The variability of magnesium and zinc concentrations in plasma and erythrocytes was investigated by twin and family studies. Twins were sampled in two distinct ways and in two different West-European regions. In one of the samples, a distinction was made between twins living together and twins living apart. Two series of families were studied, one in a homogeneous environment, the other in a more diverse environment. Samples were compared by variance analysis. The results show 1) that genetic variability is significant for red blood cell (RBC) magnesium and zinc, minor for plasma magnesium and absent for plasma zinc; 2) that the family environment affects the extent of resemblance between twins and between siblings more for plasma levels than for RBC levels of magnesium and zinc. Furthermore, the intercorrelation analysis suggests that the genetic regulation systems of RBC magnesium and zinc are different, whereas some of the environmental regulation systems of plasma magnesium and zinc are the same. Biological interpretations are brought forward and discussed.