Magnesium deficiency remains one of the most common nutritional deficiencies worldwide despite the abundance of foods naturally rich in the mineral. A magnesium deficiency is easy to achieve and, if allowed to progress, can lead to dangerous side effects for health. Being too low on magnesium raises your risks of diabetes and insulin resistance, studies say.
A severe magnesium deficiency can affect neurotransmission and cause seizures and symptoms of depression and anxiety. Read on to find out more about 5 of the most dangerous side effects of low magnesium levels and why it’s important to get enough the mineral in your diet.
1- Low magnesium levels predict higher risks of type 2 diabetes
According to the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, ‘low serum magnesium level is a strong, independent predictor of incident type 2 diabetes’ (source). Findings made available from a multitude of studies ‘suggest a significant inverse association between magnesium intake and diabetes risk’ (source), with low magnesium levels increasing risks of the metabolic disease in both men and women.
Not just this, but research ‘findings support a protective role of higher intake of magnesium in reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes’ (source).
The official recommendation is to increase intake of foods naturally rich in magnesium such as nuts, seeds, whole grains and green leafy vegetables – bringing magnesium levels back to normal can help reduce risks of developing type 2 diabetes, particularly in overweight individuals.
2- Low magnesium levels contribute to insulin resistance
Insulin resistance is when the body does not respond effectively to insulin. Insulin is the hormone secreted by the pancreas whose main role is to move sugar out of the bloodstream. Insulin makes cells such as liver cells and muscle cells take up sugar from the bloodstream which lowers blood sugar levels.
In type 2 diabetes, the cells no longer respond effectively to insulin which causes a persistent state of abnormally high levels of sugar in the blood. Over time, this causes tissue and organ damage such as damage to the optic nerve and diabetes-associated loss of vision, ulcers and wounds that don’t heal properly etc.
Magnesium is essential for normal insulin metabolism, studies say (source). According to research, low levels of magnesium increase risks of developing type 2 diabetes. At the same time, diabetes, both type-1 and type-2, causes magnesium deficiency. ‘The incidence of hypomagnesemia in patients with type 2 diabetes ranges widely, from 13.5%–47.7%’ (source).
Studies have observed that low magnesium levels contribute to insulin resistance. Conversely, taking magnesium raises magnesium levels and lowers insulin levels and insulin resistance. Supplementation with magnesium in diabetes can help with better blood sugar control as well as avert insulin resistance (source 1, source 2).
3- Low magnesium causes high blood pressure, but adequate magnesium can reverse it
High blood pressure, formally called hypertension, is abnormally high blood pressure numbers. One of the many causes of high blood pressure is a magnesium deficiency. The more pregnant the deficiency, the higher the blood pressure.
Even in individuals without cardiovascular disease, low magnesium levels cause high blood pressure. Conversely, taking magnesium raises magnesium levels in the blood and lowers high blood pressure numbers, both systolic and diastolic (source).
This is because magnesium is vital for normal cardiovascular function. Magnesium acts at the level of the nervous and cardiovascular systems to regulate cardiac excitability and, subsequently, blood pressure numbers. Magnesium regulates nerve transmission and the neuromuscular conduction of electrical impulses to the heart, as well as the contractions of the heart muscle (source). These functions are essential for maintaining healthy blood pressure numbers.
4- Low magnesium levels can predispose to seizures
One of the more dangerous side effects of very low magnesium levels is a predisposition to seizures. It is well known by now that hypomagnesaemia itself, that is, low magnesium levels, ‘can cause seizure activity with more severe deficiency’ (source).
Seizures are known to occur ‘due to aberrant neuronal excitability’ (source) which causes overexpression of glutamate, the main excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain. Magnesium is a known nervous system depressant, lowering neurotransmission levels.
What magnesium does is decrease ‘the hyperexcitability of the neuronal surface’ which results in reduced stimulation of various areas of the brain and, implicitly, reduced predisposition to seizures.
The depressant action of magnesium on the central nervous system leading to anti-seizure benefits has lead to magnesium supplementation being considered for the treatment and/or management of epilepsy. ‘Some studies have shown that people with epilepsy have lower magnesium levels than people without epilepsy’. There are case reports of seizures being controlled with magnesium supplementation’ too (source).
5- Low magnesium levels correlate with a higher risk of depression and anxiety
‘Magnesium deficiency is well known to produce neuropathologies’, studies say (source). Several studies have ‘found a significant association between very low magnesium intake and depression, especially in younger adults’ (source). Not just this, but ‘dietary magnesium intake was inversely associated with risk of depression’ (source).
According to research, depression is ‘mediated by altered glutamatergic neurotransmission’ and ‘since magnesium has the ability to modulate glutamatergic neurotransmission through its action at the N-methyl-d-asparate (NMDA) receptor, it may be possible for hypomagnesaemia to contribute to both the neurological symptoms, as well as the psychiatric symptoms’ (source).
Anxiety has also been observed in instances of low magnesium levels (source) and it has to do with magnesium regulating several neurotransmission pathways in the brain.
According to research, magnesium intake or magnesium supplementation appear to have a positive impact in patients with depression. Similarly, taking magnesium to increase blood magnesium levels exerts anti-anxiety effects.
This post was updated on Sunday / November 21st, 2021 at 1:16 AM