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Get Your Magnesium: Avoiding Type 2 Diabetes

We know that obesity is the single strongest risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. That said, it also appears that eating certain foods helps to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. These foods, which include whole grains, beans, nuts, and fruits and vegetables, are all high in magnesium. Magnesium is involved in the metabolism of glucose and it is thought that it then plays a role in the body's use of insulin - and therefore type 2 diabetes.

Swedish researchers looked at the data from a number of different studies to see if magnesium intake was related to type 2 diabetes (J Int Med 2007; 262(2):208-214). The seven studies included over 285,000 people and collected dietary information through detailed food questionnaires. These also collected information about any magnesium-containing supplements the participants took regularly.

The magnesium intake of those participants who developed diabetes was then compared to the magnesium intake of those who did not. The scientists found that an additional 100 milligrams of magnesium per day beyond the lowest intake of magnesium meant that the participant’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes was reduced by 15%.

How much is 100 milligrams of magnesium? That’s about three bananas or a quarter cup of nuts or 4 tablespoons of peanut butter, among other things.

What this means for you

The scientists note that those who tend to eat foods that are magnesium-rich are probably those who are not likely to develop diabetes anyway. Yet animal studies indicate that a magnesium deficiency can impair an individual’s secretion of insulin, which is essentially what diabetes is. That said, this is yet another reason to make sure that whole grains, beans, nuts, and fruits and vegetables are part of your daily diet. At least take a banana to work for a snack – they’re delicious and may help you avoid type 2 diabetes.

First posted: October 15, 2008