There is more understood today about the relationship between magnesium and diabetes than ever before – and it is leading healthcare professionals to concur: if you are at risk for diabetes, magnesium is absolutely essential for prevention.

Magnesium deficiencies have been observed both inside the cell and outside the cell in pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes, stable diabetes and chronic diabetes (type 1). Prolonged magnesium deficiency is also directly related to increased incidences of heart disease typically associated with poorly managed diabetes.

Understanding Insulin Resistance

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas to carry the blood sugar (glucose) to our cells for energy production. Insulin resistance or insulin sensitivity refers to the challenge the pancreas is having in producing enough insulin to process the glucose in the blood. The more difficulty the cells have metabolizing glucose, the more insulin the pancreas wants to produce.

The metabolic process of people with diabetes is no different than the metabolisms of people without diabetes. The only difference is in the volume of insulin produced, or the body’s ability to utilize the insulin that is produced.

When there is too much glucose in the blood, two problems result. 1) The pancreas will try to keep up by producing more and more insulin, and 2) excess glucose will be turned into saturated fat. It can become a vicious cycle of producing more and more insulin, while the tired cells are less and less able to use this excess insulin

Eventually, the body becomes somewhat immune to the insulin, and it is no longer able to metabolize the glucose at all. But all the non-functioning insulin in the blood – known as hyperinsulinemia – is linked to damaged blood cells, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and even osteoporosis.

Magnesium, Insulin and Diabetes

A characteristic of insulin resistance – where the body needs to produce higher volumes of insulin – is that little to no magnesium is found in the centre of the blood cells. This is referred to as intracellular magnesium.

We know there is a direct correlation between magnesium and insulin. Magnesium is the one mineral that ‘twins’ with almost every other nutrient in one metabolic process or another, and the hormone insulin is no different.

Insulin plays a role in moving magnesium across the cell wall – inside and outside the cell. When found

When found inside the cell, magnesium contributes to improving “insulin-mediated glucose uptake” which is a fancy way of saying magnesium helps insulin do its’ job. Conversely, the absence of intracellular magnesium impairs insulin action and exacerbates insulin resistance.

Clinical Implications of Low Magnesium Levels

  • Insulin resistance is known to be directly related to magnesium deficiency
  • Loss of magnesium increases in periods of high levels of blood glucose
  • Diabetes-related diseases such as atherosclerosis (narrowed heart vessels that inhibit blood flow, usually as a result of high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol) and retinopathy (damage to the blood vessels of the eye) have an increased likelihood of progression when there are low levels of intracellular magnesium

How Magnesium Supplementation Helps

  • Corrects the deficit in intracellular magnesium levels
  • Decreases platelet reactivity
  • Improves insulin sensitivity
  • Has a role in the release and activity of insulin transport in the blood
  • May protect against diabetes and its complications
  • Plays a role in carbohydrate metabolism

Individuals with poorly-controlled diabetes may benefit from magnesium supplements because of increased magnesium loss in urine associated with hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)