Magnesium plays a vital role in the storage and utilization of energy. Although magnesium is ubiquitous in food sources, especially in dark green leafy vegetables, magnesium deficiency continues to be common, affecting up to 10% of seemingly healthy adults and up to 65% of patients in the intensive care setting.1 Moreover, a new study strongly correlates high magnesium intake with a reduced risk of developing type II diabetes.2
Of those with type II diabetes, approximately 39% suffer from magnesium deficiency.3,4 This reduces insulin sensitivity, thereby altering glucose homeostasis. Furthermore, magnesium deficiency accelerates the complications of diabetes, including retinopathy, thrombosis, and hypertension.
This deficiency generally is not due to inadequate dietary intake, but instead to excessive gastrointestinal losses (from malabsorption, diarrhea, or bowel resection) or renal losses (for example, hypercalcemia, alcohol abuse, or the use of diuretics, chemotherapeutic agents, or antibiotics). Magnesium deficiency also occurs as a metabolic derangement of both thyroid and parathyroid disorders, and most often is a symptom of an underlying disease.
In research published in the journal Diabetes Care, low magnesium intake in women was tied to an increased risk of developing diabetes, particularly in those who are overweight.2 Women with the highest magnesium intake (433 mg/day) were up to 22% less likely to develop diabetes than those with the lowest intake (255 mg/day).
Although people with low-normal or even abnormally low levels of magnesium may be asymptomatic, the classic symptoms of magnesium deficiency are neuromuscular hyperirritability and cardiac arrhythmias. Magnesium status can be easily determined by a blood test or magnesium tolerance test. For those who are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, oral replacement with magnesium oxide (1-2 grams daily in divided doses) is recommended.
—Dean S. Cunningham, MD, PhD