This nutrient may lower your risk of type 2 diabetes

Losing weight and exercise can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. But getting more of this mineral may help, too.

In a recent study, scientists tracked roughly 200,000 men and women for 28 years. Those who reported getting the most magnesium from their food and supplements had a 15 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes than those who reported getting the least.1

Women in the “most” category typically got about 410 milligrams of magnesium a
day. That’s well over the Recommended Dietary Allowance for women over 30 (320 mg). Men got about 470 mg a day, also higher than their RDA (420 mg).1

But something else about people who eat more magnesium could explain
why they have a lower risk of diabetes. So scientists do trials to see if giving
people magnesium lowers their blood sugar or insulin.

“In some studies on people who have metabolic syndrome or prediabetes, magnesium lowers fasting blood glucose or insulin or HbA1c,” notes
Adela Hruby, a research fellow at the T.H. Chan Harvard School of Public Health. (Hemoglobin A1c is a long-term measure of blood sugar levels.)

But not all studies agree.2 What’s more, “there haven’t been sufficient
numbers of trials in humans,” says Hruby.

How might magnesium help prevent diabetes? “It might help beta-cells in the
pancreas secrete insulin,” says Hruby. “And it may also make cells more sensitive to insulin, so that your muscles and other tissues respond better to it.”

Where to get magnesium

Most magnesium-rich foods—like green leafy vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains—are healthy. And you’re better off getting your magnesium from whole foods than from supplements because getting more than 350 mg a day from pills may cause diarrhea. “You can’t get too much magnesium from foods,” adds Hruby.

What’s more, if it’s not magnesium but something else in beans, leafy greens, and whole grains that protects your health, you won’t get it from a pill.

What to do: These studies aren’t proof that magnesium can lower the risk of diabetes, but they’re one more reason to eat more magnesium-rich foods.


1 Diabetes Care 2017. doi:10.2337/dc17-1143.
2 Diab. Med. 23: 1050, 2006.

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12 Replies to “This nutrient may lower your risk of type 2 diabetes”

  1. From the article: “But not all studies agree.2 What’s more, ‘there haven’t been sufficient numbers of trials in humans,’ says Hruby.”

    This is maddening to me. Why haven’t there “been sufficient numbers of trials in humans?” Magnesium supplements are dirt cheap and their side effects are minimal. Diabetes is so prevalent that settling this question once and for all with an extremely well-designed trial (the results of which could and should be definitive) should be a high priority.

    1. Because costs of conducting randomized placebo-controlled trials are mammoth and unless there is going to be someone who is going to making a lot of money at the end of the day, there is no incentive/motivation to take on the thankless task of conducting such a study on a non-patentable “treatment”. Thus often times large observational or epi trials are what we rely on for clues which may spark some experimental studies to understand the mechanism of the observation.

      1. This would be the sort of study the government would fund (NIH, for example), or at least used to consider funding before the current administration.

        Alternatively, a philanthropic foundation or an advocacy group (such as the Diabetes Foundation) could fund such a study.

      1. Agreed, but that doesn’t mean that what you take isn’t important. It’s just not AS important as what you eat.

  2. Then don’t publish things about health or diet until there have been enough studies…I am so sick and tired of hearing differing ideas about food. Whole grains are good for you yet AARP has an article that too much wheat can cause inflammation in the body which can lead to negative health effects. Eggs are good… eggs are bad….just the yolk is bad….the whites offered to early causes allergies….its better to eat the whole egg because the nutrients in both parts work together!!! Who are we ever supposed to listen to?????

    1. Exactly how I feel whenever nutrition “experts” try to tell me what to do. I just cut out most processed foods and stop worrying about the rest of the details. The Omnivore’s Dilemma seems like a good common sense guide to follow.

  3. Many people, especially older people, can no longer digest a lot of leafy greens. So what are we supposed to eat in order to get all the nutrients contained in leafy greens?

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