Serum, plasma and dietary magnesium (Mg) have been reported to be inversely associated with cardiovascular disease risk factors. We examined the associations between the 24-h urinary Mg/creatinine (Cre) ratio and cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as body mass index (BMI), blood pressure (BP), serum total cholesterol (TC) and prevalence of obesity, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia. A cross-sectional analysis was conducted among 4211 participants (49.7% women) aged 48-56 years in 50 population samples from 22 countries in the World Health Organization-coordinated Cardiovascular Diseases and Alimentary Comparison (CARDIAC) Study (1985-1994). In linear regression analyses, Mg/Cre ratio was inversely associated with BMI, systolic BP (SBP), diastolic BP (DBP) and TC (P for linear trend <0.001 for each). These associations were not markedly altered by adjustment for traditional risk factors, urinary markers or cohort effects. Multivariate-adjusted mean values for the subjects in the highest Mg/Cre ratio quintile were 6.3, 3.4, 5.3 and 4.6% lower than those for the subjects in the lowest quintile for BMI, SBP, DBP and TC (P < 0.001, respectively). The prevalence of obesity, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia was 2.10 (95% confidence interval: 1.50, 2.95), 1.55 (1.25, 1.92) and 2.06 (1.63, 2.62) times higher (P < 0.001, respectively) among the subjects in the lowest Mg/Cre ratio quintile than in the subjects in the highest quintile. These associations were not appreciably altered by adjustment for potential confounding variables. In conclusion, higher 24-h urinary Mg/Cre ratio was associated with lower cardiovascular disease risk factors, including BMI, BP, TC, obesity, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia.