Perspective: The case for an evidence-based reference interval for serum magnesium: The time has come

Rebecca B. Costello, Ronald J. Elin, Andrea Rosanoff, Taylor C. Wallace, Fernando Guerrero-Romero, Adela Hruby, Pamela L. Lutsey, Forrest H. Nielsen, Martha Rodriguez-Moran, Yiqing Song, Linda V. Van Horn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

141 Scopus citations


The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee indicated that magnesium was a shortfall nutrient that was underconsumed relative to the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) for many Americans. Approximately 50% of Americans consume less than the EAR for magnesium, and some age groups consume substantially less. A growing body of literature from animal, epidemiologic, and clinical studies has demonstrated a varied pathologic role for magnesium deficiency that includes electrolyte, neurologic, musculoskeletal, and inflammatory disorders; osteoporosis; hypertension; cardiovascular diseases; metabolic syndrome; and diabetes. Studies have also demonstrated that magnesium deficiency is associated with several chronic diseases and that a reduced risk of these diseases is observed with higher magnesium intake or supplementation. Subclinical magnesium deficiency can exist despite the presentation of a normal status as defined within the current serum magnesium reference interval of 0.75-0.95 mmol/L. This reference interval was derived from data from NHANES I (1974), which was based on the distribution of serum magnesium in a normal population rather than clinical outcomes. What is needed is an evidenced-based serum magnesium reference interval that reflects optimal health and the current food environment and population. We present herein data from an array of scientific studies to support the perspective that subclinical deficiencies in magnesium exist, that they contribute to several chronic diseases, and that adopting a revised serum magnesium reference interval would improve clinical care and public health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)977-993
Number of pages17
JournalAdvances in Nutrition
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 American Society for Nutrition.


  • Chronic disease
  • Magnesium deficiency
  • Plasma magnesium
  • Reference interval
  • Serum magnesium


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