Germany sets new daily limit on magnesium supplements

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

©iStock/
©iStock/
The maximum daily level for magnesium in food supplements consumed by adults should not exceed 250 milligrams (mg), German authorities say.

The decision by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) takes into account new data that found no diarrhoea cases observed with magnesium intakes of 250 mg or less per day in addition to magnesium consumed in the diet.

"Food supplements are in vogue, and many people believe that they can provide health benefits," ​said BfR president Dr Andreas Hensel.

"But the consumption of food supplements may also be associated with health risks. The best nutritional strategy is a balanced and varied diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables.

“Such a diet supplies a healthy body with all essential substances. In most cases, therefore, food supplements are superfluous." 

The BfR added that the recommended maximum intake only applied to adults and children aged four and above. A lack of data explained why levels could not be determined for those below that age.

The decision also applies to magnesium salts such as magnesium chloride, sulphate, aspartate, lactate or magnesium oxide via dietary supplements, water or fortified foods.

Additional advice suggested the maximum magnesium level be split into at least two or more doses per day, as this was said to improve tolerability.

Risk profile details

BfR’s risk profile​​ (Opinion No. No. 034/2017) calculated a ‘possible’ likelihood that the general population would be at risk of a health impairment if adults took one daily magnesium does of 360 mg of magnesium in food supplement form.

The seriousness of the health impaired in adults was classed as ‘light (reversible)’ and advised consumer avoidance.

As well as collating results of recent human studies, the BfR also took additional direction from the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) predecessor, the Scientific Committee on Food (SCF), who also identified an Upper Intake Level (UL) for magnesium of 250 mg.

A consensus as to what constitutes a safe magnesium level varies throughout Europe.

In 2001, the SCF (2001) had identified mild diarrhoea as a primary undesirable effect that occurred with excessive additional magnesium intake of approximately 360/365 mg of magnesium per day.

It was a finding shared by a panel of the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety, which in 2016, recommended a UL of 350 mg magnesium in food supplements per day in adults over 18.

Related topics: Regulation & Policy, Supplements, Minerals

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3 comments

Magnesium - one size does not fit all!

Posted by Anna Jacobs,

This is a ridiculous limit. One size does not fit all in so many parts of life. I have food intolerances which prevent me eating several foods. And I have great trouble retaining magnesium in my body. So have to take supplements much larger than that ridiculously low limit three to four times a day. If I do, I have no problems with heart flutter, restless legs, cramp. If I don't take the extra magnesium, all those problems can occur.

They'll be telling you when to breathe in and out next!

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Fake Nutritional News

Posted by Robert Redfern,

Why is it legal for an expert to make untrue statements that will put the lives and health of the population at risk?
To say you can get all of the nutrition from today's food shows the expert to be wrong and dangerous or criminal and dangerous.
Where are the truth organisations when you want them?

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Hensel's gingerbread haus

Posted by Paul Clayton,

Sad to see Dr Hensel parrot the old fairytales so unthinkingly. Of course it is vitally important to protect the good German burgers against diarrhoea, but the idea that all will be well if only those pesky kids ate their greens is monumentally stupid.

Unprecedentedly low levels of physical activity (urban, IT man) combined with an out-of-control food industry selling hyper-palatable near-addictive foods with astonishingly low nutrient density, is a fact of life. In this unhealthy context, where dysnutrition has become the leading cause of death world-wide, high nutrient density foods or supplements have become essential.

Hensel's deep ignorance of this realpolitik is shameful and dangerous.

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