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Magnesium Deficiency Increases Insulin Resistance

Magnesium is a mineral involved in over 300 metabolic processes in the body.

Most Americans do not obtain enough magnesium from dietary sources,1 which may contribute to a variety of chronic diseases.2-4

There is a lack of involvement from the medical community in recommending magnesium. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concluded that:

“…results of this study indicate that a significant number of patients with serum magnesium abnormalities are clinically unrecognized and demonstrate the efficacy of routine serum magnesium measurements.”5

A deficit of magnesium can lead to migraines, bone loss, stroke, heart disease, and many other illnesses.

What has excited researchers is the role that magnesium can play to decrease the risk factors for type II diabetes.

The Harm of Intensive Farming Practices

The Green Revolution occurred between the 1940s and 1960s and marked one of the largest increases of food production in history.15,16

An American biologist named Norman Borlaug pioneered the farming technologies in this era. He received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for saving over a billion people from starvation.17

While fertilization techniques developed as part of the green revolution have increased the production of food exponentially, one result has been a reduction in the amounts of minerals and vitamins in our food.18 The result? More food, less nutrients.

Since the revolution, magnesium levels in grains have declined by an average of 19.6%. This is a concern in regions where up to 75% of the daily magnesium intake is from grains.18

Researchers see a correlation between nutrient shortages and the use of commercial fertilizers containing nitrogenphosphorus, and potassium.18 Plants require these elements to live, but some of these ingredients also compete with magnesium for absorption. Research suggests that the use of these types of fertilizers is creating unbalanced nutrition in our commercially available vegetables.

Magnesium is required for plant function. For example, it is essential for the production of chlorophyll, a green pigment responsible for photosynthesis. In some plants, magnesium activates enzymes involved in the production of glutathione,18 a free-radical scavenger that has been shown to play a role in multiple cellular events, including gene expression and immune response.19



·      Many Americans do not obtain enough magnesium from dietary sources.

·      Industrial farming practices contribute to the problem, as they slowly deplete the soil of critical nutrients like magnesium.

·      Magnesium deficits are seen in many diseases that affect the aging population.

·      Recent findings show the importance of magnesium supplementation in improving glucose levels and insulin sensitivity.

Wide-Ranging Benefits of Magnesium

All the cells in our body depend on magnesium to function. It is one of the many substances necessary to produce ATP (energy currency of the cell) and is a necessary cofactor for many key enzymes necessary for physical functioning.18,20,21 It is for these many reasons that magnesium plays such a key role in keeping all systems of our body functioning optimally.

Researchers often conduct a meta-analysis that combines many studies to reveal common findings. This enables an assessment of the impact that specific research may have on disease.

A recent meta-analysis of over one million participants from 40 studies found that magnesium intake reduced the risk of stroke, heart failure, type II diabetes, and all-cause mortality.22 The following numbers show impressive reductions per 100 mg/day increments in magnesium intake by patients:

·      7% reduced risk of stroke

·      22% reduced risk of heart failure

·      19% reduced risk of type II diabetes

·      10% reduced risk in all-cause mortality

The benefits of magnesium go even further, and new research has confirmed previous findings of its role on adequate glucose utilization and insulin signaling.

Trials on Magnesium for Glucose Improvement

Some of the most concrete research on magnesium has shown how it manages insulin resistance, a major cause of type II diabetes.23 It is important to understand what occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin.

Blood levels of glucose rise after a meal is consumed. Insulin is necessary to move the glucose from the blood and transport it inside the cells.

When glucose is consistently elevated it causes excess insulin secretion. Chronically elevated insulin causes insulin receptors on our cells to eventually stop responding to insulin after having too much of it.

Despite the pancreas secreting more and more insulin, the insulin receptors in our cells do not respond. The result is an increase in blood glucose levels that can lead to diabetes and its related diseases.

Scientists have discovered very specific details of magnesium’s relationship to diabetes. Their research has revealed that insulin receptors depend on magnesium to function properly and respond to insulin. In addition, they have discovered that high levels of insulin also cause an increase in the amount of urinary magnesium excreted from the kidneys, thereby reducing the body’s levels of this important mineral.24

This research highlights the severity of magnesium deficiency on the increased dangers of insulin resistance. What happens is a vicious cycle that reinforces this diabetic condition, in which lack of magnesium causes insulin resistance and excessive insulin reduces the levels of magnesium in the body.

2015 study published in the journal Diabetes Metabolism evaluated the efficacy of a daily dose of 382 mg of magnesium on 116 individuals aged 30 to 65 with prediabetes and low magnesium, taken for a period of four months.25

At the end of the trial, significant changes compared to placebo were seen. The researchers found an 11.6%reduction in fasting glucose, a 8.8% decrease in post-meal glucose, a 30.5% decrease in insulin resistance scores, and a 26.7% decrease in triglycerides. This led authors to conclude that:

“…magnesium supplementation reduces plasma glucose levels, and improves the glycemic status of adults with prediabetes and hypomagnesaemia [low magnesium].”25

Magnesium Reduces Pancreatic Cancer Formation

It is known that insulin resistance is associated with a higher risk of pancreatic cancer. In an estimated 80% of cases, those with pancreatic cancer have diabetes or some form of glucose intolerance when they are diagnosed.26,27

Another statistic reveals that when type II diabetes is first diagnosed there is a four- to seven-fold increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer within three years.28

The relationship between diabetes and pancreatic cancer is not always the first thought in doctors’ minds when someone presents with prediabetes or diabetes. Medical management of diabetes should not just focus on current glucose levels but preventing the occurrence of pancreatic cancer over the long term.

The British Journal of Cancer published a revealing study evaluating magnesium’s role in pancreatic cancer. The researchers followed over 66,000 men and women aged 50 to 76 over a course of eight years. During that time, 151 participants developed pancreatic cancer.29

The results of the study revealed that for every 100 mg drop per day in magnesium consumption, the risk of developing pancreatic cancer increased by 24%.

In addition, the researchers calculated the risks of developing pancreatic cancer for those whose intake of magnesium were suboptimal according to the government’s recommended daily allowance (420 mg a day for males and 320 mga day for females).

If intake of magnesium was suboptimal, which is determined as 75%99% of the government’s recommended daily allowance (RDA), then the risk of developing pancreatic cancer was 42% higher compared to intake that was equal to or greater than the RDA. For those who had an intake of less than 75% of the government’s RDA there was a 76%higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer compared to intake that is equal to or greater than the optimal intake.

What this tells us is that the medical community should embrace and utilize the latest research into magnesium’s multiple benefits. This would go a long way to reduce the epidemic of diseases resulting from magnesium deficiency.


Research supporting magnesium’s role in reducing diabetic risk and its associated diseases is robust.

Many Americans do not obtain enough magnesium from dietary sources.1

Intensive farming practices have led to a soil deficiency of magnesium. The decreased mineral content in the soil makes it challenging to obtain optimal levels from food sources alone.

If current trends continue, 33% of adults in the US will have type II diabetes by the year 2050.30

Magnesium supplementation represents a low- cost method to insure against deficiency of this vital mineral.


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