodystrophy since improvement has been noted in the osteomalacic component by normalizing the serum Mg. Decreased bone Mg has been reported in alcoholic patients, diabetes and in osteoporosis.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Density
  • Bone and Bones / drug effects
  • Bone and Bones / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Magnesium / pharmacology*
  • Magnesium / therapeutic use
  • Magnesium Deficiency / complications
  • Magnesium Deficiency / metabolism


  • Magnesium