Do you want to reduce your risk of diabetes? Make a spinach salad at your next meal, with a side of whole wheat or almond bread.

Studies involving magnesium as beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes.

Two new studies suggest that magnesium-rich foods like these can significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, even in obese people who are at high risk for the disease.

Previous studies linked magnesium deficiency with an increased risk of diabetes. The latest findings take this observation further by confirming the mineral’s role in protection against disease.

The larger of the two studies involved approximately 85,000 women and 42,000 men who completed dietary intake questionnaires every two to four years.

The smallest study had a similar design and involved fewer than 40,000 women who were 45 years old or older. Both studies were conducted by researchers and both were published in the January 2004.

In the largest study, women were followed for 18 years and men for 12 years, during which time approximately 5,400 people developed type 2 diabetes.

Even after factoring in diabetes risk factors such as age, weight, physical activity, smoking, and family history, those with the highest dietary magnesium levels were found to have significantly lower risk of type 2 diabetes compared to those with the lowest levels of magnesium.

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

Eat your vegetables to reduce the risk of diabetes.

So, if eating green leafy vegetables, nuts, and other foods rich in magnesium is good, is taking magnesium in supplement form an even better way to protect against diabetes?  Diabetes expert says that it’s unclear whether supplemental magnesium is beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes and might even be harmful, but the latter is especially true for people with kidney disease.

“It is very difficult to get too much magnesium from food sources.” “The main message from these studies is that people should get the recommended amount of magnesium, which the majority of the population is probably not getting.”

In fact, it is estimated that more than 50% of people in the US get the recommended daily amount of the mineral of between 300 and 400 mg, although this varies by gender and age. Average magnesium intake throughout the follow-up was 290 mg/day in women, but ranged from 79-1,110 mg/day. In men, the average intake was 349 mg/day, but ranged from 102 to 1,593 mg/day.

The researchers in the larger study concluded that people who are not magnesium deficient likely won’t get as much benefit from adding more of the mineral to their diet as people who are deficient. But they added that, for those in the latter category, eating a diet rich in magnesium should help lower your risk of diabetes regardless of your other risk factors for the disease.

Foods rich in magnesium include the following:

  • 100% bran cereal – 1/2 cup – 128.7 mg magnesium.
  • Shredded wheat – 2 crackers – 54.3.
  • Chopped spinach- 1/2 cup cooked – 78.3.
  • Almonds – 1 ounce (2 almonds) – 81.1.
  • Oat bran – 1/2 cup dry – 96.4.

“Our (study) suggests that higher magnesium intake is likely beneficial for all groups, regardless of (whether they are overweight), physical activity levels, and hypertension status,” researcher and colleagues.

More study is needed.

In an editorial published with the two studies, researcher called for more research to confirm the link between magnesium and diabetes. He wrote that the epidemic of obesity and type 2 diabetes in the US makes identifying cost-effective strategies to prevent the disease a priority.

In the meantime, he says, most people could benefit from adding more magnesium-rich foods to their diets. These are foods that people should be eating anyway for a variety of health reasons.

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