I remain open minded on a lot of things to do with diabetes and alternative medicine. I feel it is not my role as a health care professional to judge those for the choices that they make in regards to their health, my role is to inform them. I have met people with diabetes who firmly believed they would heal it through power of prayer, others take buckets and buckets of supplements which in my opinion, is just expensive urine. But there is one little mineral that tends to go under the radar alot when it comes to diabetes and that is magnesium.

Certain medical conditions, however, can upset the body’s magnesium balance. For example, an intestinal virus that causes vomiting or diarrhea can cause temporary magnesium deficiencies. Some gastrointestinal diseases (such as irritable bowel syndrome or IBS and ulcerative colitis), diabetes, pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism (high thyroid hormone levels), kidney disease, and taking diuretics can lead to deficiencies. Too much coffee, soda, salt, or alcohol, as well as heavy menstrual periods, excessive sweating, and prolonged stress can also lower magnesium levels

The Role of Magnesium in Diabetes

There is a growing body of scientific evidence to suggest that magnesium deficiency occurs in people with diabetes and warrants further investigation from the health care professionals looking after them [1]. Magnesium plays a very significant role in the glucose transporting mechanism of the cell membrane and carbohydrate oxidation, as well as insulin secretion,binding and activity [2]. It has a significant influence on the late onset of diabetes complications and cardiovascular disorders as elevated blood glucose levels increase the loss of magnesium in the urine, which in turn lowers blood levels of magnesium [3]. 

Diabetes mellitus has been suggested to be the most common metabolic disorder associated with magnesium deficiency, having 25 to 39% prevalence [2]. It shown to be a significant factor in insulin resistance and poor metabolic control [4]. Retinopathy and renal disease have also been strongly associated with magnesium deficiency [5].

The Evidence: Science & Anecdotal

A randomised double blind controlled trial showed that oral supplementation of magnesium in people with Type 2 Diabetes did improve their insulin sensitivity and metabolic control [6]. There appears to be much more research available in regards to Type 2 Diabetes than Type 1, but studies do show that Magnesium deficiency does occur in Type 1 Diabetes [7].

Clients who I have suspected magnesium deficiency in, I have advised them to have blood tests done and mostly I have been proven right. A dose of 250-400 mg magnesium supplement taken at night usually has been enough to see an improvement in blood glucose levels and hence HbA1c levels.

To Supplement or Not to Supplement

Some of the signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency may include agitation and anxiety, restless leg syndrome (RLS), sleep disorders, irritability, nausea and vomiting, abnormal heart rhythms, low blood pressure, confusion, muscle spasm and weakness, hyperventilation, insomnia, poor nail growth, and even seizures. Involuntary eye twitching and craving for chocolate can be other signs. 

Being sensible the first piece of advice I would give anyone is check with your doctor first. Anyone with any of the following: renal/kidney issues, thyroid problems, vitamin D deficiency, bone absorption diseases &/or on calcium supplementation, taking diuretics may expect some issues with magnesium deficiency. A blood test at your GP’s can determine this on request if you are in anyway concerned. 

The type of magnesium to take is important as there are several types and it is vital that you clarify with your prescribing doctor before taking any supplement to ensure it does interact with any of the current medications you are taking. It is a good idea to take a B vitamin complex with magnesium, or a multivitamin containing B vitamins, because the level of vitamin B6 in the body determines how much magnesium will be absorbed into the cells. Again your doctor can advise on this. 

Dietary Sources

If you are eating a healthy, balanced diet then you should not have to worry about magnesium deficiency. Rich sources of magnesium include tofu, legumes, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, wheat bran, Brazil nuts, soybean flour, almonds, cashews, blackstrap molasses, pumpkin and squash seeds, pine nuts, and black walnuts. Other good dietary sources of this mineral include peanuts, whole wheat flour, oat flour, beet greens, spinach, pistachio nuts, shredded wheat, bran cereals, oatmeal, bananas, and baked potatoes (with skin), chocolate, and cocoa powder. Many herbs, spices, and seaweeds supply magnesium, such as agar seaweed, coriander, dill weed, celery seed, sage, dried mustard, basil, cocoa powder, fennel seed, savory, cumin seed, tarragon, marjoram, poppy seed

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[1] Rude, R. K. “Magnesium deficiency and diabetes mellitus. Causes and effects.”Postgraduate medicine 92.5 (1992): 217-9.

[2] Hans, Chetan P., R. Sialy, and Devi D. Bansal. “Magnesium deficiency and diabetes mellitus.” CURRENT SCIENCE-BANGALORE- 83.12 (2002): 1456-1463.

[3] Lefebvre PJ, Paolisso G, Scheen AJ: Magnesium and glucose metabolism.Therapie 49:1–7, 1994

[4] Paolisso G, Barbagallo M: Hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and insulin resistance: the role of intracellular magnesium. Am J Hypertens 10:346–355, 1997

[5] von Ehrlich, B., et al. “The Significance of Magnesium in Insulin Resistance, Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes–Recommendations of the Association of Magnesium Research e. V.” Diabetologie und Stoffwechsel 9.02 (2014): 96-100.

[6] RODRiguez-MORan, M. A. R. T. H. A., and Fernando Guerrero-Romero. “Oral Magnesium Supplementation Improves Insulin Sensitivity and Metabolic Control in Type 2 Diabetic Subjects A randomized double-blind controlled trial.”Diabetes Care 26.4 (2003): 1147-1152.

[7] Sjögren, Anders, Claes-Henrik Florén, and Âke Nilsson. “Magnesium deficiency in IDDM related to level of glycosylated hemoglobin.” Diabetes 35.4 (1986): 459-463.


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