Magnesium is involved in a wide range of biological activities, including some that may protect against the development of asthma and chronic airflow obstruction. We tested the hypothesis that high dietary magnesium intake is associated with better lung function, and a reduced risk of airway hyper-reactivity and wheezing in a random sample of adults. In 2633 adults aged 18-70 sampled from the electoral register of an administrative area of Nottingham, UK, we measured dietary magnesium intake by semiquantitative food-frequency questionnaire, lung function as the 1-sec forced expiratory volume (FEV1), and atopy as the mean skin-prick test response to three common environmental allergens. We measured airway reactivity to methacholine in 2415 individuals, defining hyper-reactivity as a 20% fall in FEV1 after a cumulative dose of 12.25 mumol or less. Mean (SD) daily intake of magnesium was 380 (114) mg/day. After adjusting for age, sex, and height, and for the effects of atopy and smoking, a 100 mg/day higher magnesium intake was associated with a 27.7 (95% CI, 11.9-43.5) mL higher FEV1, and a reduction in the relative odds of hyper-reactivity by a ratio of 0.82 (0.72-0.93). The same incremental difference in magnesium intake was also associated with a reduction in the odds of self-reported wheeze within the past 12 months, adjusted for age, sex, smoking, atopy, and kilojoule intake, by a ratio of 0.85 (0.76-0.95). Dietary magnesium intake is independently related to lung function and the occurrence of airway hyper-reactivity and self-reported wheezing in the general population. Low magnesium intake may therefore be involved in the aetiology of asthma and chronic obstructive airways disease.