Résumé : Based on dietary intake recommendations, magnesium deficiency commonly occurs throughout the world. However, widespread pathological conditions induced by dietary magnesium deficiency have not been identified. This discrepancy may be caused by other dietary factors ameliorating or exacerbating the response to a marginal magnesium deficiency and/or the length of the deficiency. Thus, a study was performed to determine whether the n-6/n-3 fatty acid composition of the diet affects the response to marginal magnesium deprivation, and whether the effect was dependent upon the length of deprivation. Weanling female rats were fed diets containing 250 mg/kg magnesium in a factorial arrangement with dietary variables of supplemental magnesium at 0 or 250 mg/kg (total of 250 or 500 mg/kg) and fat sources of 75 g/kg corn oil or 65 g/kg fish (menhaden) oil plus 10 g/kg linoleic acid. After 8 and 12 weeks on their respective diets, each rat was placed in a metabolic cage for a 16-hour collection of urine. After 13 weeks, the rats were anesthetized with ether for the collection of plasma and organs. Marginal magnesium deficiency was confirmed by decreased urinary excretion and femur, tibia and vertebrae concentrations of magnesium. Dietary oil influenced the effect of marginal magnesium deficiency on magnesium metabolism, distribution and oxidative stress indicators. Fish oil, but not corn oil, significantly decreased urinary magnesium excretion and increased kidney magnesium concentration. Femur magnesium was significantly decreased by marginal magnesium deficiency in rats fed fish oil but not in rats fed corn oil, and liver magnesium concentration was decreased by fish oil. Marginal magnesium deficiency increased plasma extracellular superoxide dismutase and cysteine (component of glutathione) in rats fed corn oil but not in rats fed fish oil. Urinary prostaglandin E
2 excretion was significantly decreased by marginal magnesium deficiency at 8 weeks, but not at 12 weeks; an increase between weeks 8 and 12 in marginally magnesium-deficient rats fed fish oil caused this change in significance. The findings show that the dietary fatty acid composition affects the response of rats to marginal magnesium deprivation. The findings also indicate that dietary or physiological factors affecting oxidative stress could affect the response to marginal magnesium deficiency, and that a response to a dietary change that takes time to develop, such as an increase in dietary n-3 fatty acids, may result in signs of marginal deficiency being different over time.