Magnesium Deficiency is Linked to Insulin Resistance Syndrome

A deficiency in magnesium is crucial for health. It contributes to insulin resistance but can help insulin sensitivity.

What is Magnesium?

Magnesium is the second most abundant mineral in your body’s cells after potassium. As a macro-mineral, it is needed in the body in large quantity. Studies have recognized magnesium as a cofactor for more than 300 enzyme-driven biochemical reactions. Based on its many functions within your body’s cells, magnesium plays a crucial role in the prevention and treatment of many diseases. Your body needs it for energy production, lipid (fat) and protein synthesis, nerve impulses, muscle contraction and relaxation, heart function, and bone formation.

People who have insulin resistance syndrome, also known as metabolic syndrome, are more likely to have a magnesium deficiency. Low levels are linked to chronic diseases such as pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, chronic kidney disease, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), alcoholism, dementia, Chron’s disease, Celiac’s disease, or cancer. Additionally, individuals with deficiency are most likely overweight, obese, don’t exercise, and over the age of 45. To learn more about insulin resistance, please read List of Diseases Caused by Sugar and Insulin Resistance.

Why is Magnesium Vital for Metabolism and Insulin Regulation?

The most concrete research on magnesium in linked to the management of insulin resistance. Studies show magnesium can reduce insulin sensitivity as well as disease risk. According to a report published in Diabetes & Metabolism, a vicious cycle reinforces insulin resistance with regards to magnesium deficiency. Though magnesium deficiency contributes to the cause of insulin resistance, high insulin in the body also contributes to magnesium deficiency.

A 2018 lab study published in Fundamental & Clinical Pharmacology reported that magnesium used as insulin therapy improves insulin resistance syndrome by improving glucose tolerance via the stimulation of Glut4 gene and protein expression while suppressing the gluconeogenesis pathway, a metabolic pathway that results in generating glucose from non-carbohydrate sources. It also suppresses glucagon receptor gene expression, meaning it inhibits the way the body negatively controls blood sugar levels.

Insulin resistance is linked to a higher risk of pancreatic cancer by an estimated 80 percent, as those with pancreatic cancer have diabetes of some form of insulin resistance when diagnosed. A cohort of nearly 67,000 men and women aged 50 to 76 who participated in the VITamins And Lifestyle (VITAL) study revealed that magnesium deficiency increases the risk for developing pancreatic cancer substantially. For every 100 milligram (mg.) decrement per day in magnesium intake, the risk for pancreatic cancer increased by 24 percent. For individuals whose magnesium intake was suboptimal or 75 to 99 percent of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA), the risk of developing pancreatic cancer jumped to 42 percent. Even worse, individuals whose intake of magnesium was less than 75 percent of the RDA had a 76 percent risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

What are the Signs of Magnesium Deficiency?

Assessing a deficiency is difficult because most magnesium resides in your bones or cells. In fact, your body contains approximately 25 grams of magnesium with about 60 percent present in the bones, 27 percent in the muscles, and the rest in soft tissues. Less than one percent of it is in blood serum, and these levels are kept in tight control. If blood levels become low, your body will draw magnesium from your bones.

Low Magnesium Signs

Because there is so little magnesium in your blood, regular diagnostics can be misleading. However, you may also have low levels if you have any of the following signs.

  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Personality changes
  • Confusion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Cravings for sweets
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Coronary spasms
  • Poor coordination
  • Muscle weakness, contractions, or cramps
  • Numbness or tingling in the extremities
  • Seizures

Low levels change the body’s biochemical pathways that can increase risk of disease over time. As mentioned previously, you may have a magnesium deficiency if you are overweight, obese, or have one of the chronic illnesses as mentioned in the first section of this article.

Life Situations that May Lead to Magnesium Deficiency

If you have any of the following life situations, you may be at risk for magnesium deficiency and need to increase your intake of the mineral.

  • Eating pre-packaged, processed, junky, or fast foods
  • Drinking caffeinated or carbonated drinks daily or alcohol beverages weekly
  • Dealing with an overly stressful life
  • Undergoing recent major surgery
  • Taking prescription medications, birth control, or diuretics
  • Consuming a calcium supplement with less than a ratio of 1:1
  • Having anxiety or hyperactivity
  • Sleeping too much or too little

What are Some Magnesium Rich Foods?

The best way to obtain magnesium is through your diet in the form of foods. Following are some of the best sources for making sure you aren’t at risk for deficiency.

  • Dark green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, Swiss chard, watercress, arugula)
  • Other vegetables (broccoli, zucchini, squash, okra, beets, artichokes)
  • Sea vegetables (seaweed, kelp, agar)
  • Grains (amaranth, oat bran)
  • Beans (adzuki, black, navy, mung, white, lima)
  • Fruits (avocados, bananas, prunes, raisins, dried apricots)
  • Seeds and nut (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, cashews)
  • Fish and seafood (salmon, crabs, mollusks)
  • Spices (basil, parsley, sage, marjoram, dill weed, cocoa)
  • Condiments (horseradish and fish sauces)
  • Beverages (coffee and tea)

How Much Magnesium do I Need?

If you can’t get enough magnesium from food sources, you may want to opt for a supplement form. Following is a list of RDA recommendations for magnesium broken down by age, gender, pregnancy, and lactation.


  • Birth to 6 months old – 30 mg.
  • 7 to 12 months old – 75 mg.
  • 1 to 3 years – 80 mg.
  • 4 to 8 years – 130 mg.
  • 9 to 13 years – 240 mg.

Women (Including Lactating Mothers)

  • 14 to 18 years – 360 mg.
  • 19 to 30 years – 310 mg.
  • 31 to 50 years – 320 mg.
  • 51+ years – 320 mg.

Pregnant Women

  • 14 to 18 years – 400 mg.
  • 19 to 30 years – 350 mg.
  • 31 to 50 years – 360 mg.


  • 14 to 18 years – 410 mg.
  • 19 to 30 years – 400 mg.
  • 31 to 50 years – 420 mg.
  • 51+ years – 420 mg.

Where Can I Buy Magnesium Supplements?

Choosing a magnesium supplement can be confusing as there are so many different types. Hopefully, this section will be helpful for you. When searching for a magnesium supplement, you’ll want to choose a chelated form of magnesium for better absorption. Quality is also dependent upon several factors including the amount of magnesium the supplement contains, as well as its dissolvability and bioavailability within the gut. When choosing a supplement, be sure the brand has a good reputation for not filling the supplement with junky additives. Following are a few types of magnesium to help you choose the right one for you.

The Best Forms of Magnesium

Magnesium Glycinate is one of the most bioavailable types of magnesium and is a great choice for correcting long-term deficiency as it is the safest and will unlikely induce diarrhea. Check out Pure Encapsulations® Magnesium Glycinate.

Magnesium Chloride is used for a general purpose magnesium and is the best type to take for detoxing cells and tissues. Studies have shown it is helpful in aiding kidney function and boosting slow metabolisms. Magnesium Chloride only contains about 12 percent elemental magnesium, but it has an impressive absorption rate. Though it can easily be found as a topical for sore muscles, it is difficult to find in dietary form.

Magnesium Carbonate is another popular magnesium. When it mixes with the stomach’s hydrochloric acids, it turns into Magnesium Chloride. Its bioavailability is about 30 percent and is a good choice for people suffering from acid reflux or indigestion. When taken in high doses, Magnesium Carbonate provides a strong laxative effect.

Magnesium Citrate is the most popular and budget-friendly type of magnesium. Because citric acid is a mild laxative, Magnesium Citrate is a useful constipation aid on top of being a general magnesium supplement. Check out Pure Encapsulations® Magnesium Citrate.

Magnesium Malate is a great choice for people suffering from lethargy and fatigue as malic acid is a vital component of enzymes that play a key role in energy production. Check out Pure Encapsulations® Magnesium Citrate/Malate.

Magnesium Taurate is the best choice for individuals with cardiovascular problems. Studies have shown it to prevent arrhythmias and guard against cardiac arrest. It is easily absorbed and contains no laxative properties. Check out Douglas Laboratories® Magnesium Taurate.

The Worst Forms of Magnesium

Magnesium Oxide is the most common and economical type of magnesium. It is a non-chelated type that provides a strong laxative effect and relief for acid reflux. The bioavailability Magnesium Oxide is poor at only 4 percent.

Magnesium Sulfate, also known as Epsom salt, provides a strong laxative effect. However, it should not be used on a daily basis as overdosing is easy. Save it for your baths to relieve sore muscles.

Magnesium Aspartate and Magnesium Glutamate should be avoided at all costs. They contain components that can become neurotoxic.

Comments (1)
No. 1-1

Magnesium is so important for everything!! I try to take one every day. I know when I get low, because I have heart flutters.....

Dr. Abby Campbell
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