Research suggests that magnesium deficiency can lead to the development of metabolic syndrome.
Magnesium is a key mineral that is essential for hundreds of biochemical reactions in the human body. A number of these reactions are important for supporting metabolic health and function, including glycogen breakdown, ATP generation, insulin sensitivity and production, promoting a balanced inflammatory state, improving heart muscle contractions, and allowing blood vessels to properly dilate and contract. With the important role that magnesium plays, it’s sobering to note that nearly half of the U.S. population consumes less than the required daily amount of magnesium from dietary sources.1
Magnesium’s critical role in the biochemical reactions listed above has led researchers to suggest that magnesium deficiency plays a central role in the development of metabolic syndrome.2 Unfortunately, the incidence of diabetes continues to rise, with Centers for Disease Control estimates suggesting that more than 30 million people in the U.S. suffer from diabetes and an additional 84 million individuals, or more than one-third of U.S. adults, have prediabetes.3
Several recent clinical studies show that magnesium supports metabolic health parameters across a broad spectrum of the population. Some of this research is summarized here. As research continues to validate magnesium’s role in metabolic health, there needs to be an effort to firstly improve dietary intake of this mineral. The second step, and an easy and prudent choice to meet shortfalls, is to supplement with this critical mineral that can improve so many metabolic functions.
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Since magnesium is known to have both anti-inflammatory properties and metabolic benefits, researchers have recently focused on its usefulness in women with gestational diabetes. Two recent trials from Iran have been published and have shown interesting benefits.
The first study was led by Shahnaz Ahmadi from Iran University of Medical Sciences (Tehran, Iran) and included 36 women diagnosed with gestational diabetes who were randomized to receive 250 mg of magnesium oxide or a placebo daily for six weeks.4 Magnesium supplementation led to several significant changes versus placebo, including the downregulation of gene expression of the inflammatory markers IL-8 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha, and the upregulation of transforming growth factor-beta.
Additionally, the magnesium supplementation led to a significant decrease in newborn hypobilirubinemia (a key factor leading to jaundice) and hospitalization versus placebo, indicating the mineral’s ability to decrease metabolic complications associated with pregnancy.
In the second study led by Mehri Jamilian from Arak University of Medical Sciences (Arak, Iran), researchers asked 60 women with gestational diabetes to supplement with a combination of 200 mg magnesium, 400 IU vitamin D, 8 mg zinc, and 800 mg calcium, or a placebo, daily for six weeks.5 Supplementation with the combination increased total plasma antioxidant capacity and lowered serum C-reactive protein levels and plasma malondialdehyde concentrations, indicating a reduction in inflammation and oxidative stress, accompanied by an increase in antioxidant capacity. Thus, magnesium may be beneficial in women experiencing metabolic complications during pregnancy.
4. Ahmadi S et al. “The effects of magnesium supplementation on gene expression related to inflammatory markers, vascular endothelial growth factor, and pregnancy outcomes in patients with gestational diabetes.” Magnesium Research, vol. 31, no. 4 (November 1, 2018): 131-142
5. Jamilian M et al. “The effects of magnesium-zinc-calcium-vitamin D co-supplementation on biomarkers of inflammation, oxidative stress and pregnancy outcomes in gestational diabetes.” BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, vol. 19, no. 1 (March 29, 2019): 107
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Type 2 Diabetes
Research indicates that poor intracellular magnesium concentrations and increased intracellular calcium levels can lead to insulin resistance. Thus, higher magnesium levels may lead to greater insulin sensitivity.
In a study led by Wafaa ELDerawi from Al-Azhar University-Gaza (Gaza, Palestine), researchers randomly allocated 42 newly diagnosed type 2 diabetics aged 35-60 to supplement with 250 mg of magnesium daily (from a combination of magnesium oxide, gluconate, and lactate) or a placebo for three months.6 All participants underwent a one-week diet stabilization program prior to starting on the magnesium supplements, which included a prescribed diet plan consisting of 30% of total energy as fat, 15% of energy as protein, and 55% of energy as carbohydrate from complex carbohydrates.
Magnesium supplementation led to significant improvements versus the control group in hemoglobin A1c levels, insulin levels, C-peptide, measures of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR), and pancreatic beta-cell function (HOMA-Î²%). The results indicated that intervention with oral magnesium reduced insulin resistance and improved indicators of glycemic control in this population of newly diagnosed type 2 diabetics.
6. ELDerawi WA et al. “The effects of oral magnesium supplementation on glycemic response among type 2 diabetes patients.” Nutrients. Published online December 26, 2018.
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Women with PCOS
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most prevalent endocrine disruptions in women of reproductive age, affecting between 5% and 20% of women, depending on the diagnostic criteria used. Among the common symptoms of PCOS are impaired glucose tolerance, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, blood lipid disturbances, heart disease, and atherosclerosis. Studies have found decreased levels of magnesium and vitamin E in women with PCOS.
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial led by Mehri Jamilian from Arak Medical Sciences (Arak, Iran), researchers randomized 60 women aged 18-40 years old into two groups: one group received 250 mg of magnesium + 400 mg of vitamin E daily, while the other group received a placebo, for 12 weeks.7 Fasting blood samples were taken at baseline and after 12 weeks.
Magnesium and vitamin E supplementation led to a significant decrease in serum insulin, insulin resistance (HOMA-IR), triglyceride levels, and VLDL cholesterol, as well as a strong trend towards reduced total cholesterol levels. Insulin sensitivity was significantly increased in the magnesium group versus placebo, indicating that the nutritional intervention led to significant improvements on metabolic health parameters in women with PCOS.
7. Jamilian M et al. “The effect of magnesium and vitamin E co-supplementation on glycemic control and markers of cardio-metabolic risk in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.” Hormone and Metabolic Research, vol. 51, no. 2 (February 2019): 100-105
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Magnesium is involved in hundreds of metabolic processes as a cofactor for numerous enzymes. Recent meta-analyses have also found that magnesium intake is inversely associated with the incidence of metabolic syndrome.
Given these factors, Martha RodrÃguez-MorÃ¡n from the Biomedical Research Unit of the Mexican Social Security Institute (Durango, Mexico) led a study to evaluate the effect of magnesium supplementation in 198 individuals with metabolic syndrome. In the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, participants were allocated to supplementation with 30 ml of 5% magnesium chloride solution (equivalent to 382 mg of elemental magnesium) or a placebo solution daily for 16 weeks.8
Magnesium led to significant improvements versus placebo in systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels, fasting blood sugar, triglycerides, and HDL cholesterol levels. At the end of the study, substantially fewer individuals met the criteria for the diagnosis of metabolic syndrome in the magnesium group (48%) compared to the placebo group (77.5%), highlighting the beneficial effects of magnesium in this cohort with metabolic syndrome.
8. Jamilian M et al. “The effects of magnesium-zinc-calcium-vitamin D co-supplementation on biomarkers of inflammation, oxidative stress and pregnancy outcomes in gestational diabetes.” BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, vol. 19, no. 1 (March 29, 2019): 107
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