Insulin resistance is linked to lack of vitamin D and magnesium
Insulin resistance is when the cells’ ability to take up glucose from the blood is impaired. It typically causes abnormal hunger and weight gain. Insulin resistance is also one of the symptoms of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Previous studies have already demonstrated a link between vitamin D deficiency and the development of insulin resistance. The risk is even greater if you also lack magnesium, according to an American study. Here, the researchers look at interactions between vitamin D and magnesium and how this affects the blood sugar balance and health in general.
The study is published in Frontiers in Nutrition and includes nearly 5,000 adults with almost the same number of men and women. The participants were recruited from a large population study called the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) during the period between 2007 and 2014. Based on their daily magnesium intake from the diet, the participants were divided into two groups. One group got too little magnesium (less than 267 mg per day), while the other group had a sufficient magnesium intake (more than 267 mg per day). The scientists also looked at the participants’ levels of vitamin D in the blood in relation to the insulin resistance. With help from different analytical methods, the scientists compared differences in the vitamin D levels in the blood and magnesium intake.
What they found was a negative correlation between blood levels of vitamin D and insulin resistance. In other words, participants with insulin resistance were more likely to lack vitamin D. Also, it seemed that magnesium deficiency combined with too little vitamin D further increased the risk of developing insulin resistance.
Why is insulin resistance so bad for you?
After ingesting carbohydrates from our diet, the carbs are broken down into glucose (blood sugar). This stimulates the pancreas and makes it produce insulin, the hormone that helps glucose into the cells that need it for energy. Insulin resistance is when the quality of the insulin is too poor for the cells to be able to take up enough glucose.
Insulin resistance can be a result of several factors, including lack of nutrients and overconsumption of refined carbohydrates (“fast” carbs) that burden the pancreas by stimulating it to produce too much low-quality insulin. Insulin resistance develops gradually and causes the pancreas to produce more and more insulin in a fruitless effort to channel more glucose into the cells. The elevated insulin level in the blood is very unhealthy because it results in an excessive quantity of calories in the blood being removed and stored as fat tissue, typically in the form of visceral fat around the organs. Moreover, there is an increased tendency to inflammation, oxidative stress, and loss of magnesium. Insulin resistance also increases the risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, both of which are conditions that are spreading like a bushfire across the globe. An estimated 629 million people worldwide will have type 2 diabetes in 2045. The scientists behind the new study also mention that insulin resistance increases the risk of thyroid cancer, colorectal cancer, and lung cancer.
The interplay between vitamin D and magnesium in relation to insulin resistance
Most of the body’s cells are equipped with vitamin D receptors (VDR), including the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. The form of vitamin D that we synthesize in response to sun exposure or get from supplements is called 25-hydroxyitamin D3. This is the form of vitamin D that is measured in blood tests. However, this is an inactive form that must be first be converted into the active steroid form called 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3. It is this active form of vitamin D that is needed in our cells.
Multiple studies show that sufficient vitamin D in the blood protects against insulin resistance, while lack of vitamin D increases the risk of becoming insulin-resistant. But other studies have failed to show a link between vitamin D and insulin resistance. According to the scientists behind the new study, this may be because earlier studies have not looked at magnesium intake.
As it turns out, magnesium is one of the minerals we need in the largest quantities, and it is involved in over 300 different enzyme processes. Magnesium-containing enzymes are closely involved in the body’s vitamin D synthesis and the formation of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3. Therefore, if the body lacks magnesium, it is not able to convert and utilize vitamin D nearly as well.
What the scientists also mention is that magnesium supplementation has the potential to improve the activity of vitamin D and offer protection of the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. This, the researchers argue, is why their study gives new insight into the link between vitamin D, magnesium, and insulin resistance.
- Lack of vitamin D can be a result of getting too little sun exposure during the summer period or completely lacking sun during the wintertime. It can also be because of ageing, having dark skin, or being overweight
- Lack of magnesium may be a result of an unbalanced diet with too few magnesium sources such as vegetables, kernels, nuts, and legumes. Also, stress, a large intake of coffee and alcohol, and the use of antacids may increase your need for magnesium
Ya Liu et al. Dietary magnesium Intake Level Modifies the Association Between Vitamin D and Insulin resistance: A Large Cross-Sectional Analysis of American Adults. Frontiers in Nutrition 2022
Pernille Lund: Sådan får du styr på dit blodsukker og din vægt. Ny Videnskab 2013.
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