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Munching on magnesium to reduce type 2 diabetes risk

161219_tsf_bloghero_04Another day, another meta-analysis, right? Well, this one is a bigguns!

Recently published in BMC Medicine were the results of a huge meta-analysis that assessed dietary intake of magnesium and health outcomes, involving over 1 million people in 9 countries in 40 prospective cohort studies.1

Researchers found that, compared to those with the lowest dietary intake of magnesium, those who consumed the most had a whopping 26% less risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In addition, munchers of magnesium rich foods had a reduced risk for heart failure, stroke and all-cause mortality.

It is important to note that these are observational studies, so we can’t rule out the influence of other health, dietary or lifestyle factors on the results, nor assume that magnesium is the be-all-end-all in reducing disease risk.

However, in a press release, the study authors note the large size of this analysis provides robust data that were stable when adjusting for gender and study location.

So, ensuring we get a good dose of magnesium each day could be eating our way to better health.

Where is magnesium in our food? Think leafy greens, black beans, avocado, banana, almonds, spices, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and even some oily fish. And cacao. Like the stuff found in good quality dark chocolate. Oh yeh. 

A magnesium depleted society

Low magnesium is associated with insulin resistance and impaired insulin secretion.2 And when we think about it, this relationship is not surprising.

High sugar and junk food diets are not only lacking in this important mineral (and many other helpful nutrients too), but may deplete what little in the body is left.

The recommended daily intake in Australia is 310-320mg for women and 400-420mg for men, and according to this recent meta-analysis, an increase in 100mg a day can decrease risk of type 2 diabetes by 19%. 100mg is, like, ¾ cup of cooked spinach or silverbeet.

The absorption and rate of use of magnesium varies across the population, so if you’ve concerns, get in touch with your trusted healthcare practitioner, like a qualified nutritionist or dietician.

And know this – magnesium is needed for over 300 functions and biochemical processes in the body.3-5

This includes:

  • insulin secretion and action
  • synthesis and production of DNA
  • blood vessel vasodilation (important for regulating blood pressure)
  • energy synthesis
  • sleep and mood regulation
  • heart and smooth muscle contractibility (low levels can result in arrhythmia and muscle cramps)
  • bone, cell membrane and chromosome structure
  • reducing the incidence of migraines and symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome
  • and plenty of other things!

Gastrointestinal disorders resulting in diarrhoea or poor nutrient absorption, kidney disease, excessive sweating, and frequent urination – a common symptom of type 2 diabetes – encourage depletion

And prolonged, chronic stress chews through magnesium like a starved billy goat on a field of dandelion. Add to that a poor diet (which is also a source of stress on the body) and we aren’t sitting pretty for encouraging sensitivity to insulin.

As nutritional science evolves, we understand more and more the benefit of focusing on consuming real, whole foods rather than on nutrients on their own.

Every person is different with a unique set of circumstances, and therefore have different nutritional requirements.

But generally, if you limit refined added sugar and heavily processed foods and mostly eat the real whole stuff, including foods like leafy greens, beans, seeds and nuts, your are off to a cracking start.

By Angela Johnson (BHSc Nut. Med.)



  1. Fang, X, Wang, K, Han, D, He, X, Wei, J, Zhao, L, Imam, MU, Ping, Z, Li, Y, Xu, Y, Min, J, & Wang, F 2016, ‘Dietary magnesium intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and all-cause mortality: a dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies’, BMC Medicine, vol. 14, no. 1, p. 210.
  2. NRV 2014, Magnesium, viewed 12 December 2016, <>
  3. Gropper, SS & Smith, JL 2013, Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism, 6th, Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, Belmont CA
  4. LPI 2016, Magnesium, viewed 12 December 2016, <>
  5. UMM 2015, Magnesium, viewed 12 December 2016, <>
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