Magnesium: Give This Mineral Some Respect

What do magnesium and Rodney Dangerfield have in common? Neither gets much respect. Most people know very little about this important mineral, although it’s the fourth most abundant mineral in the body.


About 50% of the body’s magnesium is found in bone, and the other 50% is found in tissues and organs. Very little is found in the blood, yet the body carefully regulates the amount of blood magnesium to keep levels constant. This important mineral plays many crucial roles, including the following:

  • Maintaining nerve and muscle function
  • Regulating heartbeat
  • Keeping bones healthy
  • Supporting the immune system
  • Regulating blood pressure
  • Regulating blood glucose levels
  • Helping with metabolism and protein synthesis

More and more evidence points to the role of magnesium in helping to prevent Type 2 diabetes. In fact, results from three very large studies—the Nurses’ Health Study, the Health Professionals’ Follow-up Study, and the Iowa Women’s Health Study (which together involved over 150,000 men and women)—indicate that people who consume a diet rich in magnesium have a lower risk of getting Type 2 diabetes. While most of the studies looking at magnesium and diabetes risk have involved white women and men, a new study of approximately 41,000 African-American women enrolled in the Black Women’s Health Study showed that those who consumed a high-magnesium diet were less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. The results of this study are published in this month’s issue of the journal Diabetes Care.

Children at risk for diabetes can benefit from a magnesium-rich diet as well. A study looking at obese children showed that those who did not get enough magnesium in their diet were more likely to have insulin resistance, putting them at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.

So, what if you already have diabetes? Is there a link between magnesium and diabetes? Magnesium helps control blood glucose levels in the body by regulating insulin secretion from the pancreas. While there’s no evidence that magnesium from food or supplements will help lower blood glucose levels, there is evidence that people with uncontrolled diabetes tend to have low magnesium levels in their blood. High blood glucose levels can cause magnesium to be lost in the urine. Furthermore, low magnesium levels can lead to high blood pressure, which is more common in people with diabetes than in people without. And people who have heart disease or who have had a heart attack often do better, clinically, when given magnesium supplements.

In case you still need to be convinced about the importance of getting enough magnesium, further evidence points to the benefit of magnesium in helping to lower inflammation in the body. Inflammation can occur in places such as the joints, gums, or blood vessels, and can affect other organs as well.

The Daily Value for magnesium is 400 milligrams per day. Good sources of magnesium include leafy green vegetables, nuts, dried beans and peas, potatoes, avocados, bananas, and whole-grain foods. Magnesium supplements are available but should only be taken under your health-care provider’s supervision, since too much magnesium can lead to magnesium toxicity, whose symptoms include irregular heartbeat, muscle weakness, difficulty breathing, and mental status changes.

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  • acampbell

    Blood magnesium levels aren’t routinely checked unless your physician suspects a deficiency, as in the case of uncontrolled diabetes, kidney problems, or certain gastrointestinal disorders. Also, if you have certain symptoms that could indicate low magnesium levels, such as muscle cramps or twitching, it’s a good idea to have your magnesium levels checked. Neuropathy, itself, may be aggravated by low magnesium levels. Your physician needs to rule out other possible reasons for muscle cramps, too, as they can occur for reasons other than low magnesium levels. But it makes sense to have your level checked at least once as a way to get at the root of the problem.

  • Shelley Criss

    Any information on the use of pure honey, will be appreciated. Thank you.

  • acampbell

    Hi Shelley,

    Many people think honey is a better choice then sugar when it comes to diabetes control because it’s more “natural”. However, 1 tsp. of honey contains 22 calories and 6 grams of carb. One tsp. of table sugar has 15 calories and 4 grams of carb. Of course, if you tend to use less honey than you would sugar, you might end up saving some calories and carbs. But, honey has a higher glycemic index than sugar, meaning that it may raise blood glucose levels more quickly than sugar. Honey does contain minerals, although in small amounts, so is somewhat more nutritious than sugar. Interestingly, honey has been found to treat diabetic foot ulcers quite effectively, as it has wound-healing properties. So, if you like a little honey in your tea, enjoy! But if you use much more than a teaspoon, be sure to count the carbs.

  • prettylady62

    this artical was most helpful look forward to more information thank you

  • Eva Walker

    When you buy suppliments with magnesium stearate you are waisting your money on them.Magnesium stearate prevents your body from asimilating all the nutrients from the pills or capsules.It is used to fill capsules faster on the machines and pills stick together more which makes more at a time.Makes more money for thr companies.

  • Vladimir Nesterenko

    Deficiency in magnesium could be lethal. Always to test called RBC magnesium. The test Serum magnesium which uneducated American doctors do on their patients is a medical malpractice because it provides misleading information which could result in death (cardiac arrest) as it happened in my case. People, read as much about magnesium as you can and take magnesium supplement “Natural Calm” (the best in the world) daily for the rest of your lives.