Magnesium For The Elderly

Advanced age is a risk factor for a lot of health conditions, including metabolic disorders such as diabetes, and neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s disease. Although ageing can bring about some normal deterioration in bodily functions, there are things you can do to help you stay healthy and age naturally. 

Magnesium is a crucial mineral needed for many biological functions and therefore plays an important role in maintaining our health as we age. 

Understanding magnesium for the elderly

Importance and benefits 

Ageing commonly causes a deficit in magnesium (< 0.7 mmol/L).1 As we age, the absorption of magnesium through the intestines and the kidney decreases, and excretion through urine and faeces increases. This may be due to the reduced functionality of the organs at an advanced age. Some chronic diseases and medications that elderly people take may also affect magnesium absorption and excretion. For example, type 2 diabetes, kidney problems, malabsorption syndrome, and alcoholism are health conditions that can cause magnesium deficiency. Diuretics taken for lowering blood pressure can also influence the level of magnesium in the body.

Since magnesium is such an essential mineral, obtaining a sufficient amount of it is important for people of all ages. It is particularly important for elderly people to ensure they are consuming enough magnesium so as to effectively support bodily functions and prevent diseases associated with magnesium deficiency. Some of the biological functions that magnesium is important for include:1,2,3

  • Muscle actions and performance
  • Bone health
  • Production and activation of vitamin D 
  • Carbohydrate metabolism and insulin production
  • Regulation of blood pressure
  • Production of DNA, RNA and proteins
  • The functions and survival of neurons

Long-term magnesium deficiency can increase the risk of many health conditions, including inflammation, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, muscular diseases, neurological disorders, and osteoporosis, all of which elderly people are at a higher risk of developing. 

Side effects of magnesium for the elderly

In healthy individuals, the kidneys can remove excess magnesium if it is beyond what our body requires. However, for elderly people with reduced kidney functions and other health conditions, taking too much magnesium might cause some side effects. Too much magnesium (hypermagnesemia) can cause many symptoms, ranging from mild to severe. People with milder hypermagnesemia might not have any symptoms or may experience weakness, nausea, dizziness, and confusion.4 Severe hypermagnesemia is dangerous and can cause flaccid paralysis, coma, respiratory failure, and cardiac arrest. It is therefore advised to always take the recommended dosage of magnesium.4  

How much magnesium is enough for the elderly?

According to the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), people aged 51 and above should have at least 420 mg of magnesium for males or 320 mg for females in their daily diet. For adults and elderly people who take magnesium supplements or medications, it is recommended to keep this intake at about 350 mg per day.

Best sources of magnesium for the elderly

Most food sources that are rich in magnesium are those that contain dietary fibres. Meats actually contain a fairly small amount of magnesium. 

There are many foods that elderly people can get their daily dose of magnesium from. Examples include:

  • Nuts and seeds, such as pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, almonds, and cashews
  • Leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, and collard greens
  • Legumes, such as black beans, edamame, and kidney beans 
  • Whole grains, such as oats and brown rice 
  • Meat, such as salmon, chicken breast, and beef

In the UK, magnesium is actually present in our drinking water. UK tap water is ‘hard’, meaning high in dissolved minerals, namely calcium and magnesium. Some researchers have suggested that magnesium in water is more readily absorbed and used by the body compared to magnesium in food sources.1 


Can magnesium cause confusion in the elderly?

Magnesium can cause confusion in elderly people with underlying health conditions. Elderly people are more prone to kidney disease and kidney failure due to reduced functionality with increasing age. Both kidney disease and kidney failure can cause hypermagnesemia, which is characterised by a serum magnesium level equal to or above 2.5 mg/dL due to the lower filtering ability of the kidney. Hypermagnesemia is rare, but one of the observable symptoms of mild hypermagnesemia is confusion.4,5 Elderly people with kidney problems who use laxatives containing magnesium oxide in the long term should be routinely monitored to avoid hypermagnesemia.  

Can magnesium reverse ageing?

Some studies have suggested that magnesium can reverse certain ageing-related health problems. For example, one study found that magnesium supplementation promotes muscle regeneration and maintains muscle mass and strength in aged mice. This suggests that magnesium may protect against the loss of muscle mass associated with ageing.6,7 

Does magnesium help with forgetfulness?

The simple answer is yes!

As our age increases, it is normal to experience mild forgetfulness. This is due to the reduced plasticity in the brain, which is the ability of the brain to form and adjust the strength of the connections between brain cells in order to store memory. 

However, if you are experiencing serious memory and thinking problems, they could be signs of neurological disorders that cause memory loss. Examples of signs to take note of include:

  • forgetting things and places that you are familiar with
  • feeling more confused about time
  • struggling with day-to-day conversations

Magnesium in the brain plays an important role in regulating and maintaining the connections between brain cells. Some animal and human studies have reported that sufficient magnesium could reduce cognitive and memory decline at an older age, and potentially reduces the risk for dementia.1 Similarly, another 2010 study showed that increased magnesium level in the brain helps improve learning and memory functions in young and aged rats, which suggests that magnesium could also have memory enhancement effects in humans.7 


From muscle actions to bone health, magnesium is an important mineral that our body needs to maintain our overall health. We can obtain magnesium from various food sources, such as nuts, legumes, vegetables and whole grains. Intake of adequate magnesium is especially important for elderly people, as ageing causes a reduction in the absorption of magnesium, and increases the removal of magnesium. The recommended daily intake for magnesium is at least 420 mg for adult males or 320 mg for adult females. However, too much magnesium can cause side effects if you have underlying kidney problems. 


  1. Barbagallo M, Veronese N, Dominguez LJ. Magnesium in aging, health and diseases. Nutrients [Internet]. 2021 Feb [cited 2022 Dec 13];13(2):463. Available from: 
  2. Glasdam SM, Glasdam S, Peters GH. Chapter six - the importance of magnesium in the human body: a systematic literature review. In: Makowski GS, editor. Advances in Clinical Chemistry [Internet]. Elsevier; 2016 [cited 2022 Dec 18]. p. 169–93. Available from: 
  3. Kirkland AE, Sarlo GL, Holton KF. The role of magnesium in neurological disorders. Nutrients [Internet]. 2018 Jun 6 [cited 2022 Dec 18];10(6):730. Available from: 
  4. Cascella M, Vaqar S. Hypermagnesemia. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 [cited 2022 Dec 17]. Available from: 
  5. Qazi M, Qazi H, Nakhoul G, Provenzano LF. Causes of hypermagnesaemia: a literature review. EMJ [Internet]. 2021 Jul 20 [cited 2022 Dec 17];9(1):107–15. Available from: 
  6. Liu Y, Wang Q, Zhang Z, Fu R, Zhou T, Long C, et al. Magnesium supplementation enhances mTOR signalling to facilitate myogenic differentiation and improve aged muscle performance. Bone [Internet]. 2021 May 1 [cited 2022 Dec 18];146:115886. Available from: 
  7. Slutsky I, Abumaria N, Wu LJ, Huang C, Zhang L, Li B, et al. Enhancement of learning and memory by elevating brain magnesium. Neuron [Internet]. 2010 Jan 28 [cited 2022 Dec 15];65(2):165–77. Available from: 
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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Pei Yin Chai

Bachelor of Science - BS, BSc(Hons) Neuroscience, The University of Manchester, England

Pei Yin (Joyce) is a recent neuroscience degree graduate from the University of Manchester. As an introvert, she often finds it easier to express herself in written words than in speech, that's when she began to have an interest in writing. She has 2 years of experience in content-creating, and has produced content ranging from scientific articles to educational comic and animation. She is currently working towards getting a career in medical writing or project management in the science communication field.

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