Magnesium is regarded as the fourth most important cation in the body and is needed in more than 300 enzyme reactions.1 It is also involved in glucose metabolism and insulin homeostasis. Some recent studies have made suggestions that dietary magnesium could play a crucial role in boosting insulin sensitivity but the evidence is conflicting.Numerous studies have connected low serum magnesium and low dietary magnesium consumption with an increases in insulin resistance but other studies are not in support of the idea that dietary magnesium could hinder diabetes development.1
It is noted that in the analysis of some of these studies, the relative body, adipose, was not controlled. Rather than control adiposity, most of these used body mass index instead (BMI) where the distinction between fat mass and fat-free mass is lost. It is critical to control adiposity which is most likely linked with insulin resistance development.1
Magnesium is an essential mineral in the human body that has the crucial role of regulating glucose homeostasis and insulin action.2 The molecular mechanism in which magnesium contributes to insulin resistance is still discussed regardless of the popular clinical evidence associated with magnesium deficiency, insulin resistance, and the development of type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance is triggered by chronic systemic inflammation potentiated by magnesium deficiency.2 People with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes could enter a repetitive circle where magnesium deficiency increases insulin resistance and insulin resistance causes magnesium deficiency which needs monitoring of serum magnesium levels periodically.2
Insulin is a hormone that promotes blood glucose transport from the bloodstream into cells in the body which is used as the body's fuel. After a meal, an increase in blood sugar makes the pancreas secrete insulin into the bloodstream.
In insulin resistance, secreted insulin is not enough for the transportation of glucose into the cells. Hence, these cells are said to be resistant to insulin action. In compensation, the pancreas secretes insulin in increasing amounts in order to maintain glucose equilibrium.
Magnesium has an essential role in insulin resistance, a condition where there is less responsiveness to insulin which results in increased blood sugar and elevated risk of type 2 diabetes. Magnesium is implicated in numerous biological processes in relation to the metabolism of insulin which includes insulin secretion, glucose uptake, and insulin signaling. Magnesium supplementation has been revealed to improve insulin sensitivity in people with magnesium deficiency but the mechanism of action of magnesium over insulin resistance is still unclear and more research is still ongoing.
Which magnesium is best for insulin resistance?
The best form of magnesium for insulin resistance depends on the specific need of the individual and their health status. Magnesium supplements are not all the same and high-quality supplements are advised. Some are essential in the management of magnesium deficiency because they have different rates of absorption. Some types of magnesium are easily dissolved in liquid which quicker absorption in the body. Some studies reveal that magnesium aspartate, citrate, chloride, and lactate are better absorbed in comparison with magnesium oxide and magnesium sulfate.
Some forms of magnesium that are popular for boosting insulin sensitivity include:
- Magnesium Citrate which is easily absorbed in the body and improves insulin sensitivity in people with magnesium deficiency
- Magnesium L-Threonate, a new form of magnesium has been revealed to cross the blood-brain barrier effectively which makes it a good option for the improvement of insulin sensitivity and in the improvement of cognitive function
- Magnesium Glycinate is a chelated magnesium form that is bioavailable and has a soothing effect on the digestive system. This form of magnesium has been shown to have a positive effect on both insulin resistance and glucose metabolism
Other forms of magnesium include magnesium oxide, magnesium chloride, magnesium sulfate, magnesium carbonate, magnesium taurate, magnesium lactate, magnesium gluconate, and magnesium aspartate.
How much magnesium should I take for insulin resistance?
Abnormal amounts of insulin and high levels of glucose have been implicated in people with low plasma magnesium levels. Insulin resistance has been improved by magnesium supplementation in some studies and the recommended dose is 100 mg to 400 mg per day, where it is advised that half the magnesium be taken if on calcium supplements.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the recommended daily magnesium intake varies based on age, gender, and other factors. The dose recommended for adults who are assigned male at birth is 400-420 mg while that for those who are assigned female at birth is 310-320 mg daily. For people with insulin resistance, this varies and some studies suggest that 250 to 450 mg of magnesium daily could improve insulin sensitivity.
It is important to note that magnesium supplementation is not a substitute for lifestyle intervention in insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. These lifestyle interventions which include adequate diet and physical activity are essential in the management of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. It is advised that you consult your healthcare provider before consuming any supplements, magnesium supplements inclusive. They help in determining the best dose of magnesium tailored to your particular needs and health status while monitoring possible side effects.
Side effects and other concerns
Consuming so much magnesium could pose some health risks. Some people experience the laxative effects of magnesium such as nausea, diarrhea and stomach cramps. This means that it is crucial that the magnesium is consumed as prescribed and directed. Magnesium carbonate, chloride, oxide, and gluconate are most likely to cause these side effects. In cases where your gut cannot tolerate oral magnesium supplements, e use of cream or topical oil but this does have the risk of skin irritation and should be done with caution. Do a skin test of the cream first by applying it on a small patch of your skin.
The ingestion of a large quantity of magnesium could lead to magnesium toxicity which is fatal. Symptoms associated with magnesium toxicity include nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, irregular heartbeat, difficulty breathing, and cardiac arrest. A risk factor in magnesium toxicity is poor kidney function where the kidneys are unable to remove excess magnesium from the body. It has been noted that these side effects may not occur in the consumption of dietary magnesium because the body can eliminate excessive amounts of natural magnesium via urination.
There are some concerns with magnesium supplementation which interacts with other medications like antibiotics, diuretics, and antihypertensives. There is also the risk of a drug overdose in magnesium supplementation which accompanies health problems.
In essence, it is vital that you consult your doctor before consuming magnesium supplements and while taking this with other medications. This is a way of preventing magnesium overdose and potential drug interaction.3
The supplementation of magnesium is beneficial in people with magnesium deficiency but it is not a cure for insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. The maintenance of a balanced diet and involvement in regular exercise is vital in the management of insulin resistance and in the prevention of type 2 diabetes. Magnesium has the crucial role of influencing insulin metabolism and it is involved in numerous processes that are related to insulin resistance. Magnesium supplements could be of benefit in magnesium deficiency but this required more research for a clear picture of the relationship existing between magnesium and insulin resistance.
- Cahill F, Shahidi M, Shea J, Wadden D, Gulliver W, Randell E, et al. High dietary magnesium intake is associated with low insulin resistance in the newfoundland population. PLOS ONE [Internet]. 2013 Mar 5 [cited 2023 Feb 14];8(3):e58278. Available from: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0058278
- Kostov K. Effects of magnesium deficiency on mechanisms of insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes: focusing on the processes of insulin secretion and signaling. Int J Mol Sci [Internet]. 2019 Mar 18 [cited 2023 Jul 25];20(6):1351. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6470576/