Biological Trace Element Research

, Volume 188, Issue 1, pp 52–59 | Cite as

The Problematic Use of Dietary Reference Intakes to Assess Magnesium Status and Clinical Importance

  • Forrest H. Nielsen


Determination of the public health concern about magnesium (Mg) in health and disease has been confounded by the lack of a practical measure of status. This has resulted in a lack of consistency in associating Mg deficiency with specific pathological conditions. Some attempts at associating Mg with a chronic disease have used the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) as a status assessment measure. Use of current DRIs for Mg is problematic because recent evidence suggests that they should be updated and based on body weight. An evidence-based suggested Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) and Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for a 70-kg individual is 175 and 250 mg/day, respectively. However, numerous dietary and physiological factors can affect the need for Mg and thus affect the use of the current or suggested new DRIs to assess Mg status. Calcium intakes above normal requirements can decrease Mg balance and exacerbate signs of Mg deficiency. Mg deficiency apparently occurs often in obesity because of increased need to counteract the inflammatory stress induced by adipose tissue dysfunction. Deficiency in anti-oxidant nutrients such as vitamin E and selenium can exacerbate a response to low dietary Mg indicated by increased oxidative stress which can lead to chronic disease. Dietary modifiers of Mg absorption and excretion affect balance and thus the need for Mg. Factors decreasing Mg balance include low dietary protein and non-fermentable fiber, while factors that can increase balance include fructose and fermentable fiber and fructose-containing oligosaccharides. Use of the DRIs to assess the Mg status of a population or group needs to consider their physiological characteristics and dietary habits and be aware that the DRIs may need updating. The DRIs only can be considered a component of a toolbox that presently includes serum Mg concentration and the daily urinary Mg excretion to assess the Mg status of an individual.


Magnesium Dietary Reference Intakes Status assessment Requirement modifiers 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The author declares no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Grand ForksUSA

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