The Magnesium-Diabetes Connection

The Magnesium-Diabetes Connection

Magnesium is one of the most important of all micronutrients. It is required by more than 300 enzymes and may play a role in regulating nearly 4,000 genes! Consequently, it should come as no surprise that magnesium is essential in normalizing insulin response and regulating blood glucose

Research on magnesium and insulin sensitivity

Several studies point to magnesium’s efficacy:

  • A 2013 study established a strong positive correlation between low dietary magnesium and prevalence of pre-diabetes. Conversely, those with the highest magnesium intakes were very unlikely to have metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, or pre-diabetes.
  • A 2006 study established that increasing dietary magnesium improved insulin sensitivity.
  • A 2013 study from Japan found magnesium reduced inflammation and insulin resistance and offered protection against type 2 diabetes.
  • A 2013 ADA study found that magnesium, by improving glucose metabolism, slowed the progression from pre-diabetes to type 2 diabetes.

Is magnesium deficiency common?

Some studies estimate that up to 80 percent of all Americans are magnesium deficient! Magnesium regulates expression of enzymes that affect the functioning of insulin receptors and control glucose homeostasis. When magnesium is low, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome easily gain a foothold. Insulin resistance increases magnesium excretion, further exacerbating the problem — a vicious cycle!

Furthermore, a variety of factors negatively impact magnesium stores in your bones and soft tissues:

  • Untreated diabetes
  • Poor digestive health
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Frequent use of antibiotics
  • Kidney disease

In addition, you are more likely to be magnesium-deficient if you are older; absorption of this essential micronutrient decreases as we age (and excretion may increase). If you are older and very active, you may need as much as 3.0-3.5 mg per pound of bodyweight. Aiming for these levels may make the difference between acquiring and avoiding type 2 diabetes.

How can I get enough magnesium in my diet?


Getting your magnesium from whole foods is better than getting most of it from supplements; however, it is always a worse choice to eschew supplements entirely when they are needed and consequently risk diabetes! Dried pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds are exceptionally rich in magnesium. Dark green veggies, especially spinach and Swiss chard, are, on the other hand, exceptional sources of magnesium that add very little calorically to the diet. Black beans are magnesium-rich, but also calorically dense.

If all else fails, then you may need to supplement some of your magnesium needs. However, not all magnesium supplements are created equal. Magnesium glycinate is currently the gold standard for those wishing to supplement for maximum protection from diabetes.

Magnesium threonate is also an excellent choice, but it is also more expensive. Magnesium citrate is well absorbed, but it is also mildly laxative, so you must ask how much you need and take that into consideration. Your best bet is to get most of your magnesium from beans and greens because they also contain phytonutrients that independently diminish diabetes risk. They are also low glycemic load foods with abundant fiber, and beans have resistant starch, which has further benefits.

Get started on the road to better health today, and that road is paved with magnesium. The next step is yours.