Magnesium supplementation found to improve physical function in older women

Elderly people tend to be less physically able than younger ones. Walking speed, for instance, and the speed with which they rise from a chair, tend to decline in later life. There can be many reasons for this, including loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia). But the strength of functionality of muscles (irrespective of their size) is also important, and certain nutrients play a particular role here, including magnesium.

This week saw the publication of a study in which women of average age 71 were treated with magnesium or placebo for 12 weeks, to see what effect this had on certain tests of physical functioning. The magnesium came in the form of magnesium oxide at a dose of 900 mg per day, providing 300 mg of actual (elemental) magnesium each day.

The three prime tests of functionality in this study were a test of balance in the standing position, speed of walking over a 4-metre distance, and the time it took for women to rise out of a chair five times with their arms folded across their chests.

In the women supplemented with magnesium, both the latter two tests improved significantly compared to the women taking placebo. These results suggest that magnesium supplementation may help to improve physical functionality in older people, and may also help to prevent decline in functionality as we age.

One of the interesting things about this study is that it utilised magnesium in the form of magnesium oxide. This particular form of magnesium is known not to be very well absorbed (bioavailable), and it might be the better results would have been achieved with more bioavailable forms of magnesium such as magnesium citrate or magnesium malate.

Another interesting thing about the study was that it excluded women with relatively low levels of vitamin D. This is interesting because vitamin D is another nutrient that is critically important to muscular function. It might be, that the full benefits of magnesium supplementation are more likely to be seen in individuals not suffering from vitamin D deficiency.

Overall, though, I think this is an interesting study and one that suggests magnesium supplementation should at least be considered for individuals keen to preserve their functionality as they age.


1. Veronese N, et al. Effect of oral magnesium supplementation on physical performance in healthy elderly women involved in a weekly exercise program A random mice controlled trial American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Epub 9 July 2014

13 Responses to Magnesium supplementation found to improve physical function in older women

  1. Vanessa 11 July 2014 at 7:40 pm #

    Just out of interest, why did they exclude women with ‘relatively’ low levels of vitamin D?

  2. Soul 11 July 2014 at 9:42 pm #

    I have to admit, I had a laugh after reading the article! Giving 900mgs a day of magnesium oxide a day seemed cruel, unethical! Visions of the atomic laxative that GI specialists prescribe for a lower GI scoping came to mind. I’m not surprised that the ladies walking speed increased. They would need to be quicker for sprinting to the toilet! My opinion is a bit shaded on this though, having an IBD condition. I would think also that the other forms of magnesium would be better for taking at larger doses, in my opinion.

    On a more serious note, I know of a couple relatives that take a good amount of magnesium oxide (likely the oxide version) daily. I’ve been told that it is their favorite supplement, giving extra pep for the day.

  3. M. Cawdery 12 July 2014 at 11:22 am #

    I certainly take magnesium daily as a supplement. It is a vital microelement and is, I understand, involved in over 300 metabolic processes in the body. It is a well known deficiency in cows. It is also important for muscular activity including the heart.

    In the US the average daily intake is below the RDI and I suspect the same is true for the UK as, after centuries of cultivation, soil and consequently plants are short of magnesium. In my own garden years ago we had raspberry canes (5 ft) and miserable. Threw a pound of epsom salts (MgSO4) on them – 8 ft tall. Take it or leave it!

  4. Hilda 12 July 2014 at 2:55 pm #

    “speed of walking over a 4-metre distance…”

    Surely you mean kilometres!???

  5. bert hubert 12 July 2014 at 6:26 pm #

    Interesting! The abstract is on

    John, at the bottom of your post, the reference to the article is a bit quaint, “random mice”? 😉

  6. SuePG 14 July 2014 at 9:48 am #

    I have been taking magnesium for several years. I have mostly stuck to citrate and malate but have tried threonate and taurate. Here’s a link to a page on the Mark Sisson’s forum which gives a very good run down on the different types:

    ““speed of walking over a 4-metre distance…”

    Surely you mean kilometres!???”

    Maybe at 71 and before the magnesium supplementation 4 metres was all they could manage 😉

  7. NM 14 July 2014 at 1:57 pm #

    Magnesium must be one of the most cost-effective bang-for-your-buck supplements one can ingest. Its metabolic effects can be profound. Certainly, if it were patentable, it would rightly be promoted as a statin-buster in its clinical efficacy!

  8. Dr David Unwin 15 July 2014 at 8:42 pm #

    As a GP the commonest cause of magnesium deficiency I come across is as a side effect of taking the almost ubiquitous omeprazole or lanzoprazole for acidity -I even had a patient with such a low magnesium caused in this way he had life threatening fits !!

  9. AnnieD 16 July 2014 at 2:16 am #

    Friends of mine each consume a pinch of Epsom Salts, magnesium sulphate, per day and I (aged 74) use magnesium phosphate tissue salt to deal with night cramps most successfully. Must try some on my dozy cumquat tree!
    Also, in spite of being Australian, I was recently very low on Vitamin D. My GP suggested 2 tablets a day for a couple of months and one of the most noticeable effects was as though my brain woke up! Weird but true.

  10. Hilary 19 July 2014 at 7:16 pm #

    “vitamin D is another nutrient that is critically important to muscular function”


    Most of the vitamin D research I’ve seen is of a correlation between low levels of vitamin D and poor health. There is very little well conducted supplementation evidence that shows increasing vitamin D levels is good for anything. Could be that low vitamin D levels are a result of chronic disease (along with maybe, poorer muscle function, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and all the other things vitamin D is supposed to prevent). It even seems to be a struggle to find good evidence that supplementing vitamin D improves bone density.

    There may be all sorts of possible reasons for the relationship between low serum D and ill health. The evidence is not there that supports the sort of widespread prescription of supplements that is going on.

    Take a look – the science is as shaky as that for statins.

    • M. Cawdery 23 July 2014 at 10:54 am #

      I agree – “the science is as shaky as that for statins.” but this is because of blatant commercialism.

      Vitamin D is not patentable and is less subject to commercial misinformation

      http;// is an independent organization.

      A pubmed search on Vitamin D found 59965 references.

      an example is the following that can be downloaded in full.

      Relationship between insulin resistance and plasma vitamin D in adults
      Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy 2014:7 297–303

      Vitamin D is not just related to rickets; it is involved in some 500 metabolic processes and every cell in the body has vit d receptors. But it is far from a cure all.

      • Hilary 26 July 2014 at 5:03 pm #

        “If causally associated, the supplementation of vitamin D may help in preventing insulin resistance and subsequent T2DM”

        This is the last line of the abstract of the paper you linked to.

        This is the point I’m trying to make. There is a lot of vitatmin D research out there, but it is correlational. When you have a correlation causality could go either way, or both observations could be caused by another factor, or factors.

        If you take a close look at the body of vitamin D research it is simply not strong enough to recommend supplementation.

        Insulin receptors are also located throughout the body, but this doesn’t mean giving people lots of insulin is a good thing.

        Drs aren’t prescribing vitamin D because of commercialism but because of a very poor interpretation of the literature.


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