Magnesium’s role in carbohydrate metabolism
One of magnesium’s major functions in the body is its role in metabolism and energy production, converting the food we eat into energy to propel us through life.
In carbohydrate metabolism specifically, magnesium plays the following roles:
- Regulates enzymes involved in glycolysis (conversion of glucose for use in reactions that form energy).
- Improves pancreatic beta-cell function, better compensating for impaired insulin sensitivity. (2)
- Is involved in proper insulin secretion. (3)
- Activates several enzymes involved in the insulin signal transduction cascade. (4)
Magnesium intake and diabetes
Several studies over the years have shown that the more adequate your magnesium intake, the less likely you are to develop type-2 diabetes. One large study in particular showed an inverse association between magnesium intake and risk of diabetes in overweight individuals. Meta-analysis of 8 additional studies found that those with the highest magnesium intake had a 33% lower risk of diabetes. (5)
In addition, research has shown that serum magnesium may also be an indicator of diabetes risk. Furthermore, research shows that magnesium supplementation often improves blood sugar control.
Association between low serum magnesium levels and risk of diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance
Those with more magnesium in the blood were less likely to develop diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance. A study of nearly 10,000 participants aged 20+ showed that those with lowest serum magnesium concentration (the most deficient) were 2.7 times more likely to have diabetes (as compared to those in the highest quartile of serum magnesium). (6)
Diabetes worsened by low magnesium
In addition to the relationship between serum magnesium concentration and a diabetes diagnosis itself, other studies have identified associations between low serum magnesium (0.6-0.8 mmol/L) and complications from diabetes.
In a study looking at the medical records of 1,217 diabetic patients, (7) low serum magnesium showed a stronger association with:
- Nephropathy (deterioration of kidney function)
- Retinopathy (disease of the retina)
- Neuropathy (dysfunction of nerves)
- Macroangiopathy (clotting in large blood vessels)
Magnesium supplementation and blood sugar control
A 2016 meta-analysis (8) looked at the impact of magnesium supplementation in patients with diabetes and those at high risk:
- In patients who already had diabetes, magnesium supplementation reduced fasting plasma glucose.
- In patients at high risk for diabetes, three studies showed that magnesium supplementation improved their plasma glucose levels following a 2-hour oral glucose tolerance test.
- Mooren, F.C. 2015. Magnesium and disturbances in carbohydrate metabolism. Diabetes, Obesity & Metabolism 17(9):813-823.
- Guerrero-Romero, F., and M. Rodríguez-Morán. 2011. Magnesium improves the beta-cell function to compensate variation of insulin sensitivity: Double-blind, randomized clinical trial. European Journal of Clinical Investigation 41(4):405-410.
- Rodríguez-Morán, M., and F. Guerrero-Romero. 2011. Insulin secretion is decreased in non-diabetic individuals with hypomagnesaemia. Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews 27(6):590-596.
- Günther, T. 2010. The biochemical function of Mg2+ in insulin secretion, insulin signal transduction and insulin resistance. Magnesium Research 23(1):5-18.
- Dong, J. Y., et al. 2011. Magnesium intake and risk of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care 34:2116-2122.
- Shi, Z., and A. B. Abou-Samra. 2019. Association of low serum magnesium with diabetes and hypertension: Findings from Qatar Biobank study. Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice 158:107903.
- Zhang, Y. Y., et al. 2018. Association between serum magnesium and common complications of diabetes mellitus. Technology and Health Care 26(S1):379-387.
- Veronese, N., et al.2016. Effect of magnesium supplementation on glucose metabolism in people with or at risk of diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis of double-blind randomized controlled trials. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 70(12):1354-1359.