Magnesium’s role in blood sugar management
- also in type 2 diabetes
Stable blood sugar levels are essential for our health, our energy levels, and our mood. However, millions of people across the globe suffer from insulin resistance and have impaired glucose uptake in their cells. Insulin resistance also occurs in people with type 2 diabetes. In a review article that is published in Advanced Biomedical Research, the authors look closer at magnesium’s role in connection with insulin resistance, blood sugar levels, and energy turnover. They conclude that magnesium supplementation may be relevant for people with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, and it is even important to get enough magnesium for preventing these conditions that come with an enormous human and socio-economic price tag.
Ingested carbohydrates are broken down into glucose also known as blood sugar. Afterwards, the pancreatic beta cells secrete insulin, a hormone that works by channeling glucose into the cells. Insulin resistance is when the cellular glucose uptake is impaired and it typically affects the liver and muscles. The cells’ ability to burn fat, which is another good energy source, is also impaired.
Insulin resistance occurs when the cellular insulin receptors become less sensitive to insulin. Insulin resistance in the brain has also been seen in people with type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
Some studies report that specific glucose transport proteins (GLUTs) contribute to the uptake of glucose in cells, and studies of animals and humans reveal defective GLUTs in connection with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. This impairs the cellular glucose uptake increases the risk of excess calories from the bloodstream being stored as fat.
Insulin resistance causes a host of metabolic disruptions that are also caused by elevated insulin, chronic low-grade inflammation, and oxidative stress where free radicals start chain reactions that can attack cholesterol (and other lipids), cells, and tissues.
Insulin resistance is also a precursor of overweight, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. It often takes years for insulin resistance to develop and is typically caused by excessive calorie intake – especially from refined and deep-fried foods, white flour, white sugar, French fries, junk-food, candy, soda, and juice. Insulin resistance and a disrupted sugar metabolism may also result in an overproduction of cholesterol and triglycerides in the liver.
Metabolic syndrome is characterized by
- Insulin resistance
- Overweight and too much abdominal fat
- High blood pressure
- Elevated blood lipid levels (cholesterol and triglyceride)
- Elevated fasting blood sugar
- Metabolic syndrome (a precursor of type 2 diabetes)
Magnesium’s role in the energy turnover and in enzyme processes
Magnesium is one of the minerals that we need in the largest quantities. In the body, magnesium occurs in the form of magnesium ions (Mg2+). Ninety-nine percent of the body’s magnesium ions are found inside our cells where they control more than 300 enzyme reactions and other metabolic processes. In their review article, the authors mention that magnesium is important for:
- Energy turnover
- Blood sugar transport via the cell membranes
- Gluconeogenesis (the liver’s synthesis of glucose or glycogen from other sources than carbohydrates
- Different pancreatic functions
- Insulin secretion and interactions with the cells’ insulin receptors
- Activation of vitamin D, the nutrient for which most cells in the body have receptors (including the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas)
- Calcium distribution in the body
The reason why magnesium is important for the body’s calcium distribution is that magnesium blocks the uptake of calcium in soft tissues. Too little magnesium combined with too much calcium may cause cellular stress and the development of inflammatory conditions. An imbalance between magnesium and calcium may also indirectly lower the insulin secretion of the pancreas.
It is through these mechanisms that magnesium affects our sugar metabolism.
Magnesium’s role in improving insulin sensitivity and blood sugar
The review article refers to various studies and meta-analyses that deal with the advantages of giving magnesium to patients with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. In various studies, magnesium has been added to the drinking water, given as supplements in daily doses ranging from 250-365 mg for four to 26 weeks, or administered in relation to body weight.
Magnesium has been given in different organic and inorganic forms. What is important here is that these magnesium compounds are broken down into free magnesium ions (Mg2+), which are absorbed into the blood via the small intestine. The inorganic form of magnesium called magnesium oxide (Magnesia) is not absorbed very well. It primarily works in the small intestine and has a laxative effect.
Based on the many studies that are included in the review, the authors conclude that magnesium supplementation combined with having normal levels of magnesium ions (Mg2+) in the blood is associated with:
- Optimal functioning of various enzymes and insulin
- Energy and carbohydrate metabolism
- Improved function of the insulin-producing beta cells
- Improves insulin sensitivity of cells
- Stimulation of the glucose transport proteins (GLUTs)
- Improved glucose uptake in cells
- Less inflammation and oxidative stress
- Improved tyrosine kinase activity (an enzyme with on-off functions in many cells)
- Clinical improvement in type 2 diabetes
Magnesium supplementation may help to prevention and treat insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. The quality of the magnesium preparations, the chosen dose, and the duration of the intervention are all important for the outcome.
Magnesium, diet, and blood sugar
In order to regulate your blood sugar, it is always a good idea to get plenty of magnesium from whole grains, vegetables, nuts, and other good sources that also contain fiber and a number of other nutrients. It may also help to lower your carbohydrate intake (especially refined and liquid carbohydrates) and to make sure to get enough protein and healthy fats with all your main meals. Protein, fats, and fiber also lower the uptake of carbohydrates, which helps maintain stable blood sugar throughout the day, so you don’t get hungry too soon.
Azadehalsadat et al. The Therapeutic Effects of Magnesium in Insulin Secretion and Insulin resistance. Advanced Biomedical Research 2022
Steven E. Arnold et al. Brain insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease: concepts and conundrums. Nature reviews neurology. 2018
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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