You may have heard about magnesium’s role in reducing the frequency and severity of painful muscle cramps and even in dealing with stress, anxiety and insomnia. But did you know your magnesium status is also associated with your blood sugar levels?
What is the link between magnesium and type 2 diabetes?
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body. This clearly shows that nature intends your body to have high amounts of magnesium to be healthy.
Magnesium is involved in hundreds of enzymatic reactions required for:
- Energy metabolism
- Protein and DNA synthesis
- Muscle contraction
- Ferrying and regulating calcium and potassium ions across cell membrane
- Vitamin D metabolism
- Glutathione synthesis
- Regulating the levels and function of various hormones
- Healthy nerves and muscle function
- Regulating calcium levels within cells
- Maintaining cardiovascular health – reducing the risk of arrhythmias, heart attacks and strokes
- Formation of healthy bones – reducing risk of fractures, especially in the elderly
- Healthy detoxification – removing heavy metals, chemicals and other toxins from the body
- Dealing with stress, anxiety, depression and mood disorders
A 2018 review article published in International Journal of Endocrinology states that, “Many studies have reported that reduced levels of magnesium are associated with a wide range of chronic diseases. Magnesium can play an important therapeutic and preventive role in several conditions such as diabetes, osteoporosis, bronchial asthma, preeclampsia, migraine, and cardiovascular diseases.” 
But unknown to many, you also need healthy magnesium levels to manage your blood sugar levels and reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and associated complications. Additionally, people with type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk of developing magnesium deficiency. This situation creates a vicious cycle wherein you need magnesium to regulate sugar levels and on the other hand, diabetes disturbs how your body deals with magnesium – possibly making you go short on this important mineral.
Let’s explore the connection between magnesium and type 2 diabetes.
Why diabetics have low magnesium levels?
In people with uncontrolled blood sugar levels, there is higher loss of magnesium. It is because in diabetes, the body tries to get rid of excess blood sugar through urine. In this process, magnesium is also excreted along with extra sugar – leading to low magnesium levels.
In addition, people with diabetes are on a restricted diet, especially on low carbohydrate diet, which causes magnesium deficiency – making it difficult to manage sugar levels in the blood.
There is no dearth of studies that suggest people with type 2 diabetes are more likely to be magnesium deficient than people without this health condition. This is particularly true for people who have poorly controlled blood sugar levels and those with micro and macrovascular complications. These complications develop when tissues, including large and small blood vessels, are chronically exposed to high levels of glucose in the bloodstream.
The Role of Magnesium in Type 2 Diabetes
Research reveals that magnesium deficiency may increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and diabetes complications.
Magnesium plays a central role in regulating glucose metabolism. According to NIH, “Diets with higher amounts of magnesium are associated with a significantly lower risk of diabetes, possibly because of the important role of magnesium in glucose metabolism.” This means low levels can impair how glucose is metabolized in the body, leading to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
In addition, magnesium plays an integral role in insulin secretion and its effect on cells. Magnesium helps insulin to carry glucose into the cells.
Let’s see how this works. When you eat a meal, the levels of glucose in your blood begin to rise. Your pancreas releases insulin, a hormone that moves the glucose from the bloodstream into the cells. This is achieved with the help of insulin receptors present on the surface of cells. These receptors bind to the insulin and signal the cells to take up the available glucose for metabolism and storage.
A diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates would consistently keep your blood sugar levels elevated, causing your pancreas to release excess insulin. After a while, insulin receptors on the cells stop responding to the call of insulin – leading to high blood glucose levels. How is magnesium related to this process? The mineral helps these receptors to function properly.
You need magnesium to activate an enzyme called tyrosine kinase. Now, this enzyme is responsible for regulating various cellular functions including the working of insulin receptors. In this way, magnesium plays a major role in regulating insulin mediated glucose uptake by the cells. In addition, scientists have also established that high levels of insulin cause the body to lose more magnesium through urine, reducing magnesium levels further.
In other words, low magnesium status increases the risk of insulin resistance, which is a significant risk factor for prediabetes, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
What is important to understand is that people with diabetes, insulin resistance and abnormally high sugar levels need more magnesium than other people. Firstly, magnesium helps in healthy glucose metabolism. Secondly, it improves insulin sensitivity of the cells. And another overlooked piece of information is that people with type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance lose more magnesium in their urine, which not only makes them deficient but also increase their metabolic need for more magnesium.
A 2018 study, in its abstract, reports that “patients with T2DM and hypomagnesemia enter a vicious circle in which hypomagnesemia causes insulin resistance and insulin resistance reduces serum Mg(2+) concentrations.” 
The take away?
- Magnesium helps the body break-down and use carbohydrates
- Magnesium is necessary for insulin function, so that cells can take up and use (or store) glucose
Chronically elevated sugar and insulin levels cause oxidative damage and inflammation in the tissues – leading to all kinds of complications including heart disease, chronic kidney disease and retinal damage.
Magnesium is an anti-oxidant. It helps stabilize blood sugar levels and makes your cells sensitive to insulin action. All these properties work to reduce inflammation and improve insulin resistance. In addition, magnesium also helps to reduce stress levels by regulating the levels of stress hormones, cortisol in particular. Chronic stress causes high levels of cortisol circulating in the blood, that causes weight gain and high blood sugar levels. Cortisol also makes it difficult to lose weight.
Let’s look at some scientific evidence.
A 2016 systematic review found that magnesium supplementation may be useful in metabolic disorders. It showed that magnesium supplements improved insulin sensitivity in both diabetic and non-diabetic patients. 
A 2013 research concluded that “increasing dietary magnesium to meet the RDA is associated with improving insulin resistance among non-diabetic individuals with Metabolic Syndrome. Since this population has a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, dietary behaviors that have the ability to impact insulin resistance can have far-reaching clinical implications.” 
Another 2013 study showed that increasing your intake of magnesium may even help reduce your risk of developing diabetes in people who are at a high risk. 
The Hisayama study found that increased magnesium intake protected the Japanese from the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, especially among individuals with insulin resistance, low‐grade inflammation and a drinking habit. 
A 2017 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that magnesium supplementation could be a useful strategy to reduce blood pressure in people “with insulin resistance, prediabetes, or other noncommunicable chronic disease” 
A separate 2017 study found that magnesium levels were low in type 2 diabetic patients who were treated with metformin – the most commonly used drug to treat type 2 diabetes. Metformin reduces magnesium levels and promote magnesium excretion through kidneys. The study concluded that magnesium supplements could be useful for patients on metformin as low levels are associated with insulin resistance, inflammation and increased risk for cardiovascular disease. 
There is a lot of emerging data that supports the use of magnesium:
- Improving metabolic health in people with pre-diabetes, obesity and mild-to-moderate chronic kidney disease. 
- Improving metabolic syndrome by reducing blood pressure, high blood sugar levels and high levels of triglycerides in the blood. 
- Reducing blood glucose levels and improving the glycaemic status of people with prediabetes and low magnesium. 
Persistently high levels of sugar in the blood increase your risk of cardiovascular complications.
A 2018 analysis found that higher magnesium concentration in the blood reduces the risk of coronary heart disease in patients with type 2 diabetes. 
A 2017 meta-analysis suggested that magnesium levels are inversely associated with the risk of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes mellitus. In addition, the study also discussed the possibility that healthy magnesium intake could be even more important in diabetics than in those without this condition in order to maintain healthy levels as well as to prevent complications typically associated with diabetes. 
Magnesium deficiency is an independent risk factor in heart disease.  Studies show that low magnesium levels increase your risk of cardiac arrhythmias, angina pain, heart failure, coronary heart disease and ischemic heart disease.
Magnesium protects and maintains your heart heath through various means. For example, it:
- Prevents calcium build-up in the arteries – lowering your risk of atherosclerosis, angina, abnormal contraction of heart muscle, heart attack and stroke
- Reduces inflammation
- Improves endothelial function and lowers blood pressure 
- Reduces your risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
Magnesium levels in obese children
Is a lack of magnesium related to type 2 diabetes in obese children?
There is no denying that childhood obesity is on the rise. It is clearly one of the most upsetting challenges we are facing in modern society. Sedentary lifestyle (too much screen time and inadequate exercise) and unhealthy diet patterns (eating a lot of processed foods with added sugars, refined carbs and harmful additivities) are doing a lot of damage to your child’s health, especially in terms of unhealthy weight gain and metabolic disorders.
Overweight kids are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and heart disease when they grow up, not to mention their struggle with low self-esteem, bullying and poor academic performance.
Studies show that obese children have low magnesium levels as compared to children who have normal body weight. Researchers in this study speculate that increased weight makes obese children magnesium deficient, which causes insulin resistance. This leads to type 2 diabetes and increased risk of heart disease later in adult life. 
There are lot of factors that drive the risk for type 2 diabetes. Obesity, lack of exercise, processed foods and sugar-loaded beverages and foods are among the most common and preventable risk factors. Magnesium deficiency is another important yet unrecognized risk component.
You can include foods that are rich in magnesium. But that alone can’t reverse your magnesium deficiency, especially if your stress levels are high or you are struggling with a chronic health condition or an infection. Stress, disease, exposure to environmental toxins, excessive alcohol consumption, overuse of vitamin D supplements and conditions like Chron’s and Celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome and heart disease can make you to lose magnesium fast.
Taking a high-quality liposomal magnesium supplement can benefit you metabolic and overall health in a lot of ways. Liposomal supplements have an edge over other forms of magnesium supplements as they are better absorbed. This technology improves the bio-availability of a nutrient, which means your cells now have more access to magnesium versus when you use other kinds of supplements which are typically wasted during the digestion process.
- Alawi et al. Magnesium and Human Health: Perspectives and Research Directions. International Journal of Endocrinology. 2018
- Gommers et al. Hypomagnesemia in Type 2 Diabetes: A Vicious Circle? Diabetes. 2016
- LE Simental-Mendía et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials on the effects of magnesium supplementation on insulin sensitivity and glucose control. Pharmacological Research. 2016
- Wang et al. Dietary Magnesium Intake Improves Insulin Resistance among Non-Diabetic Individuals with Metabolic Syndrome Participating in a Dietary Trial. Nutrients 2013
- Hruby et al. Higher magnesium intake reduces risk of impaired glucose and insulin metabolism, and progression from prediabetes to diabetes in middle-aged Americans. Diabetes Care 2013
- Hata et al. Magnesium intake decreases Type 2 diabetes risk through the improvement of insulin resistance and inflammation: the Hisayama Study. Diabetic Medicine. 2013.
- Dibaba et al. The effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure in individuals with insulin resistance, prediabetes, or noncommunicable chronic diseases: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2017.
- A Wåhlén et al. Do we need to measure vitamin B12 and magnesium in morbidly obese patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus? Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2017
- Toprak et al. Magnesium Replacement Improves the Metabolic Profile in Obese and Pre-Diabetic Patients with Mild-to-Moderate Chronic Kidney Disease: A 3-Month, Randomised, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Kidney Blood Press Res. 2017
- Rodríguez-Morán et al. Oral Magnesium Supplementation and Metabolic Syndrome: A Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Adv Chronic Kidney Dis. 2018
- Guerrero-Romero et al. Oral magnesium supplementation improves glycaemic status in subjects with prediabetes and hypomagnesaemia: A double-blind placebo-controlled randomized trial. Diabetes Metab. 2015
- Xun et al. Association between circulating magnesium levels and risk of coronary heart diseases, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes mellitus: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. The FASEB Journal. 2017.
- Gant et al. Higher Dietary Magnesium Intake and Higher Magnesium Status Are Associated with Lower Prevalence of Coronary Heart Disease in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes. Nutrients 2018.
- DiNicolantonio et al. Subclinical magnesium deficiency: a principal driver of cardiovascular disease and a public health crisis. Open Heart. 2018
- Romani AMP. Beneficial Role of Mg2+ in Prevention and Treatment of Hypertension. Int J Hypertens. 2018
- Rosique-Esteban et al. Dietary Magnesium and Cardiovascular Disease: A Review with Emphasis in Epidemiological Studies. Nutrients. 2018
- Hassan et al. Comparison of Serum Magnesium Levels in Overweight and Obese Children and Normal Weight Children. Cureus. 2017