Role of Cellular Magnesium in Human Diseases

Austin J Nutr Food Sci. 2014 Nov 18;2(10):1051.


Magnesium is required for many of the major organs to function and plays a crucial role in human and mammalian physiology. Magnesium is essential for the structure of bones and teeth, acts as a cofactor for more than 300 enzymes in the body, including binding to ATP for kinase reactions, and affects permeability of excitable membranes and neuromuscular transmission. Despite these essential roles, much is still unknown about magnesium physiology and homeostasis. Currently, nutritionists believe that the general population intakes insufficient magnesium daily through the diet. The effects of magnesium deficiency are, for the most part undetected, and simple, widespread assessments of magnesium intake remain unavailable for humans. Many of the patients admitted to hospitals or medical care facilities are unaware of their low magnesium levels. Moreover, because magnesium is predominantly an intracellular cation (>99%), serum magnesium levels remain a poor predictor of tissue magnesium content and availability. This review will discuss the effects of magnesium deficiency in various pathologies affecting the human population. The underlying causes for magnesium depletion in major physiological systems will be examined along with the involved signaling pathways and the main roles of magnesium homeostasis. Where possible (e.g. alcoholism), the implications of administering supplemental magnesium will be discussed. Ultimately, this review will advocate for the necessity of identifying easy and reproducible methods to assess serum and cellular magnesium levels and to identify magnesium deficiency in order to alleviate related pathological conditions.

Keywords: Alcoholism; Bones; Cardiovascular system; Diabetes; Endocrine system; Magnesium homeostasis; Renal system; Reproductive biology.