Dr. Thomas Dwan - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Thomas Dwan

Is Magnesium Carbonate Bad For You?

Also Known As: MgCO3



Short answer

Magnesium carbonate is generally safe when used in appropriate doses and can be beneficial in treating deficiency and supporting overall health. However, excess intake may lead to gastrointestinal issues, electrolyte imbalance, and more serious complications like hypotension and heart arrhythmias, especially in individuals with renal impairment. The UL for supplemental magnesium is 350 mg/day for adults to minimize risk of adverse effects.



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Long answer

Role of Magnesium Carbonate as a Dietary Supplement

Magnesium carbonate, commonly known as magnesite, is a mineral used for various health and industrial purposes. In the world of dietary supplements, magnesium carbonate serves primarily as a source of magnesium—a vital mineral with numerous physiological functions. Here, we dissect the role of magnesium carbonate when ingested in this context.

Magnesium's Functions in the Body:

  • Muscle and nerve function: Magnesium is critical for the proper functioning of nerves and muscles, including the heart.
  • Biochemical reactions: It acts as a cofactor for over 300 enzymatic reactions, involved in energy production, DNA synthesis, and protein synthesis.
  • Bone health: Alongside calcium and vitamin D, magnesium plays a significant role in maintaining bone integrity.
  • Electrolyte balance: Magnesium affects the concentrations of other electrolytes in the body, such as potassium and calcium.
  • Blood pressure regulation: It assists in relaxing blood vessels, which can help maintain healthy blood pressure levels.

Magnesium Carbonate Absorption:

Compared to other magnesium salts, magnesium carbonate has a lower bioavailability, meaning that it's not absorbed as efficiently by the body. The bioavailability of magnesium, in any form, can be affected by factors such as the presence of dietary fiber, phytates, and the individual's magnesium status. This matters because even if you're consuming a magnesium supplement, it's not solely about the quantity ingested but how much your body can actually use.

When Magnesium Carbonate is Beneficial:

  • Deficiency correction: For individuals with diagnosed magnesium deficiency, supplementation can be crucial for restoring proper bodily functions.
  • Sedentary lifestyles: Those with limited dietary magnesium intake might benefit from supplementation, including older adults or individuals with certain dietary restrictions.
  • High-requirement conditions: Athletes, pregnant women, and people under stress may have increased magnesium needs, making supplementation potentially beneficial.

It's important to note that while magnesium carbonate supplements can improve magnesium levels in the body, the efficacy is subject to various individual health factors and formulation of the supplement itself. It's not a one-size-fits-all remedy and should be considered as part of a broader dietary and health evaluation.

Clinical Evidence and Recommendations:

Studies have shown that magnesium supplementation can be beneficial in certain conditions. For example, a Journal of Hypertension study indicated that magnesium supplements could lower blood pressure in individuals with hypertension. Another research published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research suggests magnesium's positive impact on bone mineral density.

Despite these findings, the scientific community maintains that the best source of magnesium should primarily be a well-rounded diet, rich in leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Supplements, including magnesium carbonate, are generally recommended when dietary intake is insufficient or specific health conditions necessitate higher magnesium intake.

Furthermore, practitioners advise that before starting any supplement regimen, individuals consult with healthcare providers to assess the necessity, appropriate dosage, and potential interactions with other medications or supplements.

To ensure the content provided meets high standards of trustworthiness and is beneficial to readers navigating the complex decisions around supplement use, the information presented here is continually updated in light of new research, clinical guidelines, and expert recommendations. The aim is to offer reliable data that supports informed choices concerning magnesium carbonate supplementation and overall health.

Potential Side Effects and Toxicity of Magnesium Carbonate

When investigating the impact of magnesium carbonate on health, it's crucial to differentiate between typical side effects associated with normal use and potential toxicity that can occur with overconsumption. This distinction is essential for consumers to understand the boundaries of safe use and to recognize when they might be pushing the limits.

Typical Side Effects

Magnesium carbonate is generally considered safe when used in appropriate amounts. However, excessive intake can lead to several side effects which include:

  • Gastrointestinal Issues: The most common side effects of magnesium intake are gastrointestinal. This can range from mild stomach upset to more significant symptoms like diarrhea, which is a result of magnesium's ability to draw water into the intestines, potentially leading to a laxative effect.
  • Electrolyte Imbalance: Overuse can disrupt the balance of other electrolytes in the body, particularly if the laxative effect leads to dehydration.
  • Muscular Weakness: Though magnesium is essential for muscle function, too much can lead to weakness, as it impacts calcium levels, which are crucial for muscle contractions.
  • Respiratory Issues: In severe cases, very high levels of magnesium can affect the muscles involved in breathing, which can lead to respiratory problems.
  • Cardiovascular Effects: Excessive magnesium can also have effects on the heart, potentially leading to changes in blood pressure and heartbeat irregularities.

Recognizing Signs of Magnesium Toxicity

Magnesium toxicity, also known as hypermagnesemia, is relatively rare but can occur, particularly in individuals with impaired renal function or those taking high-dose supplements without medical supervision. Symptoms of magnesium toxicity may include:

  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Facial flushing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Urinary retention
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Coma in extreme cases

To quantify the risk, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition analyzed the effects of excess magnesium from non-food sources and suggested that intakes above 350 mg/day for adults can lead to adverse effects, with toxicity more likely at doses exceeding 5,000 mg/day. Individuals with kidney disease are particularly susceptible since their bodies cannot efficiently excrete excess magnesium.

Safety Guidelines and Recommended Dosage

The established Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for supplemental magnesium for adults is 350 mg daily, above which the risk of adverse effects increases. These guidelines are set by authorities such as the National Institutes of Health's Office of Dietary Supplements, relying on evidence from clinical trials and population studies to establish safe consumption thresholds.

It's worth noting that obtaining magnesium naturally from food sources is not associated with these risks, as the body is generally adept at managing mineral levels from dietary intake, barring underlying health conditions. The side effects and toxicity concerns pertain primarily to supplemental forms, including magnesium carbonate.

In summary, while magnesium carbonate supplementation is safe within recommended doses, exceeding these can lead to various side effects, with severe toxicity being a rare but serious consequence. As with any supplement, moderation is key, and consulting with a healthcare provider can help tailor dosage to an individual's specific needs and health status.

Interactions with Medications and Nutrient Absorption

Magnesium carbonate doesn't just work alone in the body; it interacts with a variety of systems and can affect both medication efficacy and nutrient absorption. Understanding these interactions is crucial for avoiding potential negative health effects.

Medication Interactions:

Magnesium can bind with certain medications, altering their absorption and effectiveness. Some of the primary concerns include:

  • Tetracycline and Quinolone Antibiotics: Magnesium carbonate may reduce the absorption of these antibiotics, making them less effective. It's advisable to take magnesium supplements 2-4 hours before or after antibiotic use.
  • Bisphosphonates: Often used in treating osteoporosis, these drugs' effectiveness can also be impeded by magnesium when taken concurrently. It's best to space out the intake of magnesium and bisphosphonates.
  • Diuretics: Certain diuretics, especially loop and thiazide diuretics, can either increase or decrease magnesium excretion, demanding careful monitoring of magnesium levels.
  • Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs): Long-term use of PPIs can reduce stomach acid, which may decrease magnesium carbonate absorption and potentially lead to deficiencies.

Nutrient Absorption Interactions:

Magnesium carbonate's effects aren't limited to medications; it also interacts with other nutrients, impacting their absorption:

  • Calcium: High doses of magnesium can interfere with calcium absorption, potentially leading to an imbalance. This interplay warrants a balanced intake of both minerals.
  • Iron: Similarly, magnesium may compete with iron for absorption, which can be particularly concerning for individuals at risk of iron deficiency.
  • Zinc: Excessive magnesium intake may also impair zinc absorption. Therefore, zinc and magnesium should be taken separately to ensure adequate absorption of both minerals.
  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D and magnesium work synergistically. While this relationship can benefit calcium metabolism, it also means that high amounts of magnesium could theoretically impact vitamin D status, though more research is needed to fully understand this interaction.

Magnesium's influence on medications and nutrient absorption highlights the imperative need for a nuanced approach to supplementation, emphasizing the importance of timing and dosage. Always consult a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement, especially if you're taking other medications or have underlying health conditions.

For those without hormone-sensitive conditions, magnesium carbonate is generally considered safe when used as directed. However, always heed dosing guidelines and doctor's advice to prevent interactions that could impair the effectiveness of medications or affect the absorption of other important nutrients.

Summary of Magnesium Carbonate Interactions
Substance Type of Interaction Guidance
Tetracycline and Quinolone Antibiotics Decreased antibiotic absorption Separate intake times by 2-4 hours
Bisphosphonates Impeded drug effectiveness Space out intake
Diuretics Altered magnesium levels Monitor magnesium closely
Proton Pump Inhibitors Decreased magnesium absorption Monitor for deficiency
Calcium Interfered absorption Maintain balanced intake
Iron Competes for absorption Consider separate intake
Zinc Impaired absorption Separate supplementation schedule
Vitamin D Complex interaction Monitor levels with high magnesium intake

Recommended Daily Allowances and Overconsumption Risks

Magnesium is an essential mineral necessary for over 300 biochemical reactions in the human body, including nerve function, blood pressure regulation, and bone health. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for magnesium varies based on age, gender, and life stage. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the RDA for adults is as follows:

  • Men, Ages 19-30: 400 mg/day
  • Men, Age 31 and older: 420 mg/day
  • Women, Ages 19-30: 310 mg/day
  • Women, Age 31 and older: 320 mg/day
  • Pregnant women: 350-360 mg/day, depending on age
  • Breastfeeding women: 310-320 mg/day, depending on age

Magnesium is found in various foods, with high concentrations in green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. However, due to changing diets and decreases in food nutrient content, some individuals may not obtain enough magnesium from diet alone, leading them to consider supplements such as magnesium carbonate.

While magnesium carbonate can help in meeting your daily magnesium needs, overconsumption poses risks. Excessive magnesium intake can lead to hypermagnesemia, a condition marked by an abnormally high level of magnesium in the blood. Symptoms may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle weakness
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Low blood pressure
  • Urine retention
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Cardiac arrest in extreme cases

The tolerable upper intake level (UL) for supplemental magnesium is 350 mg/day for adults and children over 8 years old, as set forth by the NIH. This limit is not applicable to magnesium found in food, which has not been associated with adverse effects when consumed in natural quantities. Nonetheless, with the surge in popularity of supplements, surpassing this UL is becoming more commonplace and warrants caution.

When considering magnesium carbonate supplements, it is crucial to have a comprehensive understanding of potential drug interactions. Magnesium can affect the absorption and efficacy of various medications, including bisphosphonates, antibiotics, diuretics, and medications to treat osteoporosis. Those with kidney problems should be especially cautious as impaired kidney function hampers the body's ability to excrete excess magnesium.

Individual susceptibility to high levels of magnesium varies, and the signs of overconsumption may not be immediately evident, making it imperative to adhere to recommended dosages and consult healthcare professionals prior to supplementation.

Environmental and Purity Concerns in Magnesium Carbonate Production

Magnesium carbonate supplements are widely used for their potential health benefits, including bone health support and aiding in the treatment of magnesium deficiency. However, the production of magnesium carbonate raises certain environmental and purity concerns that consumers should be aware of when choosing their supplements.

Environmental Impact of Mining

The primary source of magnesium carbonate is magnesite ore, which is mined from the earth. The mining process has a significant environmental footprint that involves:

  • Land degradation and habitat destruction – Mining operations can lead to the destruction of ecosystems and loss of biodiversity in the mined area.
  • Energy consumption – The extraction and processing of magnesite ore require substantial amounts of energy, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Waste generation – Tailings, the materials left over after the separation of valuable minerals, can contribute to soil and water pollution.

While the impact of mining varies based on practices and regulation, responsible sourcing and adherence to environmental standards are pivotal in reducing these adverse effects.

Quality and Purity Standards in Production

As with any dietary supplement, the purity of magnesium carbonate is critical for user safety. During the production process, contaminants and impurities can be introduced, which may pose health risks:

  • Heavy metals – Trace amounts of heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, and mercury can be found in natural sources of magnesium carbonate. Excessive intake of these metals can lead to toxicity and various health issues.
  • Chemical contaminants – Chemicals used during the extraction and manufacturing processes must be carefully managed to prevent contamination.
  • Microbial contamination – If not properly handled and processed, the product can become contaminated with harmful bacteria or fungi.

Regulatory agencies, like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), establish limits for contaminants in dietary supplements. Manufacturers are expected to comply with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) to ensure product safety.

Independent testing by third-party laboratories is also a means by which companies can verify the purity and potency of their magnesium carbonate supplements. Consumers are encouraged to check for quality certifications and lab-testing results when evaluating supplements.

Implications for Consumers

For those contemplating the addition of a magnesium carbonate supplement to their regimen, it is worth considering the source of the supplement, as well as the manufacturer's commitment to environmental sustainability and product purity. Inquiring about and understanding these factors can guide consumers toward more environmentally conscious and safer supplement choices:

  • Seek out brands that are transparent about their sourcing and manufacturing processes.
  • Look for products that feature certifications from reputable third-party organizations, affirming their purity and low environmental impact.
  • Opt for products that are labeled as being tested for heavy metals and other contaminants.

An informed consumer is the best defense against the potential environmental and health hazards in the supplement industry. By being selective and demanding higher standards, consumers can drive positive change in the way magnesium carbonate—and indeed all dietary supplements—are produced.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, many natural foods are rich in magnesium and can help you meet your daily requirements. These include leafy green vegetables (like spinach and Swiss chard), nuts and seeds (such as pumpkin seeds and almonds), whole grains, legumes, and dark chocolate. Regularly incorporating these foods into your diet may reduce the need for magnesium supplements.

Yes, excessive intake of magnesium carbonate supplements can interfere with your body's natural magnesium regulation. While the body generally manages dietary magnesium effectively, large doses from supplements may lead to an imbalance, known as hypermagnesemia, especially if you have kidney issues that impede magnesium excretion.

You may be taking too much magnesium carbonate if you experience symptoms like gastrointestinal distress, including diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and nausea. More severe signs of excessive magnesium intake include muscular weakness, irregular heartbeat, and low blood pressure. Always follow recommended dosages and consult with a healthcare provider if you suspect overconsumption.

It is generally recommended to take magnesium carbonate supplements with food to improve absorption and to minimize the risk of gastrointestinal upset. Additionally, taking it with a meal can slow the release of magnesium and reduce the likelihood of a laxative effect.

Ask a question about Magnesium Carbonate and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • gastrointestinal issues
  • electrolyte imbalance
  • muscular weakness
  • respiratory problems
  • cardiovascular effects

Possible long-term side effects

  • none specified
  • see toxicity symptoms for excessive intake

Ingredients to be aware of

  • heavy metals
  • chemical contaminants
  • microbial contamination


  • muscle and nerve function
  • enzymatic reactions
  • bone health
  • electrolyte balance
  • blood pressure regulation

Healthier alternatives

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

BulkSupplements Magnesium Carbonate

  • Boosts magnesium intake
  • Supports bone health
  • Pure formulation
  • Gluten-free supplement
  • 1kg bulk powder
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Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Joey Conners
Published on: 01-17-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Joey Conners
Published on: 01-17-2024

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