Pathogenetic mechanisms of hypomagnesemia in alcoholic patients

J Trace Elem Med Biol. 1995 Dec;9(4):210-4. doi: 10.1016/S0946-672X(11)80026-X.


The aim of our study was to describe the possible pathophysiologic mechanisms of hypomagnesemia in alcoholic patients. A total of 127 chronic alcoholic patients admitted to our university hospital for causes related to alcohol abuse were studied. Hypomagnesemia was the most common electrolyte disturbance observed in 38 patients (29.9%). In 18 of them inappropriate magnesiuria was evident, possibly due to hypophosphatemia, to metabolic acidosis or to a direct magnesiuric effect of acute alcohol consumption. The causes of hypomagnesemia in the remaining 20 patients were alcohol withdrawal syndrome and diarrhea. Respiratory alkalosis was evident in 10 hypomagnesemic patients and could have played a role in the development of hypomagnesemia. A decreased magnesium intake could also have contributed to the hypomagnesemia, especially in malnourished alcoholic patients. Hypomagnesemic patients more frequently had other acid-base and electrolyte abnormalities, such as hypophosphatemia, hypokalemia, hypocalcemia, and respiratory alkalosis, as compared with the normomagnesemic patients. Moreover, in hypomagnesemic patients serum magnesium levels were correlated with the indices of potassium and phosphorus excretion, suggesting that serum magnesium levels play a central role in the homeostasis of the other electrolytes. In conclusion, hypomagnesemia is the most common electrolyte abnormality observed in alcoholic patients, as a result of various pathophysiologic mechanisms.

MeSH terms

  • Acid-Base Imbalance / physiopathology
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcoholism / blood
  • Alcoholism / physiopathology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Electrolytes / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnesium / blood*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Electrolytes
  • Magnesium