Magnesium is one of those ‘magic minerals’ that people talk about. Why? Because it is very valuable to the body. Like calcium, magnesium is one of those cannot-live-without nutrients. It is used in thousands of enzymatic processes, and utilized by the central nervous system in order to conduct nerve impulses.
This latter point is why magnesium is often recommended to calm the nerves.
But research is also finding that magnesium is critical to glucose metabolism. This reality was determined by a study from Bangledesh’s Mymensingh Medical College. In this study, the researchers tested 50 diabetics along with 50 matched control subjects. The testing found that while 44 percent of the diabetic patients had low levels of magnesium in the blood, only 6 percent of the healthy patients had low magnesium levels.
This finding is confirmed by Canadian medical researchers who discovered that higher intake of dietary magnesium is linked with lower rates of insulin resistance and lower levels of body fat among adults. A previous study resulted in a similar finding among children.
The researchers, from the Medical School of Newfoundland’s Memorial University, recruited 2,295 adults – men and women. They measured their relative dietary magnesium intake with using the Willett Food Frequency Questionnaire. They also tested the subjects’ circulating insulin levels, fat percentage, level of obesity and other factors. They adjusted the insulin resistance results for the subjects’ intake of calories, exercise, medications and hormone status.
The results found that those adults who had the highest levels of magnesium in their diets also had the lowest levels of circulating insulin.
Higher levels of circulating insulin is a symptom of insulin resistance, because in a healthy person, most insulin becomes attached to receptors on the cell membranes. When there is more circulating insulin, less is being attached to the receptors. Less attachment to insulin receptors is medically described as insulin resistance.
When attached to receptors, insulin escorts glucose through the cell membrane, allowing utilization of that glucose by the cell for energy. In type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance results in higher levels of unused glucose circulating in the bloodstream. This greater level of free glucose can damage blood vessels. This is why insulin resistance has been linked with greater risk of cardiovascular disease.
The researchers also found that those with greater magnesium in their diets also had lower levels of obesity. They found an inverse relationship between body fat percentage and magnesium intake – meaning that as magnesium went up, body fat levels went down.
When glucose is not taken up by cells for use as energy, it can combine with lipids and be taken into fat cells.
The conclusion was clear to the researchers:
“The results of this study indicate that higher dietary magnesium intake is strongly associated with the attenuation of insulin resistance and is more beneficial for overweight and obese individuals in the general population and pre-menopausal women. Moreover, the inverse correlation between insulin resistance and dietary magnesium intake is stronger when adjusting for percentage body fat than BMI.”
This relationship was also found among children. An Italian study published in 2007 from the University of Turin’s Medical College found among 58 children that lower dietary magnesium intake resulted in higher fasting glucose, higher levels of circulating insulin and greater levels of insulin resistance.
This may seem obvious. Yet still, when many read these kind of clinical results they immediately think of the supplemented version, because this is how modern nutrition has us wired.
And when most people think of magnesium, they think of supplements. Supplements might be a very easy source of many nutrients. The problem is, these also may not be combined with the substrates that are found in nature. As a result, the nutrient may be rejected or marked by the immune system within the gut and thus not absorbed.
This is often the case with minerals because minerals are typically bound to other nutrients, and as they are digested they are prepared to bind within our cells and tissues in order to become useful.
Good sources of dietary magnesium include mineral water, spinach, wheat bran, almonds, cashews and other nuts, wheat germ, potatoes, rice, lentils, pinto beans, blackeye peas, banana, yogurt, raisins and avocado.
Other benefits of Magnesium:
Azad KM, Sutradhar SR, Khan NA, Haque MF, Sumon SM, Barman TK, Islam MZ, Haque MR, Pandit H, Ahmed S. Serum magnesium in hospital admitted diabetic patients. Mymensingh Med J. 2014 Jan;23(1):28-34.
Cahill F, Shahidi M, Shea J, Wadden D, Gulliver W, Randell E, Vasdev S, Sun G. High dietary magnesium intake is associated with low insulin resistance in the newfoundland population. PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e58278.
Bo S, Bertino E, Trapani A, Bagna R, De Michieli F, Gambino R, Ghione F, Fabris C, Pagano GF. Magnesium intake, glucose and insulin serum levels in pre-school very-low-birth weight pre-term children. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2007 Dec;17(10):741-7.
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