Are Magnesium Supplements Safe to Take Over Time?


Magnesium is an essential nutrient that is important for maintaining health and many consumers take supplements of magnesium to address dietary deficiencies. There are also many conditions that impact the body's ability to retain magnesium that require supplementation. Taking magnesium over time can be safe and effective but there are a number of important considerations.

The Facts

Magnesium supplements are taken in response to cirrhosis, serious burns, pancreatitis or other serious health issues. Others consumers take magnesium to control hypertension and increase bone density. Magnesium is noted for its laxative properties. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, an adult male between 19 and 30 years old requires 400 mg per day, while females in that age group need 310 mg. The majority of the body's magnesium is stored in the bones, while the remaining amount is stored in the organs and cells with very little in the blood.


Magnesium is important in a broad number of physiological structures and plays a role in hundreds of biochemical reactions. Some of the key functions of magnesium include bone development, blood sugar regulation, cardiovascular health, muscle function, enzyme activation and brain health--particularly mood stabilization.


There are some important circumstances to examine to assess the safety of long-term magnesium supplementation. The length of time in question, the amount of magnesium and the overall health of the person in question are all factors. There is no known safe upper limit for magnesium and the adverse effects can be serious, so be conservative with magnesium supplement use.


According to the 2002 Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, magnesium is safe for prolonged use "when used orally and appropriately." Taking 500 mg orally daily is thought to be effective in addressing angina, hypertension and supporting bone health. Shari Lieberman, PhD and author of "The Real Vitamin & Mineral Book," writes that "calcium and magnesium supplements should be taken together." This helps prevent unbalanced absorption amounts since these minerals compete for absorption.

Individuals that ingest magnesium in response to hypomagnesemia must understand the underlying issue that caused the condition. Hypomagnesemia is often seen in alcholics; but taking large amounts of magnesium as a strategy to offset the damage caused by alcohol can result in a number of side effects, including gastrointestinal distress and diarrhea. Those suffering from pancreatitis or diabetes may also have hypomagnesemia, prompting the need for a magnesium regimen that may help to restore this essential mineral to proper concentrations.

Adverse Effects

Taking more than the recommended amount for extended periods can result in a deficiency of other important nutrients. This deficiency is often caused by the adverse affects connected with magnesium such as vomiting and diarrhea. Individuals that exceed recommended amounts not only reduce the effectiveness of the mineral but also risk developing hypermagnesia which can result in death. Taking more than 750 mg of magnesium for any period of time should be part of a practitioner-monitored program and should be discontinued if severe adverse effects result.

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