Eat Well to Be Well: How magnesium may help minimize your risk of diabetes

Magnesium, the fourth most abundant mineral in our body, may not be the most talked about nutrient, but don’t let its humbleness fool you. Decades of research have demonstrated the mighty power this major mineral plays in keeping us healthy and the active and mandatory role it has in over 300 biochemical reactions. In addition, magnesium may hold a valuable key to lessen the risk of diabetes.

Recent studies suggest that sufficient dietary magnesium may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Nearly 10 percent of the entire U.S. population has diabetes (both type 1 and 2), including over 25 percent of seniors, at a cost of $245 billion per year. The complications of diabetes include increased risk of heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, neuropathy and amputations. Maintaining blood glucose control is vital to avoiding these complications and ideally in preventing diabetes to begin with. This is where the magic of magnesium plays a significant role.

To help understand why magnesium may possibly help to reduce type 2 diabetes, let’s review a couple of evidence-based scientific studies that have been conducted in recent years. One study was by Tufts University demonstrating that healthy people with the highest intake of magnesium were 37 percent less likely to develop high blood sugar or glucose which leads to diabetes. Also, people who had pre-diabetes, were 32 percent less likely to develop diabetes if they consumed adequate magnesium. The journal Diabetes Care published the study that followed 2,582 participants in the Framingham Heart Study Offspring cohort for seven years. A second study was of a meta-analysis of 13 prospective cohort studies that looked at more than 500,000 participants, and also found an association between increased dietary magnesium and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.

So, how does the average person decipher this information? First, the studies did emphasize that eating foods rich in magnesium generally is associated with people who most likely are already consuming healthy foods and following an overall healthy lifestyle. However, magnesium still has a connection to helping reduce diabetes due to its relationship with insulin. Magnesium and insulin work together to control blood glucose levels. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas that is necessary for our cells to be able to take glucose out of the bloodstream, so our blood glucose doesn’t become too high, which can do a lot of internal damage to our bodies. Without sufficient magnesium, insulin won’t be able to function properly. When insulin can’t do its job, our cells become resistant to taking in glucose, and then our blood glucose levels rise, leading to diabetes.

Only about half of Americans consume the recommended daily amount of magnesium through their food. A lot of us need to do a better job of eating foods rich in this mineral! The recommended dietary allowance each day for magnesium is 400 to 420 milligrams for adult men and 310 to 320 milligrams for adult women.

Some foods rich in magnesium to include in daily food choices

Food Amount MG of Magnesium
Raw Spinach 1 cup 24 mg
Soy Milk 1 cup 46 mg
Black Beans ½ cup 60 mg
Banana 1 medium 32 mg
Almonds 1 ounce 77 mg
Yogurt, plain 1 cup 43 mg
Brown Rice 1 cup 86 mg
Dark Chocolate 1 ounce 43 mg

Source: Dietary Reference Intakes

What about a magnesium supplement? Should you simply take a supplement to get in the required daily amount of magnesium your body needs? The answer to this is to always consult with your physician to get a professional opinion. If you take in too much of any nutrient, it can begin to act more like a drug, possibly harming you, and that is a risk you don’t want to take.

Obtaining magnesium from your daily food intake is the best option. At each meal, choose magnesium rich foods such as whole grains, fish, nuts, legumes, green leafy vegetables, yogurt and soy milk. Keep in mind that weight control and regular exercise can also be beneficial to reducing your risk of developing diabetes.

In the meantime, allow magnesium to work its magic in you!

Sources: Tufts Nutrition Magazine, American Diabetes Association, Michigan State University Extension and the National Institutes of Health.


Cheryl_Mussatto_pictureCheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian who works as an adjunct professor at Allen Community College, where she teaches a course called Basic Nutrition. She is also a certified health and wellness coach. She writes Eat Well to Be Well, a column about health and nutrition, and may be contacted at [email protected].


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