“Magnesium plays an important role in glucose control and insulin metabolism,” says Erin Kenney, M.S., R.D., a registered dietitian. Through a number of mechanisms, magnesium helps the body reduce insulin resistance. People can become insulin resistant because of genetics or from factors related to diet and lifestyle. Insulin resistance happens when our cells stop responding to the hormone’s signal to take in blood sugar for energy.
As a result, the pancreas thinks it needs to produce more insulin and it just can’t keep up with the demand. Meanwhile, our blood sugar levels stay jacked and our liver stores too much glucose and sends it to fat cells, leading to weight gain (and even fatty liver). If this cycle keeps up, we can become prediabetic or develop type 2 diabetes.
“Research has linked high magnesium diets with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes,” Kenney says. In fact, type 2 diabetes is associated with magnesium deficiency, according to a review published in the World Journal of Diabetes.
Not getting enough magnesium through diet and also losing it through increased urination, a symptom of type 2 diabetes, can contribute to lower levels of the mineral in the body, possibly leading to a worsening cycle of blood sugar issues. “A deficiency in magnesium may worsen insulin resistance,” Kenney adds.
If you don’t have type 2 diabetes or haven’t been diagnosed with prediabetes, you could still benefit from magnesium’s help with blood sugar control, especially if you’re deficient or have low levels of the mineral. A randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial published in Diabetes & Metabolism found that magnesium supplementation improved insulin sensitivity in nondiabetic participants.*