Can magnesium protect against heart disease and diabetes?

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

The results suggested a 10% lower risk of heart disease, 12% lower risk of stroke and a 26% lower risk of T2DM for those taking the highest magnesium doses compared to those taking the lowest. ©iStock/vchal
The results suggested a 10% lower risk of heart disease, 12% lower risk of stroke and a 26% lower risk of T2DM for those taking the highest magnesium doses compared to those taking the lowest. ©iStock/vchal

Related tags: Insulin

A magnesium-rich diet could help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes (T2DM), heart disease and stroke, according to results from a meta-analysis.

The results suggested a 10% lower risk of heart disease, 12% lower risk of stroke and a 26% lower risk of T2DM for those taking the highest magnesium doses compared to those taking the lowest.

They also found an extra 100 milligrams (mg) of magnesium per day could reduce stroke risk by 7% and T2DM by 19%. These conclusions were based on data from over one million people across nine countries.

Magnesium plays an essential role in glucose metabolism, protein production and DNA synthesis. It can be found in nuts, beans, cocoa, whole grains and green leafy vegetables.

In July last year the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) set adequate intakes (AIs) of 350 mg/day for men and 300 mg/day for women. For children the AI ranged from 170 to 300 mg per day depending on age.

Yet despite these recommendations magnesium deficiency is common. Intake of 15-20% of the population in industrialised European countries is only around 30%​ of this amount. 

Magnesium melange

nuts protein ingredient
Nuts are an abundant source of magnesium as are green vegetables and whole grains. ©iStock

Researchers from Zhejiang University and Zhengzhou University in China used data from 40 studies carried out between 1999 and 2016.

All the research included looked into levels of dietary magnesium assessed using self-reported food frequency questionnaires or 24-hour dietary recalls.

As magnesium levels used to define categories varied greatly between each study, the team also looked into the effect a 100 mg per day increase of dietary magnesium had on health.

“Low levels of magnesium in the body have been associated with a range of diseases but no conclusive evidence has been put forward on the link between dietary magnesium and health risks,” ​said Dr Fudi Wang, lead author and researcher from the school of public health at Zhejiang University.

“Our meta-analysis provides supports a link between magnesium in food and reducing the risk of disease."

Other evidence

Previous meta-analyses suggested the consumption of magnesium is associated with a reduced incidence of cardiovascular disease​ and diabetes​.

However, these studies varied in sample size and magnesium intake, meaning there were inconsistencies in the literature.  

A recent review​ discussed the beneficial effects of using oral magnesium supplements for four months or longer.

The research found magnesium improved insulin sensitivity and glucose control in both diabetic and non-diabetic subjects.

Source: BMC Medicine

Published online ahead of print, DOI: 10.1186/s12916-016-0742-z

“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.”

Authors: Fudi Wang et al.

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1 comment

Magnesium a key player in human health

Posted by Claude Martin-Mondiere,

I started to understand the role of magnesium through nephrology,rheumatology and neurology, where women were consulting for weird signs. A blood test and a supplement of magnesium or a pound of nuts a week was doing the job. Then in cardiac surgery I mentioned my studies , and we started to see patients improving better with a controlled level of magnesium. Appropriate level of minerals is a key to be healthy.

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