Magnesium metabolism. A review with special reference to the relationship between intracellular content and serum levels

Arch Intern Med. 1988 Nov;148(11):2415-20. doi: 10.1001/archinte.148.11.2415.


Magnesium (Mg++) is a ubiquitous element in nature, playing a role in photosynthesis and many metabolic functions in humans. All enzymatic reactions that involve adenosine triphosphate have an absolute requirement for Mg++. Levels of Mg++ are controlled by the kidneys and gastrointestinal tract and appear closely linked to calcium, potassium, and sodium metabolism. The clinical manifestations and causes of abnormal Mg++ status are protean. Testing for altered Mg++ homeostasis is problematic. Serum levels, which are those generally measured, reflect only a small part of the total body content of Mg++. The intracellular content can be low, despite normal serum levels in a person with clinical Mg++ deficiency. Future directions in research related to intracellular content of Mg++ are discussed. Treatment of altered Mg++ status depends on the clinical setting and may include the addition of a potassium/Mg++-sparing drug to an existing diuretic regimen. Guidelines for therapy are given.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Absorption
  • Animals
  • Blood Cells / metabolism*
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Magnesium / blood
  • Magnesium / metabolism*
  • Muscles / cytology
  • Muscles / metabolism
  • Photosynthesis


  • Magnesium