The link between magnesium deficiency, overweight, diabetes, and metabolic disorders
Magnesium supports hundreds of different enzyme processes that are involved in energy turnover, sugar metabolism, nerves, and several other basic functions. Unfortunately, magnesium deficiency is rather common and more and more studies suggest that this may be related to a host of metabolic disturbances such as overweight, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, elevated cholesterol, and chronic low-grade inflammation that is seen in connection with most chronic diseases. On the other and, it appears that high intake of magnesium from the diet or from supplements may help. In a new review article that is published in Nutrients, the authors look at magnesium deficiency and its role in the development of metabolic disorders. They also look at factors such as nutrient-depleted farmland, unhealthy diets, poor nutrient uptake, insulin resistance, the use of medicine, alcohol abuse, and stress that can potentially result in a magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium is one of the minerals that we need in the greatest quantities. We primarily get it from coarse greens, whole grain, kernels, almonds, nuts, bananas, cabbage, spinach, avocado and other vegetables, tofu, and dark chocolate. Around half the body’s magnesium is stored in bone tissue. The remaining part is found in muscles and soft tissues like nerves and blood vessels where it supports over 300 different enzyme processes. Magnesium is needed for the following functions:
- RNA and DNA synthesis
- Carbohydrate and lipid metabolism
- Insulin sensitivity
- Cell membrane stability
- Calcium and bone metabolism
- The nervous system
- The immune system
Activation and utilization of vitamin D
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends women to get 300 mg of magnesium daily, while men are advised to get 350 mg. Nonetheless, magnesium deficiencies are rather common in the western world due to farming methods, food refinement, and unhealthy diets. Poor nutrient uptake, bowel diseases, insulin resistance, diabetes, impaired renal function, pregnancy, alcohol abuse, diuretics, and stress can also result in a magnesium deficiency. It is difficult to measure magnesium levels in the blood because the lion’s share of the mineral is stored inside our cells. A whole blood analysis is the best way to determine a person’s magnesium status.
Early signs of a magnesium deficiency are fatigue, muscle twitching, constipation, cramps, or insomnia. Magnesium deficiency is also shown to have a relation to cardiovascular disease (arrhythmias, heart failure, and stroke), headaches, respiratory diseases, and depression. Over the past years, there has been increasing focus on magnesium deficiencies and their link to various metabolic disorders such as overweight, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, changes in the body’s lipid metabolism, atherosclerosis, and higher risk of cardiovascular diseases. These pathologies are all characterized by chronic low-grade inflammation. In their new review article, the authors look closer at magnesium’s role in these metabolic disorders.
- Around 30-50 percent of people in the Western world are believed to get too little magnesium from their diets
- Overweight, diuretics, alcohol abuse, stress, insulin resistance, diabetes, and other chronic diseases may increase the need for magnesium
Magnesium and overweight
According to WHO, two billion people worldwide are overweight, while 650 million people are obese and have a BMI that is higher than 30. Obesity is also characterized by a large waist circumference and dangerous visceral fat around the vital organs.
Studies suggest an inverse relation between magnesium intake and the risk of becoming overweight – in both children and adults. Studies have also shown that overweight women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) have lower levels of magnesium in their body.
Being magnesium-deficient can negatively affect a host of different metabolic processes that control blood sugar levels, weight, and hormone balance.
There is already quite a lot of research that points to magnesium supplementation as a way to help overweight people reduce their waist circumference and protect them against additional weight gain, but more research is needed to confirm these findings. In connection with weight loss, it pays to stick with coarse and green foods that contain fewer carbohydrates, provide healthy fats and plenty of protein to stabilize blood sugar levels.
Magnesium and elevated blood pressure
Elevated blood pressure increases the risk of heart failure and stroke. According to WHO, 1.9 billion people in the age group 30-79 years suffer from hypertension, and the number is on the rise. Around half of these people are unaware that they have elevated blood pressure, and their problem is a ticking health for their health. Magnesium’s ability to regulate blood pressure is due to its function in cell membranes where it regulates the calcium uptake in cells. This is how magnesium makes sure to channel nearly all calcium into bone cells, while it makes sure to keep calcium concentrations in soft tissues down to a minimum. Soft tissues include blood vessels, muscles, and nerves. If cells in soft tissues are flooded by calcium ions, they become overstimulated. This cases muscles cramps and cellular stress. Patients with hypertension often have too much calcium and too little magnesium in the cell membranes in soft tissues.
In their review article, the authors mention different studies where supplementation with magnesium has been shown to lower both the systolic and the diastolic blood pressure.
- The calcium-magnesium ratio is of vital importance
- Too much calcium and too little magnesium increases the risk of cellular stress and many metabolic disturbances.
Magnesium, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes
Metabolic syndrome is a widespread metabolic disease that is insidious and is characterized by insulin resistance, hypertension, elevated blood lipid levels, enlarged waist circumference, and increased risk of type 2 diabetes. The risk of metabolic syndrome increases with age. When people are in their twenties, there risk of metabolic syndrome is around 10 percent, but when they reach their sixties, their risk goes up to 40 percent. According to studies, magnesium deficiencies are seen in up to half the cases (13.5 – 47.7%) of type 2 diabetes. It’s believed that lack of magnesium contributes to the metabolic disturbances because magnesium is important for insulin sensitivity and macronutrient metabolism. Studies also show that low magnesium levels in blood serum have a negative impact on BMI and diabetes variables such as insulin levels, insulin resistance, fasting blood sugar, and long-term blood sugar (HbA1c).
In their review article, the authors mention a meta-analysis that showed how increased magnesium intake was linked to a lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome. It also appears that patients with type 2 diabetes have a tendency to excrete too much magnesium in their urine, which turns it into a vicious cycle. For that reason, diabetics may need more magnesium than the officially recommended intake level.
Magnesium, cholesterol, and lipid metabolism
Metabolic syndrome is characterized by elevated levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. This typically happens when the liver is flooded by carbohydrates, which turns it into a virtual fat factory. Metabolic syndrome is also characterized by insulin resistance and elevated insulin levels that can lead to chronic low-grade inflammation. This condition generates excessive amounts of free radicals. One of the really harmful effects of free radicals is when they attack cholesterol and oxidize it, making it useless for building cell membranes and producing steroid hormones, vitamin D, and coenzyme Q10. The oxidized cholesterol is devoured by white blood cells (macrophages) that then turn into foam cell and are embedded in the blood vessel walls. Cholesterol is only dangerous when it is oxidized and has the potential to form atherosclerotic plaque.
Many studies have demonstrated a direct link between low magnesium and disturbances in the body’s lipid metabolism. For example, scientists have found that 65.5 percent of patients with metabolic syndrome have low magnesium levels in their blood, where only 4.9 percent of healthy controls lacked magnesium. It is believed that magnesium can improve the body’s lipid metabolism in several different ways.
Magnesium and inflammation
Acute inflammation is a natural immune reaction to infections and cellular damage. However, inflammation involves the formation of free radicals, so it is imperative for the body to keep its free radical attacks on a short leash. Ageing, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and the majority of chronic diseases are linked to chronic low-grade inflammation that is very harmful. Chronic inflammation means that the body is constantly exposed to an excess of free radicals that attack cholesterol and other lipids and can start chain reactions that can damage healthy cells and tissues. With chronic low-grade inflammation, levels of inflammation markers such as CRP, white blood cells, fibrinogen, IL-6, and TNF-α are typically elevated. Numerous studies have shown that the levels of these markers are linked to the body’s magnesium status.
Apparently, magnesium affects inflammation through different mechanisms. One mechanism is to block the calcium channels in cell membranes to prevent calcium ions from flooding the cells. If cells contain too many calcium ions, they may release a surplus of pro-inflammatory markers like CRP, IL-6, and TNF-α.
Magnesium deficiency can also result in systemic stress in the body which affects the nervous system and other systems such as the renin-angiotensin system (RAAS). In the new meta-analysis that is published in Nutrients, the authors mention various studies where magnesium supplementation has been shown to have a positive effect on inflammation.
It should also be noted that magnesium-containing enzymes are needed to help the body activate the kind of vitamin that we get through sun exposure of from supplements. That way, magnesium also helps prevent chronic low-grade inflammation. The effect of magnesium is better if you also get plenty of vitamin D.
- It’s best to get magnesium from a coarse, green diet because this also provides fibers and other nutrients
- Make sure to choose a high-quality magnesium supplement that the body is able to absorb and utilize
- You need plenty of vitamin D if you want to benefit from taking magnesium
Ligia J Dominguez et al. The Role of Magnesium in the Pathogenesis of Metabolic Disorders. Nutrients 2022 May
Nicola Veronese et al. Effect of Magnesium Supplementation on Inflammatory Parameters: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients 2022.
Andrea Rosanoff et al. Essential Nutrient Interactions: Does Low or Suboptimal Magnesium Interact with Vitamin D and/or Calcium status. Advances in Nutrition 2016
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