Magnesium May Minimize Diabetes

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The march of diabetes continues to track across the United States.  Currently, an estimated 29.2 million American adults have diabetes with about 8.1 million of that number have not yet been diagnosed.  One out of every four people aged 65 and older have this chronic disease.  On top of that, there are 86 million people who have prediabetes that could eventually turn into type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes is a chronic condition that can take a heavy health toll on its victims.  Once a person is diagnosed with diabetes they are automatically at a higher risk for serious health complications of heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, and nervous system damage.  Every year, about 73,000 Americans who have diabetes will have a foot or leg amputated.

Factors contributing to diabetes

There are many contributing factors as to why a person develops diabetes.  One of the strongest factors is a family history.  Another major risk factor is carrying extra pounds.  When a strong family history and excess weight is combined, the likelihood of type 2 diabetes developing is very high. 

Food choices play a major role in determining a person’s body weight and in controlling their blood glucose levels.  When a person chooses to consume more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lentils, nuts and seeds, their chance of developing diabetes is reduced.  If however, their primary food sources consist of sugar-sweetened beverages, highly-refined foods such as white bread, white rice, sweets and desserts, they are more likely to gain weight and see spikes in their blood glucose.

Magnesium’s role

There is a nutrient that appears to be beneficial for preventing type 2 diabetes – magnesium. 

Magnesium is emerging more and more to play a major role in the possibility of preventing type 2 diabetes. 

A 2011 study conducted a meta-analysis of 13 prospective cohort studies involving over 500,000 participants did find a significant inverse dose response association between magnesium intake and risk of type 2 diabetes. 

Another study tracked more than 85,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study for 18 years and 42,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study for 12 years.  Its findings showed that participants who consumed the most magnesium (about 375 milligrams a day for women and 450 milligrams a day for men) had a 27 percent lower risk of diabetes than those who consumed the least magnesium (about 200 milligrams for women and 270 milligrams for men).  The Nurses’ Health Study also found that women who consumed more magnesium had lower levels of c-reactive protein and other signs of chronic low-level inflammation.

A study called the Iowa Women’s Health Study had similar results.  Researchers found an association between a low magnesium intake and an increased risk of diabetes among women who were overweight. 

It has been noted by scientists that two main features of diabetes is insulin resistance and beta-cell dysfunction.  Beta-cells are found in the pancreas and are what produce insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas in response to high blood glucose levels.  It is also known that obesity plays a significant role in type 2 diabetes development. Obesity in turn can cause chronic inflammation in the body.  People who are obese most likely have chronic inflammation that may cause insulin resistance in peripheral tissues damaging the beta cells in the pancreas that secrete insulin.

These large studies are observational studies which are not able to show a direct link or a cause and effect.  Therefore, before any conclusive statements or recommendations can be made for magnesium and type 2 diabetes, there needs to be direct evidence from a large, long-term clinical trial.

Foods sources of magnesium

In the meantime, it would be advisable for everyone to begin consuming more magnesium-rich foods for the possible prevention of type 2 diabetes.   The recommended dietary allowance for magnesium is:

·         Women – 320 mg a day

·         Men – 420 mg a day

Good food sources of this mineral include:

·         Pumpkin seeds – ¼ cup - 303 mg

·         Halibut – 3 ounces - 91 mg

·         Almonds – ¼ cup - 107 mg

·         Cashews – ¼ cup – 89 mg

·         Spinach – 1/2 canned – 81 mg

·         Lima or black beans – ½ cup – 60 mg

·         Dark chocolate – 1 ounce – 41 mg

·         Beet greens – ½ cup – 49 mg

·         Okra – ½ cup – 47 mg

·         Oatmeal – ½ cup – 49 mg

·         Navy beans – ½ cup – 48 mg

·         Garbanzo beans or chickpeas – ½ cup – 39 mg

·         Low-fat plain yogurt – 1 cup – 46 mg