More Magnesium Means Less Diabetes

Published: October 5, 2012

It’s estimated that nearly 100 million Americans have either pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes — blood sugar (glucose) levels that are chronically above normal. Millions also have metabolic syndrome, a combination of health problems that can include insulin resistance (your cells do a poor job of responding to the hormone that moves glucose out of the bloodstream), high blood pressure, too much belly fat, high triglycerides, and low good HDL.

Magnesium deficiency is a major (but under-recognized) cause of insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. The reason? When diabetics spill sugar into their urine, it acts like a sponge that drags magnesium into the urine as well. This causes large magnesium losses in diabetics — aggravating many of the illnesses' complications.

Several new studies make the case even more convincing.

Four New Studies

Magnesium Helps Overweight People Who Don’t Have Diabetes

German researchers studied 52 overweight people who didn’t have diabetes, giving half of them magnesium. After six months, those taking the mineral had lower levels of fasting glucose (a measurement taken eight hours after not eating) and better insulin sensitivity. The results, wrote the researchers in the March 11, 2011 issue of Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, "emphasize the need for an early optimization of magnesium status to prevent insulin resistance and subsequently type 2 diabetes." In other words, there's no time like the present to get more magnesium, through taking a good multivitamin powder (look for one that contains 200 mg) or a sustained-release magnesium supplement (to decrease bowel-related side effects that can sometimes come with taking magnesium) — and through eating more magnesium-rich foods, such as leafy green vegetables, whole grains, and nuts.

Low Magnesium Hurts People with Type 2 Diabetes

Researchers in Brazil studied 51 people with type 2 diabetes, and measured their daily intake of magnesium and magnesium levels in blood and red blood cells. 77% of the patients had low magnesium levels. And the lower the magnesium level, the higher the glucose — both fasting glucose, and glucose two hours after eating a meal. The results were presented in the June, 2011 issue of Clinical Nutrition.

Does Metformin Work by Protecting and Increasing Magnesium?

The safest and most effective drug for controlling diabetes is metformin. In a study printed in the July, 2011 issue of Biological Trace Element Research, researchers from Rumania found that three months of therapy with metformin boosted magnesium levels in red blood cells and lowered urinary levels (showing the body was doing a better job at holding on to magnesium) The drug didn’t boost levels of other minerals. And the higher the level of magnesium, the lower the HA1c, (glycated hemoglobin), a measurement of long-term glucose levels.

Magnesium Improves Complications from Diabetes

The high glucose levels of diabetes damage the circulatory system. People with diabetes have double the rate of heart attacks and strokes. They also have more kidney disease (diabetic nephropathy). More vision problems (diabetic retinopathy). And more nerve problems (diabetic neuropathy). Researchers from India found that people with diabetes and diabetic nephropathy had magnesium levels 50% lower than people without the problem. "Hypomagnesemia (low magnesium) may be linked with development of diabetic nephropathy," they wrote in the July 2011 issue of Biological Trace Element Research.

Bottom Line

If you have diabetes, start taking magnesium now to prevent the many other health problems and complications that magnesium deficiency can lead to.


"Oral magnesium supplementation reduces insulin resistance in non-diabetic subjects - a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial." Mooren FC, Krüger K, Völker K, Golf SW, Wadepuhl M, Kraus. A. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2011 Mar;13(3):281-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1463-1326.2010.01332.x.

"Influence of magnesium status and magnesium intake on the blood glucose control in patients with type 2 diabetes." Sales CH, Pedrosa LF, Lima JG, Lemos TM, Colli C. Clin Nutr. 2011 Jun;30(3):359-64. Epub 2011 Feb 1.

"Influence of therapy with metformin on the concentration of certain divalent cations in patients with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus." Dosa MD, Hangan LT, Crauciuc E, Gales C, Nechifor M. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2011 Jul;142(1):36-46. Epub 2010 Jun 22.

"Status of copper and magnesium levels in diabetic nephropathy cases: a case-control study from South India." Prabodh S, Prakash DS, Sudhakar G, Chowdary NV, Desai V, Shekhar R. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2011 Jul;142(1):29-35. Epub 2010 Jun 16.

Jacob Teitelbaum, MD

is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of eight research studies on their effective treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. His newest book (June 10, 2024) is You Can Heal From Long COVID. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.

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