The Insulin Magnesium Story


Controlling the level of blood sugars is only one of the many functions of insulin.

Insulin plays a central role in storing magnesium but if our cells become resistant to insulin, or if we do not produce enough insulin, then we have a difficult time storing magnesium in the cells where it belongs. When insulin processing becomes problematic magnesium gets excreted through our urine instead and this is the basis of what is called magnesium wasting disease.

There is a strong relationship between magnesium and insulin action. Magnesium is important for the effectiveness of insulin. A reduction of magnesium in the cells strengthens insulin resistance. [1],[2]

Insulin resistance and magnesium depletion result in a vicious cycle of worsening insulin resistance and decrease in intracellular Mg(2+) which limits the role of magnesium in vital cellular processes.[3] Magnesium is an important cofactor for enzymes involved in carbohydrate metabolism so anything threatening magnesium levels threatens overall metabolism. Large epidemiologic studies in adults indicate that lower dietary magnesium and lower serum magnesium are associated with increased risk for type 2 diabetes.[4],[5]

Redistribution of magnesium into cells may cause lower magnesium levels in the serum. Insulin causes this effect

Researchers at the Institute of Internal Medicine, University of Palermo wrote, “Intracellular magnesium concentration has also been shown to be effective in modulating insulin action (mainly oxidative glucose metabolism), offset calcium-related excitation-contraction coupling, and decrease smooth cell responsiveness to depolarizing stimuli. A poor intracellular Mg concentration, as found in noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) and in hypertensive patients, may result in a defective tyrosine-kinase activity at the insulin receptor level and exaggerated intracellular calcium concentration.” [6]

Magnesium improves and helps correct insulin sensitivity, which is the fundamental defect that characterizes pre-diabetes, metabolic syndrome and even full blown diabetes and heart disease. An intracellular enzyme called tyrosine kinase requires magnesium to allow insulin to exert its blood-sugar-lowering effects. In several studies, daily oral magnesium supplementation substantially improved insulin sensitivity by 10% and reduced blood sugar by 37%.[7],[8] Magnesium also helps correct abnormal lipoprotein patterns. We would expect to find larger improvements in this increased insulin sensitivity if magnesium is supplemented in a correct way meaning through transdermal and oral methods combined using liquid magnesium chloride (magnesium oil) as compared to the very inefficient oral solid forms commonly used.

Improved insulin sensitivity from magnesium replacement can markedly reduce triglyceride levels.[9] Reduced triglyceride availability, in turn, reduces triglyceride-rich particles, such as very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) and small low-density lipoprotein (small LDL), both of which are powerful contributors to heart disease. Magnesium supplementation can also raise levels of beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL).[10]

Insulin regulates intracellular magnesium levels via activation of Na+/Mg2+ exchange. Insulin’s effect on Na/Mg exchange may explain the low cellular magnesium levels observed in vivo under hyperinsulinemic conditions.[11]

Magnesium is a necessary element for all living organisms both animal and plant. Chlorophyll is structured around a magnesium atom, while in animals, magnesium is a key component of cells, bones, tissues and just about every physiological process you can think of. Magnesium is primarily an intracellular cation; roughly 1% of whole-body magnesium is found extracellularly, and the free intracellular fraction is the portion regulating enzyme pathways inside the cells. Life packs the magnesium jealously into the cells, every drop of it is precious.

Without magnesium, our pancreas won’t secrete enough insulin–or the insulin it secretes won’t be efficient enough–to control our blood sugar. Insulin is a hormone. And like many hormones, insulin is a protein. Insulin is secreted by groups of cells within the pancreas called islet cells. Insulin is much more important and has many more functions then we realize. It regulates:

Magnesium is a cofactor for multiple enzymes involved in carbohydrate metabolism.[12] Adipocyte cells placed in low-magnesium media show reduction in insulin-stimulated glucose uptake.[13] Magnesium deficiency is associated with increased intracellular calcium levels, which may lead to insulin resistance. Low erythrocyte magnesium content increases membrane microviscosity, which may impair insulin interaction with its receptor. Tyrosine kinase activity is decreased in muscle insulin receptors of rats fed a low-magnesium diet.[15] These findings indicate that magnesium deficiency directly affects insulin signaling.

[1] Paolisso G, Scheen A, D’Onofrio F, Lefebvre P: Magnesium and glucose homeostasis. Diabetologia 33:511–514, 1990[Medline]

[2] Nadler JL, Buchanan T, Natarajan R, Antonipillai I, Bergman R, Rude R: Magnesium deficiency produces insulin resistance and increased thromboxane synthesis. Hypertension 21:1024–1029, 1993

[3] Magnesium transport induced ex vivo by a pharmacological dose of insulin is impaired in non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Hua, H : Gonzales, J : Rude, R K Magnes-Res. 1995 Dec; 8(4): 359-66

[4] Lopez-Ridaura R, Willett WC, Rimm EB, Liu S, Stampfer MJ, Manson JE, Hu FB: Magnesium intake and risk of type 2 diabetes in men and women. Diabetes Care 27:134–140, 2004

[5] Kao WH, Folsom AR, Nieto FJ, Mo JP, Watson RL, Brancati FL: Serum and dietary magnesium and the risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. Arch Intern Med 159:2151, 1999

[6] Mol Aspects Med. 2003 Feb-Jun;24(1-3):39-52. Role of magnesium in insulin action, diabetes and cardio-metabolic syndrome X.Barbagallo M, Dominguez LJ, Galioto A, Ferlisi A, Cani C, Malfa L, Pineo A, Busardo’ A, Paolisso G. Institute of Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, University of Palermo, Via F Scaduto 6/C, Palermo, Italy.

[7] Guerrero-Romero F, Tamez-Perez HE, Gonzalez-Gonzalez G et al. Oral magnesium supplementation improves insulin sensitivity in non-diabetic subjects with insulin resistance. A double-blind placebo-controlled randomized trial. Diabetes Metab. 2004 Jun;30(3):253-8.

[8] Rodriguez-Moran M and Guerrero-Romero F. Oral magnesium supplementation improves insulin sensitivity and metabolic control in type 2 diabetic subjects: a randomized double-blind controlled trial. Diabetes Care. 2003 Apr;26(4):1147-52.

[9] Yokota K, Kato M, Lister F, et al. Clinical efficacy of magnesium supplementation in patients with type 2 diabetes. J Am Coll Nutr. 2004 Oct;23(5):506S-9S.

[10] Rasmussen HS, Aurup P, Goldstein K, et al. Influence of magnesium substitution therapy on blood lipid composition in patients with ischemic heart disease. A double-blind, placebo controlled study. Arch Intern Med. 1989 May;149(5):1050-3.

[11] Am J Hypertens (2002) 15, 104A–104A; doi:S0895-7061(02)02558-X

P-207: Insulin regulates human erythrocyte Na+/Mg2+ exchange. Ana Ferreira1, Jose R. Romero1 and Alicia Rivera. Pathology, Harvard Medical School; Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, United States

[12] Paolisso G, Scheen A, D’Onofrio F, Lefebvre P: Magnesium and glucose homeostasis. Diabetologia 33:511–514, 1990[Medline]

[13] Kandeel FR, Balon E, Scott S, Nadler JL: Magnesium deficiency and glucose metabolism in rat adipocytes. Metabolism 45:838–843, 1996[Medline]

[14] Tongyai S, Rayssiguier Y, Motta C, Gueux E, Maurois P, Heaton FW: Mechanism of increased erythrocyte membrane fluidity during magnesium deficiency in weanling rats. Am J Physiol 257:C270–C276, 1989

[15] Suarez A, Pulido N, Casla A, Casanova B, Arrieta FJ, Rovira A: Impaired tyrosine-kinase activity of C