Magnesium Lowers Risk of Gallstones By 33%

Long-term effect of magnesium consumption on the risk of symptomatic gallstone disease among men (with expert commentary).

Am J Gastroenterol. 2008 Feb;103(2):375-82.

Tsai CJ, Leitzmann MF, Willett WC, Giovannucci EL.


Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition, University of Kentucky Medical Center, Lexington, KY 40536-0298, USA.



Magnesium deficiency can cause dyslipidemia and insulin hypersecretion, which may facilitate gallstone formation. However, the effect of long-term consumption of magnesium on the risk of gallstone disease is unknown.


We prospectively studied magnesium consumption and risk of gallstone disease in a cohort of 42,705 U.S. men from 1986 to 2002. Magnesium consumption was assessed using a validated semiquantitative food frequency questionnaire. Newly diagnosed gallstone disease was ascertained biennially.


We documented 2,195 incident cases of symptomatic gallstones during 560,810 person-years of follow-up. The age-adjusted relative risks (RRs) for men with total magnesium intake and dietary magnesium, when the highest and lowest quintiles were compared, were 0.67 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.59-0.77, P for trend <0.0001) and 0.67 (CI 0.59-0.76, P for trend <0.0001), respectively. After adjusting for multiple potential confounding variables, when extreme quintiles were compared, the multivariate RR of total magnesium intake (RR 0.72, CI 0.61-0.86, P for trend = 0.006) and dietary magnesium (RR 0.68, CI 0.57-0.82, P for trend = 0.0006) remained significant with a dose-response relationship.


Our findings suggest a protective role of magnesium consumption in the prevention of symptomatic gallstone disease among men.


Note: In an earlier study (see link below) magnesium showed the ability to stimulate gallbladder contractions.

Expert Commentary:

“Magnesium regulates muscle function throughout the body”, notes Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, author of The Magnesium Miracle, “and because the gallbladder is made of muscle, the mineral ensures that it activates and empties properly.”

“Magnesium modulates and controls the entry and release of calcium from the cell, which determines muscular activity.”

“Research has also indicated that social stress increases gallstone risk, which is all the more reason to make sure you are not deficient in magnesium. Magnesium has a calming effect that combats stress. Magnesium normally helps keep adrenal stress hormones under control. Prolonged psychological stress raises adrenaline, the stress hormone, which depletes magnesium.”

“Here is the mechanism:

When you are under serious physical or even emotional stress, your body might not produce sufficient stomach acid, which is required for digestion and for chemically changing minerals into an absorbable form. Minerals are usually bound to another substance to make a mineral complex; for example, magnesium bound to citric acid creates magnesium citrate, and bound to the amino acid taurine it makes magnesium taurate. When a magnesium complex hits the stomach, it needs an acidic environment to help break the two substances apart, leaving magnesium in the ionic form and ready for action in the body.”

“The elderly as well as people with arthritis, asthma, depression, diabetes, gallbladder disease, osteoporosis, or gum disease are often deficient in hydrochloric acid. All these conditions are also associated with magnesium deficiency.”

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