Magnesium is a vital mineral that has about 400 different uses in the body. As magnesium 1 blog said, it has been leached from the soil by years of adding artificial fertilisers to the soil instead of fertilisers composed of natural ingredients such as rotted vegetables, poo and ash. Low magnesium levels have different effects upon each of us, according to our genes. And one of the effects is as a contributing factor to developing type 2 diabetes, the non-insulin dependant kind. This blog is going to draw on a study by Sara Chacko published 2011 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that demonstrated that magnesium supplementation both reduced fasting insulin levels and reduced inflammation. 1 Both these are very desirable outcomes as we shall see.
A diet that consists of a lot of starch and sugar in the form of bread, rice, pasta, biscuits, crisps, sugary drinks, cakes, sweets, causes the levels of sugar in the blood stream to rise dramatically. The other thing that causes blood sugar to rise is a large meal, eg Christmas dinner or any other gut busting meal. As blood sugar levels rise, the pancreas makes insulin which is the hormone that pushes that blood sugar into the muscles for burning for energy. Ideally this happens after exercising when the muscles are drained. However when activity or exercise levels are low, the muscles do not need any more sugary energy so instead the liver converts the excess sugar into fats, called triglycerides, loads them into a form of cholesterol called chylomicrons and then bundles them off to the fat cells where the high insulin levels signal the fat cells to open up to store this excess fuel for a rainy day. The fat cells get stuffed full of fat, so more fat cells are made, ensuring the body has a good supply of surplus energy ready for the next food shortage – and when in the West do we have a food shortages? And so we start to get fat.
Foods that raise blood sugar seem tasty – they are addictive. As blood sugar rises, so does serotonin, the feel-good factor in the brain. We want more lovely, lovely cake. And so our body has to produce more and more insulin. Eventually the fat cells become insulin resistant- they do not open their doors to insulin’s call, so the sugar circulating in the blood remains circulating in the blood instead of getting stored or burnt up for fuel in the muscles. High blood sugar causes tiny cuts to the blood vessels (arteries and veins) and also sticks to the proteins in the blood: sugar is sticky – think candyfloss – so sugar sticking to proteins make the blood sticky. This is not a good scenario; damaged blood vessels cause inflammation and so the anti-inflammatory defense mechanisms of the body are activated and we now have a pre-disposition for heart disease. If this damage is ignored because of the siren call of cake or fizzy drinks, eventually non-insulin dependant diabetes is developed which, by these mechanisms lead on to loss of sight, loss of limbs – blood not being able to reach the toes properly, for example as well as heart attacks. And we will not be looking good naked – the typical body shape is rather like a potato: a big body with very thin arms, legs and bottom.
So whilst on the route to resembling a potato, our fasting insulin levels are high. A fasting insulin level is the level of insulin in the blood after a 12 hour fast – so its a blood test taken in the morning before breakfast. The lower this is, the better, since it means that the insulin we produce is effective at its job. The above mentioned study found that after 4 weeks of magnesium supplementation, fasting insulin levels had dropped. The study noted that low magnesium levels in muscles, the heart and fat cells are associated with worse insulin action and poor uptake of blood sugar in the muscles and heart. It also talks about a meta-analysis of 9 other studies supplementing for 4 – 16 weeks also came to the same conclusion. 2 So supplementing with a high quality magnesium will help us lose weight by increasing insulin sensitivity and enabling the muscles and heart to burn up the blood sugar for energy instead of it floating about causing damage. So if we exercise whilst on magnesium supplementation, the exercise will be more effective – and we will almost certainly find we have more energy to get off the sofa.
The other thing found by this study was that magnesium overall positively affected the genes associated with good blood sugar handling. Essentially, magnesium helps the body to produce more adiponectin – a hormone that helps weightloss and reduces inflammation, so has a good effect on the sugar damaged blood vessels. To be fair, not every study finds magnesium helpful. However, as magnesium 1 blog went into, the most effective magnesium supplements are bound to an amino acid (protein), since this is the form the body recognises best and so uptake is superior. So if a study is not using at least magnesium glycinate, then it will not get reliable results.
Taking the best quality magnesium supplementation alone will help, but to lose weight, we really do have to fight the siren call of the foods that make us fat and learn to prefer steak and salad to burger and chips. We need to wean ourselves off sweet food and drink. Serious weightloss is a multi-pronged attack. To merely assume that, for anybody with more than about 14lbs or 6.5kgs of body fat to lose, the simple decision to follow strictly any diet is doomed to failure over the long term. Magnesium shortage is an important part of why we are fat, it is an important part of losing weight successfully. But is it not the only thing as the page on this website, ‘Why weightloss can be so difficult’ goes into.
- Chacko, S A, Sul J, Song Y, Xinmin l, Le Blanc, J, Yuko Y, Butch A, Liu S. Magnesium supplementation, metabolic and inflammatory markers, and global genomic and protemoic profiling: a randomized, double-blind, controlled, crossover trial in overweight individuals. Am J Clin Nutr 2011;93:463-73 [↩]
- It is not known exactly how magnesium works [↩]