What is the role of magnesium in the body?

Updated: Oct 30, 2020
  • Author: Tibor Fulop, MD, PhD, FACP, FASN; Chief Editor: Vecihi Batuman, MD, FASN  more...
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Magnesium is the second-most abundant intracellular cation and, overall, the fourth-most abundant cation. [4]  It plays a fundamental role in many functions of the cell, including energy transfer, storage, and use; protein, carbohydrate, and fat metabolism; maintenance of normal cell membrane function; and the regulation of parathyroid hormone (PTH) secretion. Systemically, magnesium lowers blood pressure and alters peripheral vascular resistance.

Almost all enzymatic processes using phosphorus as an energy source require magnesium for activation. Magnesium is involved in nearly every aspect of biochemical metabolism (eg, DNA and protein synthesis, glycolysis, oxidative phosphorylation). Almost all enzymes involved in phosphorus reactions (eg, adenosine triphosphatase [ATPase]) require magnesium for activation. Magnesium serves as a molecular stabilizer of RNA, DNA, and ribosomes. Because magnesium is bound to adenosine triphosphate (ATP) inside the cell, shifts in intracellular magnesium concentration may help to regulate cellular bioenergetics, such as mitochondrial respiration.

Extracellularly, magnesium ions block neurosynaptic transmission by interfering with the release of acetylcholine. Magnesium ions also may interfere with the release of catecholamines from the adrenal medulla. Magnesium has been proposed as an endogenous endocrine modulator of the catecholamine component of the physiologic stress response.

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