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Ask Dr. Mike: How Important is Magnesium for Managing Diabetes?

Here you'll find the answers to a wealth of health and wellness questions posed by Healthy Talk fans.

Listen in because what you know helps ensure healthy choices you can live with. Today on Healthy Talk, you wanted to know:

How important is magnesium to a diabetes protocol?

The simple answer is VERY. However, Dr. Mike wants you to fully understand why magnesium is so important for diabetics. Magnesium is a nutrient you simply can't live without. Magnesium is essential to every cell in your body, because it helps generate cell function. It helps regulate your heartbeat and the functioning of your muscles, bones and nerves.

Many studies have been conducted to prove how important magnesium is for everyone, especially for diabetics. Magnesium helps improve insulin resistance, fasting glucose levels and hemoglobin A1C.

If you have a health question or concern, Dr. Mike encourages you to write him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call in, toll-free, to the LIVE radio show (1.844.305.7800) so he can provide you with support and helpful advice.

RadioMD Presents:Healthy Talk | Original Air Date: May 14, 2015
Host: Michael Smith, MD

You're listening to RadioMD. It's time to ask Dr. Mike on Healthy Talk. Call or email to ask your questions now. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 887-711-5211. The lines are open.

DR. MIKE: So, answering the first question that I have today, I could do a whole hour show on this. I could do a whole week's worth of shows on this. It is just so important. I am going to do my best to answer this question and be thorough about it. The question is simple.

"How important is magnesium to a diabetes protocol?"

The simple answer, and we could just end right here, would be—very. That's it. Take magnesium. But I want to get into some of the science a little bit.

I'm going to look back and present to my listeners a study in 2003 in Diabetes Care. It was one of the first studies that really looked at magnesium and a lot of the diabetic measurements that we look at as doctors and the improvements there. And there was just a recent one late last year that came out, also showing and kind of confirming, that earlier study.

Let's not forget something, magnesium is critical. It is involved--it depends on who you read on this. Some people claim, some physiologists claim. that it is involved with over a thousand metabolic reactions in the body, some say 350. Whatever. Magnesium is critical. It is critical for highly metabolic, electrochemical cells—meaning nerve cells, brain cells, muscle cells. Which, obviously, means your heart, gut--your gut cells are highly metabolically active.

All of those types of cells that are constantly turning over. Contracting, firing electrical impulses. Digesting food. Cells that need a lot of energy that have to manage energy well. They all require lots and lots of magnesium.

When you look at a lot of the age-related disorders that we deal with today—diabetes, neuromuscular problems, brain disorders, heart disease, even cancers—when you look at all of them. there is an interesting correlation. As we have confirmed now through the U.S.D.A.--starting probably in the 70s or 80s--there was a sharp drop in Americans who had adequate magnesium levels. There was a sharp drop and that has been sustained through the 70s, 80s, and 90s. We are as a country, and I am just speaking about the United States right now.

We, as a country, have a populous that it's an epidemic. We are deficient in magnesium. There are different theories as to why this is. For me, it's pretty simple. It goes back to soil conditions. The soils in the United States haven't been very healthy for many decades now and when you have unhealthy soils, you lose the ability of the soils to hold onto the minerals. They get leeched very easy with just one rain storm. We have soil conditions that are mineral deficient, including magnesium, which means the food sources are mineral depleted, included magnesium. To me, it goes back to just growing, and cultivating, and farming healthy food from healthy soil.

That to me is the main reason. We are low in magnesium and there is this nice correlation with blood pressure, heart disease, cancers. You have to be careful, it's not cause-effect, and I'm not saying that. But there is definitely this relation between loss of magnesium and age-related disorders.

We know, by the way, if you give people magnesium, they do better in a lot of these conditions. It doesn't always necessarily treat the condition, but some of the things we look at as doctors, improve. Let's go right to the question—how important is magnesium to a diabetes protocol? As I said--very. Let me just show you this. If you improve magnesium levels in a diabetic or a pre-diabetic or somebody at risk for diabetes, all of the things we look at--blood sugar, hemoglobin A1C, insulin resistance—all of these things improve when you improve, or even just correct, the magnesium deficiency.

\This first study was published in Diabetes Care in 2003. This was a study that was looking to determine whether oral magnesium supplement improves both insulin sensitivity and metabolic control in Type 2 diabetes subjects with decreased serum magnesium levels. They found Type 2 diabetics with low magnesium, that's who was brought into this study.

This was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 63 subjects who had Type 2 diabetes, decreased serum magnesium levels and they were on a sulfonylurea. Back in the early 2000s, that's pretty much what we used. Metformin was around, but it was not as popular as it is today. They were all on a classic sulfonylurea to treat diabetes, called glynase. It is not really used that much anymore today. They had 63 diabetics on a very common drug back then, and they all had low magnesium levels.

They then split the groups up. Half of them received a solution of magnesium chloride and the other half, a placebo for 16 weeks. Not only did they look at all of the basic things like blood sugar level, hemoglobin, they also did a very standard measurement model for insulin resistance called HOMAIR.

It stands for homeostasis model assessment for insulin resistance--a very classic model for measuring insulin sensitivity. The results were clear cut. "At the end of the study, the subjects who received magnesium supplementation showed significantly higher serum mutation concentration." You would expect that. Their magnesium levels went up. They took the magnesium solution and their magnesium levels went up. That's the first thing that they had to make sure was happening.

So, the magnesium levels improved by those taking the solution. The placebo group--the magnesium levels stayed low. As magnesium levels went up in this study, there was an improvement in the insulin resistance measurement. There was a significant improvement—all of these results were significant, meaning statistically significant—there was an improvement in insulin resistance, fasting glucose level and hemoglobin A-1C. Everything improved across the board significantly and the only difference was improving magnesium levels. Awesome. Magnesium didn't become a standard treatment for diabetics at that point.

In 2003, we still—I was a young practicing physician at that point—we weren't talking about magnesium. You have to ask the question—why? What's going on? The argument would be--just 63 people, it was a small study. It's interesting, it is hypothesis generating, blah, blah, blah. At some point we've got to start taking what we're finding in clinical research and start applying that to everyday practice.

We have to start doing that quicker and sooner, especially with something as simple as magnesium. They conclude that "Oral supplementation with magnesium restores serum magnesium levels." Good. "It improves insulin sensitivity." Good. And "It improves metabolic control in Type 2 diabetics". That was the conclusion of a really well-designed, straight forward study.

You improve magnesium levels. All of these basic parameters we look at, the main ones. Insulin sensitivity, glucose levels, and hemoglobin all approved across the board. This most recent one was published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Food Science and it basically just did the same thing.

It was a review. Since 2003, there have been repeated studies of this one in Diabetes Care. Several of them, actually. They went back and looked at those. They went back and looked at all of those similar studies from 2003 up until the current date and they all have the same conclusions. Low magnesium is bad for diabetics and improving magnesium levels, giving people magnesium, improves all the parameters we look at in a diabetic.

So, if you're diabetic, pre-diabetic or you are at risk, you have to be taking at least 500 milligrams of magnesium every day.

This is Healthy Talk on RadioMD.

I'm Dr. Mike. Stay well.