Can magnesium help with diabetes?

Magnesium may influence the release and control of insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. People with type 2 diabetes (the most common form of the disease) have high blood sugar levels because their bodies have become resistant to insulin or are not producing enough insulin. They also frequently have low magnesium levels. In the Nurses' Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study, researchers found a higher incidence of type 2 diabetes among men and women with low magnesium intakes. The Iowa Women's Health Study, which followed a group of older women for several decades, showed that women who ate more whole grains, dietary fiber and magnesium were less likely to develop diabetes.

However, small randomized trials of magnesium supplementation have yielded conflicting results. One, which tested high-dose (300 mg) liquid magnesium supplements in people with diabetes and low magnesium levels, suggested the mineral helps improve blood sugar control. But another, which tested even higher doses (600 mg), showed no such benefit.

Constance Brown-Riggs
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Research suggests that if you have a magnesium deficiency, your body may be less sensitive to insulin. This has led to the use of magnesium supplements for type 2 diabetes.

So, does it work? There are some benefits when used orally and in appropriate amounts (400 mg daily). Magnesium is found naturally in whole grains, green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish, milk and baked potato with the skin.

Large amounts of magnesium can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Extreme amounts of magnesium can be fatal. Symptoms include low blood pressure, muscle weakness, slowed breathing, coma and heart failure.

If you’re thinking about taking magnesium make sure to discuss using it with your health care provider. Magnesium can interact with some antibiotics and water pills.

Some studies suggest that a magnesium deficiency can have a negative effect on blood sugar. The risk for type 2 diabetes may reduce in both young adults and adults if there is enough magnesium in your diet. Magnesium can be found in grains and leafy vegetables. It is thought that magnesium acts by decreasing insulin resistance and inflammation, thereby improving blood glucose levels. Magnesium is an important ion for all living cells in the human body.

Although more research is needed before recommending daily magnesium supplementation, making magnesium-rich foods part and parcel of your eating plan is a great idea. How can you bump up your intake by 100 mg? Easy. Check off one of the combos on this list today and you're there:

  • An ounce of peanuts, a half cup of raisins, and an ounce of sunflower seeds
  • Three-quarters cup of cooked spinach sprinkled with toasted pine nuts
  • One and a half cups of oatmeal with a quarter cup of chopped dates
  • A half cup of lima beans and a half cup of navy beans
  • A turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread
  • Ten ounces of yogurt with a cup of fresh blueberries and a cup of OJ
  • A cup of brown rice with two chopped figs
  • A cup of Cheerios with a cup of low-fat milk and a banana

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.