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Magnesium is an essential nutrient for the brain and body. It helps regulate blood sugar, among its many benefits. Yet a magnesium deficiency is often seen in people with diabetes.
If you have type 2 diabetes, your body produces insulin, but not enough to meet your needs. This is called insulin resistance.
People with insulin sensitivity or resistance also lose excess magnesium in their urine, contributing to lower levels of this nutrient.
Some people with type 1 diabetes also develop insulin resistance. This may put them at risk for a magnesium deficiency, too.
Taking a magnesium supplement, however, can increase your magnesium blood level and improve diabetes control. If you have pre-diabetes, supplementation may also improve blood sugar and possibly prevent type 2 diabetes.
The various types of magnesium include:
- magnesium glycinate
- magnesium oxide
- magnesium chloride
- magnesium sulfate
- magnesium carbonate
- magnesium taurate
- magnesium citrate
- magnesium lactate
- magnesium gluconate
- magnesium aspartate
- magnesium threonate
Magnesium supplements aren’t created equal. Different types are better for certain ailments and have different absorption rates. Some types dissolve more easily in liquid, allowing for quicker absorption into the body.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), some studies have found that magnesium aspartate, citrate, lactate, and chloride have better absorption rates, when compared to magnesium oxide and sulfate.
But the NIH also reports that when people with poorly controlled diabetes were given 1,000 milligrams (mg) of magnesium oxide per day in clinical trials, they showed improvements in glycemic control after 30 days.
Similarly, people who received 300 mg of magnesium chloride per day had improvements in fasting glucose after 16 weeks. Yet those who received magnesium aspartate had no improvement in glycemic control after three months of supplementation.
Only a few small clinical trials have evaluated the benefits of supplemental magnesium for diabetes. More research is needed to determine with certainty the best type of magnesium for glucose control.
If you have a deficiency, talk to your doctor to see if supplementation is right for you. Magnesium is available orally as a capsule, liquid, or powder.
It can also be injected into the body, or applied topically and absorbed through the skin with oils and creams.
Even though supplementation can correct a low magnesium blood level, you can also increase your level naturally through diet.
Many plants and animal products are an excellent source of magnesium:
- green leafy vegetables (spinach, collard greens, etc.)
- nuts and seeds
- whole grains
- peanut butter
- breakfast cereals
- chicken breast
- ground beef
Tap water, mineral water, and bottled water are also sources of magnesium, although magnesium levels can vary, depending on the water source.
Magnesium doesn’t only help regulate blood sugar. Other benefits of a healthy magnesium blood level include:
- decreases blood pressure, which reduces the risk for heart disease and stroke
- promotes healthy bones
- reduces the frequency of migraine attacks
- improves exercise performance
- decreases anxiety and depression
- reduces inflammation and pain
- eases premenstrual syndrome
Taking too much magnesium poses certain health risks. It can have a laxative effect in some people, resulting in diarrhea and stomach cramps. So it’s important to take magnesium supplements as directed.
These side effects can occur with magnesium carbonate, chloride, gluconate, and oxide.
If your gut can’t tolerate oral magnesium supplements, use a topical oil or cream instead. However, there’s a risk of skin irritation. Test your skin’s reaction by first applying the cream to a small patch of skin.
Ingesting large amounts of magnesium can also lead to magnesium toxicity. This condition can be fatal. Symptoms of toxicity include nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing, irregular heart rate, and cardiac arrest.
Poor kidney function is a risk factor for magnesium toxicity due to the inability of the kidneys to remove excess magnesium from the body.
Side effects don’t occur when consuming a large amount of magnesium through food. The body is capable of eliminating excess amounts of natural magnesium through urination.
Consult your doctor before taking a supplement if you also take a prescription medication. This can prevent possible drug interactions.
If you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, discuss the possibility of a magnesium deficiency with your doctor. Correcting a deficiency could potentially improve your blood sugar level, helping you better manage your condition.