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Magnesium Lowers Type 2 Diabetes Risk

Magnesium-Rich Foods Appear to Be Protective Regardless of Weight, Activity Level
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Dec. 23, 2003 -- Want to reduce your diabetes risk? Make a spinach salad your next meal, with a side of whole-wheat bread or almonds.

Two new studies suggest magnesium-rich foods like these can significantly lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, even in obese people who are at high risk for the disease. Earlier studies linked magnesium deficiency with an increased risk for diabetes. The latest findings carry this observation further by confirming the mineral's role in protecting against the disease.

Almost 170,000 People Studied

The larger of the two studies involved roughly 85,000 women and 42,000 men who completed dietary intake questionnaires every two to four years. The smaller study had a similar design and involved just under 40,000 women who were 45 or older. Both studies were conducted by researchers from Harvard University, and both are published in the January 2004 issue of the journal Diabetes Care.

In the larger study, the female subjects were followed for 18 years and the men for 12, during which time roughly 5,400 people developed type 2 diabetes. Even after taking into account diabetes risk factors such as age, weight, physical activity, smoking, and family history, those with the highest dietary levels of magnesium were found to have significantly lower risk for type 2 diabetes compared with those with the lowest magnesium levels.

The risk remained significant even after the researchers adjusted for other dietary variables associated with type 2 diabetes risk, such as fat fiber and glycemic load. The risk reduction was similar in the second study.

Eat Your Vegetables

So if eating leafy green vegetables, nuts, and other magnesium-rich foods is good, is taking magnesium in supplement form an even better way to protect against diabetes? Diabetes expert Jerry Nadler, MD, says it not clear whether supplemental magnesium is beneficial, and it could even be harmful. This is especially true for people with kidney disease.

"It is very hard to get too much magnesium from food sources, but that is not true with supplements," he tells WebMD. "The main message from these studies is that people should get the recommended amount of magnesium, which most of the population is probably not getting."

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