After being hospitalized for a few days by my doctor for chest pains, (during which time I was given a "Magnesium Drip" for having low a magnesium blood level) my curiosity level peaked concerning the relationship between diabetes and low magnesium levels.
Upon returning home and doing some research this is what I have found out:
It is hard to find a metabolic action that does not require it. Without it hundreds of enzymes will not work properly. It is needed for the manufacture of protein, the formation of bone, the production of new cells, the making of ATP, the clotting of blood etc, etc.
What is important to us diabetics, both Type 1 and 2, is the fact that it also plays a major role in blood sugar regulation - a lack of Mg affects the pancreas's insulin secretion ability and also increases insulin resistance in the tissues.
An interesting aside here - I have heard that Metformin, one of the most common drugs used to treat Type 2 diabetes, raises magnesium levels in the liver, and yet another oral diabetic drug, Pioglitazone, increases the concentration of Mg in adipocytes (fat cells). This does tend to lend some credence to the advantages Mg has in treating diabetes.
People with diabetes tend to have lower magnesium levels, especially if the disease is not well controlled or has been uncontrolled for a long period of time.
It is thought that when the blood glucose levels go very high the kidneys lose their ability to retain magnesium, leading to excess excretion of magnesium in the urine (and we all know how often we had to visit the 'little room' prior to diagnosis and even now in some cases!).
The loss of magnesium in this way leads to low levels in the blood, called hypomagnesemia - not a word you can say after a few drinks!
Also insulin resistance decreases the cellular uptake of magnesium and therefor the intercellular levels become too low.
Magnesium: What is it?
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and is essential to good health. Approximately 50% of total body magnesium is found in bone. The other half is found predominantly inside cells of body tissues and organs. Only 1% of magnesium is found in blood, but the body works very hard to keep blood levels of magnesium constant.
Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system, and keeps bones strong. Magnesium also helps regulate blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure, and is known to be involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis. There is an increased interest in the role of magnesium in preventing and managing disorders such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Dietary magnesium is absorbed in the small intestines. Magnesium is excreted through the kidneys.
The NIH says, “Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body… [It] is involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis.” And according to our own Amy Campbell, “Results from three very large studies indicate that people who consume a diet rich in magnesium have a lower risk of getting Type 2 diabetes.”
People with diabetes are more likely than those without to be low in magnesium. According to an article on About.com, “Elevated blood glucose levels increase the loss of magnesium in the urine, which in turn lowers blood levels of magnesium.” So getting enough magnesium is especially important in diabetes.
In spite of these benefits, medical authorities rarely recommend magnesium. That’s why I call it the forgotten mineral. For instance, people on diuretics (“water pills”) are usually given potassium supplements to replace the potassium lost through urination. But magnesium is lost the same way and rarely supplemented.
That old saying is true, "You are never too old to learn something new".
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