Diabetes-the disease of chronically high levels of blood sugar-is an epidemic. Ten percent of American adults have it, including 40% of people 65 and older. In fact, the rate of diabetes is rising so fast, the Centers for Diabetes Control predicts the number of Americans with the disease will triple by 2050.

Key fact not widely reported: One reason so many of us get diabetes may be that so few of us get enough of the mineral magnesium in our diets.

In a recently completed 20-year study of nearly 4,500 Americans, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that those with the biggest intake of magnesium (200 milligrams (mg) per every 1,000 calories consumed) had a 47% lower risk of diabetes than those with the smallest intake (100 mg per every 1,000 calories consumed). The study also linked lower magnesium intake to higher levels of a biomarker of insulin resistance and three biomarkers of chronic inflammation (C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, fibrinogen).

What happens: Insulin is the hormone that ushers blood sugar (glucose) out of the blood stream and into cells. In insulin resistance, cells don't respond to the hormone, and blood glucose levels stay high-often leading to diabetes. And inflammatory biochemicals trigger the manufacture of proteins that increase insulin resistance.

"Magnesium has an anti-inflammatory effect, and inflammation is one of the risk factors for diabetes," says Ka He, MD, the study leader. "Magnesium is also a co-factor in the production of many enzymes that are a must for balanced blood sugar levels."

Compelling Scientific Evidence

Other recent studies also link magnesium intake and diabetes...

· Ten times more magnesium deficiency – in people with diabetes. Compared with healthy people, people with newly diagnosed diabetes were 10 times more likely to have low blood levels of magnesium, and people with “known diabetes” were eight times more likely to have low levels, reported researchers from Cambridge University in the journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice.

· Low magnesium, high blood sugar. People with diabetes and low intake of magnesium had poorer blood sugar control than people with a higher intake of magnesium, reported Brazilian scientist. “Magnesium plays an important role in blood glucose control,” they concluded in the journal Clinical Nutrition.

· More nerve damage. Nerve damage-diabetic neuropathy, with pain and burning in the feet and hands-is a common complication of diabetes. Indian researchers found that people with diabetic neuropathy had magnesium levels 23% lower than people without the problem.

· Magnesium protects diabetic hearts. High blood sugar damages the circulatory system, with diabetes doubling the risk of heart attack or stroke. In a study from Italian researchers, taking a magnesium supplement strengthened the arteries and veins of older people with diabetes. The results were in the journal Magnesium Research.

A magnesium supplement balances blood sugar-even if you're not diabetic. In a study of 52 overweight people with insulin resistance (but not diabetes), those who took a daily magnesium supplement of 365 milligrams had a greater drop in blood sugar levels and insulin resistance than those who took a placebo, reported German researchers in Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism.

Bottom line: "Based on evidence from the study I led and other studies, increasing the intake of magnesium may be beneficial in diabetes," says Dr. He.

More Magnesium

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for magnesium is 420 mg a day for men and 320 mg a day for women.

However: In a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, no group of US Citizens tested-including Caucasian, African-American, Hispanic-American, men or women-consumed the RDA for magnesium. "Substantial numbers of US adults fail to consume adequate magnesium in their diets," concluded researchers in the journal Nutrition.

They also found that magnesium intake decreased as age increased-a troublesome finding, since diabetes is usually diagnosed in middle-aged and older people.

Healthful strategy: "I recommend increasing the intake of foods rich in magnesium, such as whole grains, nuts, legumes, vegetables and fruits," says Dr. He.

Best food sources of magnesium include...

· Nuts and seeds (almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds)

· Leafy green and other vegetables (spinach, Swiss chard, kale, collard greens, mustard green, turnip greens, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, green beans, asparagus, cucumber, celery, avocado, beets)

· Whole grains (whole-grain breakfast cereals, wheat bran, wheat germ, oats, brown rice, buckwheat)

· Beans and legumes (soybeans and soy products, lentils, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, black beans, navy beans)

· Fruit (banana, kiwi fruit, watermelon, raspberries)

· Fish (salmon, halibut)

Consider a Magnesium Supplement

But Magnesium-rich food may not be sufficient to protect you from diabetes, says Michael Wald, MD, director of nutritional services at the Integrated Medicine and Nutrition clinic in Mt. Kisco, New York. That's because many factors can deplete the body of magnesium or block its absorption. They include...

· Overcooking greens and other magnesium-rich foods

· Eating too much sugar

· Emotional and mental stress

· Taking magnesium-draining medication, such as diuretics for high blood pressure

· Exposure to environmental toxins such as pesticides

· Bowel disease and bowel surgery.

"Low blood levels of magnesium are very common," says Dr. Wald. And conventional doctors rarely test magnesium levels.

Recommended: To help guarantee an adequate blood level of magnesium, Dr. Wald recommends taking Perque Magnesium Plus Guard. For maximum absorption and effectiveness, this doctor-developed supplement contains four different forms of the mineral (magnesium glycinate, magnesium stearate). It also contains nutritional co-factors that help the mineral work in the body.

The supplement is available at www.perque.com and through many other retail outlets, both online and in stores where supplements are sold. Follow the dosage recommendations on the label.

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