Role of Magnesium in Diabetes

Diabetes effects over a quarter of a billion people worldwide. Since there is no cure for this dreadful disease, preventing diabetes is worth more than treating the disease. Dietary patterns and nutrients may improve the outcome of diabetes.

There is a growing interest in the possible beneficial role of magnesium in the treatment, and prevention of complications, in diabetics.


Magnesium is one of the most abundant elements on earth and is the fourth most plentiful nutrient in the body. Magnesium is involved in every metabolic process in the body and plays major roles in protein, carbohydrate and lipid metabolism.

Role of Magnesium in Diabetes

Magnesium influences the release and action of insulin. When insulin is released from the pancreas, magnesium in the cells responds and opens the cells to allow entry of glucose. This makes cells sensitive to insulin and has an important role in normalizing blood sugar levels.

People with diabetes commonly have magnesium deficiency. Diabetes also causes urinary losses of magnesium, leading to low blood magnesium levels, this impairs insulin secretion and action thereby worsening diabetes control. Therefore, there is a need for magnesium consumption from outside sources.

How much do we need?

The recommended amount of daily magnesium depends on the age, gender and life stage. This table shows the recommended amount you need per day:

Age Magnesium
Amount needed per day
Men 19 to 30 400 mg
Women 19 to 30 310 mg
Men 31 and older 420 mg
Women 31 and older 320 mg
Pregnant women 19 to 30 350 mg
Pregnant women over 30 360 mg
Breastfeeding women 19 to 30 310 mg
Breastfeeding women over 30 320 mg


Magnesium and Diet

Diets with higher amounts of magnesium are associated with a significantly lower risk of diabetes, possibly because of the important role of magnesium in glucose metabolism. About 20% of magnesium is protein bound, so consuming foods that are high in protein content might help prevent the onset of type-2 diabetes.Photo Credit: Praisaeng via

Foods that are rich in magnesium include: dark leafy greens such as raw spinach, nuts and seeds (squash and pumpkin seeds), fish (mackerel), beans and lentils (soy beans), whole grains (brown rice), avocados, low fat dairy (plain non fat yogurt), bananas, dried fruits, figs and dark chocolate.

Although magnesium is found in many foods, about 85% of magnesium content can be lost by refining or processing of foods. In addition to this, cooking especially boiling of magnesium rich foods will result in significant loss of magnesium.

Magnesium Supplements

Since, for people with diabetes, magnesium in the body is lost by urine excretion and because of low intake from foods sources, magnesium supplementation may be necessary to replenish these losses. Supplements are available in the form of magnesium -oxides, citrates, chlorides, or magnesium-aspartate hypochloride.

Studies showed some potential benefits of magnesium supplements in improving blood magnesium concentration, and reducing the risk of diabetes and improving diabetes control. However, not all studies supported this. There is a need for further investigation to optimize the doses and duration of magnesium supplements, and to determine its benefit in treating and preventing diabetes.

Magnesium Toxicity

Eating too much magnesium rich foods usually do not lead to toxicity, eating over the 350mg per day of magnesium from foods and water is still considered safe. However it is possible to have toxicity when using supplements. The long-term safety and dosage of magnesium supplementation has not yet been established, but should not exceed 350 mg per day. Studies showed no adverse effects of up to 16 weeks.

Large doses of magnesium in supplements can cause diarrhea and abdominal cramping, nausea and softening of stools. Very large doses more than 5000 mg/day can be fatal.


Written by Mehwish Naqvi, Certified Clinical Nutritionist. August 8th 2014
Reviewed by Shaistha M Zaheeruddin, Registered Dietitian


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