Magnesium Facts and Information
Magnesium is a common metal that, in the body, activates hundreds of cellular, biochemical reactions. In the nervous system, it functions as a dampener. Magnesium is the ninth most abundant element in the universe1 , and the eighth most abundant element in the Earth’s crust.2
Below you’ll find over two dozen interesting facts about magnesium — including the history of magnesium, chemical composition, and health info. on magnesium.
General Magnesium Information
Unstable in its pure state, magnesium typically forms a white coating of magnesium oxide. In nature, most of its compounds appear as white crystals. Approximately 320,000 tons of magnesium are extracted annually for commercial use.3 Magnesium is commonly extracted from seawater, where it is the third most common component.
Historic Facts About Magnesium
- Magnesium was first discovered outside of the Greek city of Magnesia.
- In 1808, Sire Humphrey Davy first isolated several of the alkaline earth metals, naming them after their oxides as barium, strontium, calcium, and magnium. Davy derived the term “magnium” from the common name for magnesium oxide: magnesia. Eventually the term magnesium replaced the term magnium in general usage.
- Magnesium was used as a curative as early as ancient times, in the form of laxatives and Epsom salts.
- In the 1600’s, water from the famous Epson spring discovered in England was a popular curative, used as an internal remedy and purifier of the blood. In 1695, magnesium sulfate as a salt was isolated from the Epsom spring water by Nehemia Grew.
- Marie de Medici, of the famous and powerful Italian family, described the healing properties of Epsom spring water as, used by “a great store of citizens” especially by “persons of quality”.4
- Richard Willstatter won the Nobel prize in 1915 for describing the nature of the structure of chlorophyll in plants, noting magnesium as the central element.
- Magnesium is regularly used in the acute treatment of eclampsia during pregnancy and acute myocardial infarction.
Magnesium’s Chemical Composition and Related Properties
- Magnesium has the atomic number 12 with 12 protons and approximately 12 neutrons inside its shell, surrounded by 12 electrons orbiting in three shells, with two valence electrons.
- The atomic weight of magnesium is 24.3050.
- Magnesium’s outer shell has only two electrons out of the ordinary eight, making it highly reactive. It cannot be found in nature as an independent compound. In seawater, for example, it is found as the salt Magnesium Chloride, comprised of one magnesium cation and two chloride anions.
- On the periodic table, magnesium is known as an alkaline earth metal. Other alkaline earth metals include calcium, beryllium, barium, strontium, and radium. Strontium and radium are radioactive metals, particularly dangerous to the body because their similarity to calcium and magnesium can lead to their uptake and absorption.
Magnesium in the Body
- There are about 4-6 teaspoons of magnesium in the human body.5
- Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body.6
- Magnesium is the second most abundant positively charged intracellular (inside the cells) ion in the body. Other positively charged cations found in the body include calcium, sodium, and potassium. Negatively charged anions include phosphate and chloride.
- Only 1% of totally body magnesium is found in the blood, the remainder is found in the bone and inside the cells of the muscles, heart and liver.
- The cells of a healthy heart contain ten times the amount of magnesium found in blood.7
- 50-60% of body magnesium is incorporated into the crystal mineral lattice of bones and teeth.8
- Magnesium absorption occurs in the small intestine and begins as early as 1 hour after ingestion in the jejunum, but primarily occurs in the ileum, or “distal” intestine.9
Interesting Health Facts About Magnesium
- Magnesium is one of six “macro-minerals”, major minerals needed by the body in larger amounts. The other five major minerals are calcium, sodium, potassium, phosphorous and chloride.
- The US RDA for magnesium in adults over age 31 is currently set at 420 mg per day for men, 320 mg per day for women, and 360 mg per day for pregnant women.10
- The average American diet contains barely over 50% of the US RDA of magnesium.10 11
- Roughly 75% of U.S. adults consume less than the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of magnesium.8 10 12 13
- 19% of U.S. adults—one in 5—consume less than half of the RDA of magnesium.13
- 50% of cases of magnesium deficiency may go unrecognized due to statistical errors in serum magnesium testing.14
- 7-11% of hospitalized patients and 65% of intensive care patients are deficient in magnesium.15 16 17
- Only about 20-50% of magnesium intake is actually absorbed by the body.9 15 18 19
- Over three dozen prescription medications interfere with magnesium absorption and retention in the body, including some antibiotics, diuretics, allergy and asthma medications, and chemotherapy treatments.8 20
- Absorption of magnesium supplements varies. Magnesium oxide, the most common form of magnesium supplement found in drug stores, has been found to have only a 4% absorption rate.21 Other forms of magnesium supplements, however, including magnesium chloride, have been found to have much higher rates of absorption due to their higher solubility in water.
Magnesium and Disease
- Low magnesium intake and low magnesium levels have been associated with osteoporosis8 22 23 diabetes24 25 , metabolic syndrome26 27 and heart disease8 28 29 30 .
Learn about magnesium’s health benefits.
Watch magnesium video interviews.
Read about types of magnesium supplements, and how to choose what’s best for you.
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- Railsback, LB. Some Fundamentals of Mineralogy and Geochemistry. Department of Geology, University of Georgia. Available at: http://www.gly.uga.edu/railsback/Fundamentals/ElementalAbundanceTableP.pdf. Accessed November 4, 2009. [↵]
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- Durlach J. Overview of Magnesium Research: History and Current Trends. In: International Magnesium Symposium. New Perspectives in Magnesium Research. London: Springer-Verlag; 2007:3-11. [↵]
- Dean C. The Magnesium Miracle. New York: Ballantine Books; 2007. [↵]
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- Bohn T. Dietary Factors Influencing Magnesium Absorption in Humans. Current Nutrition & Food Science. 2008;4:53-72. [↵] [↵]
- Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium, Phosphorous, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Fluoride. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 1997. [↵] [↵] [↵]
- Altura BM, Altura BT. Magnesium: Forgotten Mineral in Cardiovascular Biology and Therogenesis. In: International Magnesium Symposium. New Perspectives in Magnesium Research. London: Springer-Verlag; 2007:239-260. [↵]
- Pao EM, Mickle SJ. Problem nutrients in the United States. Food Technology. 1981:35:58-79. [↵]
- King DE, Mainous AG 3rd, Geesey ME, Woolson RF. Dietary magnesium and C-reactive protein levels. Journal Of The American College Of Nutrition. 2005 Jun;24(3):166-71. Available from: MEDLINE with Full Text, Ipswich, MA. Accessed November 6, 2009. [↵] [↵]
- Liebscher DH, Liebscher DE. About the Misdiagnosis of Magnesium Deficiency. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2004;23(6):730S-731S. [↵]
- Bernstein, L. Improving Magnesium Absorption and Bioavailability. Geriatric Times. 2002;3(1). Available at: http://www.cmellc.com/geriatrictimes/g020208.html. Accessed February 10, 2010. [↵] [↵]
- Gullestad L, Oystein Dolva L, Birkeland K. Oral versus intravenous magnesium supplementation in patients with magnesium deficiency. Magnesium and Trace Elements. 1991-1992; 10(1):11-16. [↵]
- Klein M. Magnesium therapy in cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular Reviews & Reports. 1994;15(10):9-56. [↵]
- McCarthy J, Kumar R. Divalent Cation Metabolism: Magnesium. In: Schrier R, series editor. Atlas of Diseases of the Kidney. Volume 1. Wiley-Blackwell; 1999: 4.1-4.12. [↵]
- Magnesium Mineral. The Nutrition Notebook. 2004. Available at: http://www.springboard4health.com/notebook/min_magnesium.html. Accessed January 21, 2010. [↵]
- Seelig M, Rosanoff A. The Magnesium Factor. New York: Avery; 2003. [↵]
- Firoz M, Graber M. Bioavailability of US commercial magnesium preparations. Magnesium Research. 2001; 14: 257-62. [↵]
- Rude RK, Gruber HE. Magnesium deficiency and osteoporosis: animal and human observations. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. 2004; 15: 710-6. [↵]
- Schaafsma A, de Vries PJ, Saris WH. Delay of natural bone loss by higher intakes of specific minerals and vitamins. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2001; 41: 225-49. [↵]
- Sales CH, Pedrosa Lde F. Magnesium and diabetes mellitus: their relation. Clinical Nutrition. 2006; 25: 554-62. [↵]
- Murakami K, Okubo H, Sasaki S. Effect of dietary factors on incidence of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review of cohort studies. Journal of nutritional science and vitaminology. (Tokyo) 2005; 51: 292-310. [↵]
- Guerrero-Romero F, Rodriguez-Moran M. Hypomagnesemia, oxidative stress, inflammation, and metabolic syndrome. Diabetes/metabolism research and reviews. 2006; 22: 471-6. [↵]
- He K, Liu K, Daviglus ML, et al. Magnesium intake and incidence of metabolic syndrome among young adults. Circulation. 2006; 113:1675-82. [↵]
- Al-Delaimy WK, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Stampfer MJ, Hu FB. Magnesium intake and risk of coronary heart disease among men. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2004; 23: 63-70. [↵]
- Ueshima K. Magnesium and ischemic heart disease: a review of epidemiological, experimental, and clinical evidences. Magnesium Research. 2005; 18: 275-84. [↵]
- Monarca S, Donato F, Zerbini I, Calderon RL, Craun GF. Review of epidemiological studies on drinking water hardness and cardiovascular diseases. European journal of cardiovascular prevention and rehabilitation. 2006; 13:495-506. [↵]