Another reason to eat more magnesium. Read this comment from Qiana Drew, a Diabetes Self-Management reader:
“Seriously! I started to drink a magnesium powder (I put in hot water) right before bed, and I’ve never awakened with such excellent fasting blood sugar. It is for sure the [magnesium] that is doing the trick. I’ve had morning highs of 250 mostly for years…. Now I’m taking this for a week and it’s like a miracle worker!”
Roughly 40 others made similarly enthusiastic comments. Totally worth reading them.
Most people may not get such dramatic results, but studies keep showing that magnesium reduces insulin resistance and is linked to a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes. It may help ease leg cramps, among other conditions.
New data from Mexican researcher Fernando Guerrero, MD, PhD indicates that magnesium supplements improve insulin function and secretion in people with prediabetes and diabetes. Over five years, people improved their blood glucose levels and their lipid profiles compared to people treated only with diet and exercise.
What is magnesium?
Magnesium (Mg) is a mineral used in over 300 different enzyme processes in the human body. People used to get it from their diets, but these days, by some estimates, up to 80% of Americans are thought to be deficient in magnesium.
Low magnesium levels are associated with increased insulin resistance, higher blood pressure, and muscle and nerve problems. In most parts of the body, it seems magnesium has a relaxing function. It helps with sleep, stiffness, stress, muscle spasms, and heart rhythm issues, among other things.
Dr. Guerrero says magnesium is used in all body processes involving energy. Insulin is very involved in energy production, so it requires magnesium to work well.
As we age, we absorb magnesium less well. Excessive alcohol intake and poorly controlled diabetes also cause magnesium to go low.
Drs. Andrea Rosanoff, PhD, and Mildred Seelig, MD, wrote in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition that magnesium protects arteries by preventing clotting, reducing inflammation, and preventing arterial plaque. Since most diabetes complications come from blood vessel damage, and since magnesium seems to lower blood sugar as well, diabetes diets should include magnesium.
Medications such as diuretics (water pills) can cause low magnesium. The proton-pump inhibitor drugs used for gastric reflux, stomach ulcers, and heartburn — drugs such as esomeprazole (Nexium) and lansoprazole (Prevacid) — interfere with magnesium absorption. Other drugs can also cause magnesium loss.
Interestingly, the SGLT-2 inhibitor drugs given for diabetes seem to raise blood magnesium levels. This may be one reason why people taking these drugs seem to have lower risk of death from heart attacks, heart failure, and strokes.
How to get more magnesium
According to the wonderful food site, HealthAliciousNess, good food sources of magnesium include leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, Swiss chard, and so on); berries; guava; jackfruit; whole grains such as brown rice; beans and lentils; fish such as mackerel; nuts and seeds; avocados; bananas; herbs and spices such as coriander, basil, and dill; and dark chocolate.
Don’t forget the chocolate! It’s really high in magnesium.
Another great source is seaweed. You probably don’t eat much of that, but try using powdered kelp to replace table salt. A lot of people like it, and it is a good source of iodine as well as magnesium.
If you don’t like those foods or can’t find them, you can take magnesium supplements in consultation with your health-care provider. But be careful! Magnesium comes in various forms. They’re all good, but magnesium oxide is poorly absorbed and will pass right through many people. Unfortunately, most magnesium supplements, including the cheapest ones, are magnesium oxide.
Instead, you might buy magnesium citrate, malate, taurate, glycinate, chloride, or carbonate. Different types seem better for different conditions, which you can research online.
You can take tablets, but also consider buying magnesium powder and dissolving it in water, as Qiana, the commenter mentioned at the top of this article did. It might absorb better. You can also spray magnesium oil on your skin, where it is easily absorbed.
It’s important to have a good balance of calcium (Ca) and magnesium in our bodies. Where magnesium relaxes muscles and blood vessels, calcium helps them contract. We need both.
Most experts estimate that the best balance between calcium and magnesium is 1:1. Since most Americans get plenty of calcium from dairy, we usually don’t need extra. If you do take calcium supplements, say for bone health, it might be a good idea to take them separately from magnesium supplements, as they interfere with each other’s absorption.
On my blog, reader David Schulze made the sensible suggestion to take magnesium supplements at night to help you sleep, and vitamin D (and calcium) in the morning to energize you.
Think about getting more magnesium. It could improve your blood sugar levels, protect your heart, help you sleep, cure constipation, and strengthen your bones and muscles. One side effect from an excessive intake is loose stools, so you’ll likely know when you’ve had too much.
Want to learn more about magnesium and diabetes? Read “Magnesium: The Forgotten Healer,” “Magnesium: Give This Mineral Some Respect,” and “Magnesium-Rich Diet Linked to Lower Risk of Heart Disease, Stroke, and Type 2 Diabetes.”