Magnesium For Older Adults


Magnesium is a vital mineral for our body. It is naturally found in a variety of foods and is also used as a supplement.

In fact, this mineral is so important that it plays a crucial role in assisting over 300 biochemical reactions in the body, ranging from building strong bones to regulating blood pressure, muscle function, energy production, and much more. However, with age, it is typical to witness a decline in magnesium levels.

Magnesium deficiencies are particularly common among the elderly. It can happen for various reasons, including an inadequate diet, low magnesium-rich food consumption, less mineral absorption, or due to greater excretion of it through their urine.

Adults who consume less than the recommended dose of magnesium are more likely to observe greater inflammation markers. That said, having inflammation is highly associated with major health problems like diabetes, heart disease, kidney issues, and certain types of cancer.

In this article, we will dive in to learn more about magnesium for older adults.

How does magnesium affect older adults?

Magnesium is one of the key factors in a wide range of cellular and organ functions. It helps in regulating blood pressure, metabolism, muscle recovery, cognitive support, and energy production and even greatly contributes to steadying your heart rhythm. The benefits of magnesium also extend to age-related roles, including nerve and bone health.

With progressing age, it is not uncommon to see a decline in magnesium levels. This is generally referred to as "magnesium deficiency," which can be summed up as when the body is unable to receive adequate magnesium intake. Without enough magnesium, older adults may become prone to developing several health risks, such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, kidney disorders, endocrine issues, and digestive issues.

Among many factors contributing to becoming deficient, the absorption of magnesium through the intestines tends to decrease with age. This age-related alteration can also impair vitamin D balance, resulting in bone health decline.1

Magnesium depletion can significantly contribute to health problems. Moreover, a study revealed that magnesium deficiency is more common in older women than in older men. This can partly occur because women are susceptible to osteoporosis, which may limit the exchange of magnesium between bones and blood circulation.2

To sustain health, several studies recommend taking daily magnesium-rich foods and supplements, if advised by a doctor, to correct the deficiency.3

Surprisingly, there is a wide range of food sources containing magnesium; even mineral water provides magnesium. Other sources include:

  • Green, leafy vegetables
  • Beans.
  • Whole grains.
  • Dark chocolate.
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Brown rice.
  • Beef.
  • Fish.
  • Poultry. 

Consuming adequate amounts of magnesium plays a vital role in preventing various health problems. A study showed that significant magnesium intake improves dementia in older adults.4

Furthermore, another systematic review suggested that magnesium has positive effects in improving insomnia (sleep disorder).5

Which magnesium is best for older adults

Although magnesium is naturally found in many foods, adding supplements with this vital mineral has been associated with multiple health benefits. Magnesium supplements are typically prescribed when the body is having difficulty absorbing a nutrient or when you don't get the right amounts from diet alone.

There are many types of magnesium, and identifying the best type varies since it depends on your health needs. Here are some of the most common magnesium supplements:

Magnesium citrate: This is one of the most common and popular supplements available for replenishing low magnesium levels. Additionally, magnesium citrate is considered more effective since it can be easily absorbed into the body. Because of its laxative effects, it is also prescribed to treat constipation.

Magnesium oxide: Due to its poor absorption rate, magnesium oxide is not the right type for raising magnesium levels. Rather, it is frequently used to relieve digestive discomforts like indigestion, heartburn, and constipation.

Magnesium chloride: Since it is well absorbed in the gut, this type is known as a multipurpose supplement. Magnesium chloride can be taken as an oral supplement for boosting magnesium levels as well as for treating digestive issues. It is also used topically to soothe sore muscles.

Magnesium glycinate: Often used as a dietary supplement to regulate sleep, magnesium glycinate is also prescribed to treat anxiety, stress, and inflammatory conditions due to its calming effects.

Magnesium sulfate: Commonly known as Epsom salt, is often dissolved in bathwater to alleviate muscle soreness and act as a stress reliever. It is also used to improve constipation issues.

Magnesium lactate: It is usually used as a food additive for fortified foods. Although less effective for boosting mineral levels, magnesium lactate is known for being gentler on the digestive tract than other types.

How much magnesium should older adults take?

According to medical experts, the daily recommended amount of magnesium for older adults is 400–420 mg for males and 320 mg for females. However, the daily dosage may vary depending on your body's requirements.

Usually, if greater amounts of magnesium are consumed from natural foods, it is considered safe because our kidneys can easily flush out the excessive content. However, the exact amount cannot be advised for the supplement option. This is because high amounts of magnesium from supplements can result in toxicity. Moreover, there are also chances that the supplements may interact with different types of medications and antibiotics. That said, it is considered best not to exceed the upper limits of supplemental magnesium intake unless it is prescribed by your doctor.

Side effects and other concerns

Though consuming magnesium is crucial for its diverse role in the body, taking too much magnesium as a supplement may lead to dramatic effects. If you are consuming the daily amounts as directed, then the risks are quite low for most people. However, taking too much mineral amounts can cause several concerns and side effects.

Interactions: If you are on certain medications, then it is best to talk with your doctor first to rule out any potential negative interactions. Magnesium supplements may interfere with the absorption of some types of medications, including diuretics, antibiotics, blood pressure, diabetic, or cardiovascular medicines. In general, it is safe to discuss with your health advisor the possible interactions of medications.

Toxicity: Although toxicity is rare from natural food sources as the kidneys clear out the extra magnesium through urine, toxic levels may occur when high doses of magnesium are taken over the long term. Magnesium toxicity, or hypermagnesemia, is a term used when too much magnesium is present in the blood. The signs of overdosage may include:

  • Fatigue.
  • Nausea.
  • Low blood pressure
  • Muscular weakness.
  • Facial flushing.
  • Abdominal discomfort.

Hypermagnesemia usually poses slight concerns for health since the kidneys work to eliminate the excess magnesium. However, the signs of toxicity may persist while the body works to remove them. Individuals with kidney problems are at higher risk of toxicity since their kidneys are unable to work properly.

Side effects: Magnesium supplements can lead to gut-related side effects in certain people. This includes:

  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Abdominal cramps.
  • Diarrhea.

Risk concerns: Older individuals with heart, kidney, intestinal, and diabetes diseases should seek advice from their concerned doctor before taking any magnesium supplement to avoid health-related complications.


Magnesium is a vital mineral that plays a wide variety of physiologic functions in the body. As we age, magnesium intake tends to fall because of natural age-related changes in the body. With inadequate magnesium consumption, older adults become more prone to magnesium deficiency which may lead to the risk of developing health problems such as cardiovascular, kidney problems, diabetes, and blood pressure. To preserve health, it is important to add magnesium-rich foods and supplements to meet the recommended dietary allowance. Moreover, it is always best to take supplements as directed by your doctor to avoid any negative health effects.


  1. Barbagallo M, Veronese N, Dominguez LJ. Magnesium in Aging, Health and Diseases. Nutrients. 2021 Jan 30;13(2):463.
  2. Veronese N, Berton L, Carraro S, Bolzetta F, De Rui M, Perissinotto E, et al. Effect of oral magnesium supplementation on physical performance in healthy elderly women involved in a weekly exercise program: a randomized controlled trial. The American journal of clinical nutrition [Internet]. 2014;100(3):974–81. Available from:
  3. Vormann J. Magnesium: Nutrition and Homoeostasis. AIMS Public Health. 2016;3(2):329–40.
  4. Alam AB, Lutsey PL, Gottesman RF, Tin A, Alonso A. Low Serum Magnesium is Associated with Incident Dementia in the ARIC-NCS Cohort. Nutrients [Internet]. 2020 Oct 1 [cited 2023 Jan 20];12(10):3074. Available from:
  5. Mah J, Pitre T. Oral magnesium supplementation for insomnia in older adults: a Systematic Review & Meta-Analysis. BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies. 2021 Apr 17;21(1).
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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Sadaf Ahmed

Master of Science - MSc, Physiology, Clinical & Molecular Hematology, Karachi University, Pakistan

Sadaf is an experienced writer who creates a quality and well-researched scripts particularly related to Health Sciences. presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
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