Magnesium For Liver Health


Did you know that magnesium deficiency could lead to liver disease? 

Magnesium is an important micronutrient that regulates a ton of bodily functions. Many studies have even linked magnesium deficiency to diabetes, obesity, and heart diseases.2

However, its effects on the liver are less talked about. So, let’s explore the role magnesium plays in maintaining liver health and how it reduces your chances of getting liver diseases. 

Role of magnesium for liver health

Magnesium is an essential micronutrient for liver health. It plays a critical role in various liver functions like energy production, regulation of hepatic blood glucose, maintenance of genetic stability, and so much more.1,2,3, 9

Magnesium activates numerous enzymes, particularly ones involved in energy generation in the mitochondria of liver cells. It’s also vital for the enzymes involved in biological processes like protein synthesis, glucose uptake, nucleic acid synthesis, and lipid production.1,2

Magnesium is also involved in regulating calcium levels in the body. The uptake of both nutrients is interdependent. Since they keep each other in check, magnesium deficiency often results in increased levels of calcium that cause inflammation and exacerbate existing liver diseases.3

Vitamin D is another nutrient that is dependent on magnesium for its synthesis. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with bone-related diseases and even fatty liver disease.4,5 Magnesium deficiency is also linked to insulin resistance since it is an essential component in the cellular pathways that regulate glucose uptake in the liver.2

Overall, magnesium offers plenty of benefits for liver health that extend to the rest of the body.

Effects of magnesium deficiency in liver

Magnesium deficiency negatively affects the liver. It is strongly associated with liver disease since low levels hamper liver function.1, 2

Various studies have also shown that low magnesium intake increases the risk of liver diseases and that these diseases progress by lowering serum magnesium levels in the body.1,6

Magnesium deficiency has been implicated in the following diseases:

Liver cirrhosis

  • Liver cirrhosis marks the final stage of liver disease. Its hallmarks are liver dysfunction and fibrosis (deposition of collagen and other proteins) 
  • Magnesium deficiency is often seen in cirrhotic patients since altered liver function hinders the absorption of magnesium by either impaired inactivation of hormones that cause increased renal excretion of magnesium, or hindered production of albumin, a prominent magnesium transporter
  • Magnesium deficiency, in turn, causes fibrosis in the liver by hampering energy production in liver cells, restricting the activation of enzymes that regulate the deposition of collagen, and exacerbating inflammation by triggering the activation of inflammatory cells and their chemical mediators1

Alcoholic Liver Disease (ALD)

  • ALD is an umbrella term for a spectrum of liver diseases caused by excessive alcohol intake. It’s characterised by the accumulation of excess lipids in liver cells 
  • Alcohol consumption is the main culprit of magnesium deficiency here as several studies have proven that high alcohol intakes result in low serum and cellular magnesium levels. Alcohol interferes with magnesium transporters, blocking the micronutrient’s entry into liver cells
  • Magnesium deficiency, in turn, worsens ALD by impairing fatty acid oxidation and altering lipid profile which increases lipid levels in the liver that results in cell damage through triggered inflammatory responses1

Fatty liver disease - Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) & Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)

  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) encapsulates various liver diseases (including NASH) with the hallmark of excessive fat accumulation in liver cells 
  • In addition to high lipid levels, NASH is also characterised by fibrosis and inflammation. Both can progress to liver cancer and other metabolic disorders like obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases
  • Studies have shown low magnesium levels in both diseases, though NASH exhibits markedly lower values compared to NAFLD 
  • Magnesium deficiency is mostly attributed to poor dietary intake in these diseases. This causes increased oxidative stress in liver cells and reduced fatty acid oxidation, ultimately culminating in liver cell death due to fibrosis and inflammation1, 2

Liver Cancer

  • All the above-mentioned diseases can progress to liver cancer, with fatty liver and alcohol liver disease being the top contenders in addition to hepatitis B and C infections 
  • Since magnesium is essential for the activation of enzymes involved in DNA synthesis and repair, magnesium deficiency can damage the cell cycle, hinder cell growth, induce cell death, and cause DNA mutations. All of this can further lead to the development of tumours1,2,9

Since magnesium deficiency is a key factor in liver disease progression, research is now focusing on using magnesium supplementation for liver disease treatment. Several studies on patients with fatty liver disease, cirrhosis, and liver cancer have supported that higher dietary magnesium intake lowers the risk of these diseases.1,7,8,9

The NHANES III cohort study (The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey cohort) concluded that every 100 mg increase in magnesium intake resulted in a 49% reduction in liver disease mortality, especially in alcohol consumers and patients with fatty liver disease.7

A study on the NHANES III follow-up cohort brought to light the suppressive effects of calcium on magnesium. It concluded that the health benefits of magnesium were only significant when calcium intake did not exceed 1200mg/day.Thus, more studies are required to investigate possible interactions between magnesium and other nutrients. 

How much magnesium to take for liver health

Increasing magnesium intake through dietary supplementation would be the best solution to promote liver health since magnesium deficiency is the root cause of liver diseases.7,8,9

The standard magnesium intake recommended for adults is 300-400 mg/day. Adopting a healthy diet is one way of hitting this daily target since natural sources of magnesium are abundantly available. 

Some examples of magnesium-rich foods are:

  • Green leafy vegetables - spinach, broccoli
  • Legumes - black beans, soybeans
  • Nuts - cashews, almonds
  • Seeds - pumpkin, chia, flaxseeds
  • Whole grains - brown rice, oatmeal

Generally, foods high in dietary fibre contain maximum magnesium content. However, not all of it reaches our bodies. Numerous processing methods sap these foods dry of magnesium before they make it to our plates.10,11 So, to remedy this, foods fortified with magnesium and magnesium salts are now being researched and produced. While magnesium malate and citrate are popular examples of certified magnesium boosters used in food, food supplements, breakfast cereals, and baby food across Europe, magnesium citrate malate is still under review even though it shows potential.12

Besides eating healthy, patients with liver diseases can also add magnesium supplements to their diets. These supplements are either inorganic or organic salt forms of magnesium. Some examples of the first category are magnesium oxide and magnesium sulphate (Epsom salt), while examples of the latter are magnesium lactate, magnesium citrate, and magnesium chloride. When choosing between the two, studies have shown that organic salts are the better choice as their high water-solubility increases their intestinal absorption and results in increased magnesium concentration in the body.10,11,13

Like every other nutritional ingredient in healthy eating, moderating magnesium intake is vital. Although high magnesium levels pose no threat to healthy people due to renal excretion of excess quantities of the micronutrient, going overboard with magnesium supplements can cause diarrhoea, nausea, and abdominal cramps.10, 11


Magnesium plays a vital role in regulating liver function. It is responsible for energy generation, glucose uptake, genetic stability, synthesis of various macro and micronutrients through enzyme activation, and so much more. 

Many studies have shown that magnesium deficiency is closely linked to a spectrum of liver diseases. Therefore, magnesium supplementation is now being suggested as a potential treatment option. However, there’s still more research to do on this.

In the meantime, increasing dietary magnesium intake by consuming magnesium-rich foods and magnesium supplements can reduce the risk of incidence and mortality of liver diseases. However, moderation is necessary to avoid the side effects of supplements.

To conclude, magnesium’s beneficial effects aren’t restricted to the liver but is felt throughout the body. So, magnesium deficiency shouldn’t be taken lightly.


  1. Liu M, Yang H, Mao Y. Magnesium and liver disease. Ann Transl Med [Internet]. 2019 Oct [cited 2023 Jan 5];7(20):578–578. Available from:
  2. Simón J, Delgado TC, Martinez-Cruz LA, Martínez-Chantar ML. Magnesium, little known but possibly relevant: a link between nash and related comorbidities. Biomedicines [Internet]. 2021 Jan 27 [cited 2023 Jan 5];9(2):125.
  3. Nielsen FH. Magnesium deficiency and increased inflammation: current perspectives. J Inflamm Res [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2023 Feb 21]; 11:25–34.
  4. Uwitonze AM, Razzaque MS. Role of magnesium in vitamin d activation and function. J Am Osteopath Assoc [Internet]. 2018 Mar 1 [cited 2023 Jan 5];118(3):181.
  5. Cimini FA, Barchetta I, Carotti S, Bertoccini L, Baroni MG, Vespasiani-Gentilucci U, et al. Relationship between adipose tissue dysfunction, vitamin D deficiency and the pathogenesis of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. WJG [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2023 Jan 5];23(19):3407.
  6. Eshraghian A, Nikeghbalian S, Geramizadeh B, Malek-Hosseini SA. Serum magnesium concentration is independently associated with non-alcoholic fatty liver and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. United European Gastroenterology Journal. 2018 Feb;6(1):97-103.
  7. Wu L, Zhu X, Fan L, Kabagambe EK, Song Y, Tao M, Zhong X, Hou L, Shrubsole MJ, Liu J, Dai Q. Magnesium intake and mortality due to liver diseases: Results from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Cohort. Scientific reports. 2017 Dec 20;7(1):1-6.
  8. Li W, Zhu X, Song Y, Fan L, Wu L, Kabagambe EK, Hou L, Shrubsole MJ, Liu J, Dai Q. Intakes of magnesium, calcium and risk of fatty liver disease and prediabetes. Public health nutrition. 2018 Aug;21(11):2088-95.
  9. Shah SC, Zhu X, Dai Q, Peek Jr RM, Shrubsole MJ. Magnesium intake is associated with a reduced risk of incident liver cancer, based on an analysis of the NIH-American Association of Retired Persons (NIH-AARP) Diet and Health Study prospective cohort. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 2021 Mar;113(3):630-8.
  10. Razzaque M. Magnesium: are we consuming enough? Nutrients [Internet]. 2018 Dec 2 [cited 2023 Jan 5];10(12):1863.
  11. Office of dietary supplements - magnesium [Internet]. [cited 2023 Jan 5].
  12. EFSA Panel on Nutrition, Novel Foods and Food Allergens (NDA), Turck D, Castenmiller J, De Henauw S, Hirsch‐Ernst KI, Kearney J, Knutsen HK, Maciuk A, Mangelsdorf I, McArdle HJ, Naska A. Magnesium citrate malate as a source of magnesium added for nutritional purposes to food supplements. EFSA Journal. 2018 Dec;16(12):e05484.
  13. Ragnar Rylander. Bioavailability of magnesium salts – a review. J Pharm Nutr Sci [Internet]. 2014 Jan 5 [cited 2023 Jan 5];4(1):57–9.
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Malaika Solomon

Bachelor of Pharmacy - B Pharm, JSS Academy of Higher Education and Research, India.

I'm an experienced content writer currently pursuing a post graduate diploma in Clinical Research.
I'm passionate about writing articles that bring accurate and digestible information about healthcare and medical research.

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