Magnesium: Functions, Food sources, Absorption and excretion

Magnesium: Functions, Food sources, Absorption and excretion

The adult human body contains approximately 20-25g of magnesium. About 60-70 percent of this magnesium is present in the bones in combination with calcium and phosphorus. The remaining 30-40 percent is distributed in various tissues and body fluids mostly in the intracellular fluid.


Magnesium helps in:

  • Regulating the passage of substances into and out of the cells.

  • Maintaining the activity of many enzymes. Magnesium functions as a coenzyme in metabolism.

  • Building bones and teeth. It is involved in bone mineralization.

  • Maintaining the functions of the nervous system, whereby it kelps in the passage of messages from one nerve cell to another.

  • Maintaining smooth muscle action.

  • Building proteins.

Food Sources

Magnesium is widely distributed in plant foods. The most concentrated sources of magnesium include nuts (groundnut, cashewnut, walnut, almond), oilseeds (sesame seeds), pulses (rajmah, moth beans, soyabean), whole grains (wheat, bajra, jowar). Among sea foods shellfish is particularly rich in magnesium. Other foods which contain appreciable amounts of magnesium include dark green leafy vegetables, peas, lotus stem, fish (Salmon, haddock), sea foods (crab, oyster) and meat.

Absorption and excretion

Magnesium is absorbed from the small intestine. The absorption of magnesium in the body is somewhat similar to that of calcium. When the body's demand increases, the absorption increases so as to meet the increased demand. Further, factors that interfere with calcium absorption such as the presence of inhibitors in the diet also interfere with magnesium absorption. The excretion of magnesium by the body is regulated by the kidneys.

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