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Magnesium, according to some experts, is the miracle nutrient. It helps in insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, heart disease, erectile dysfunction, leg cramps, PMS, and several dozen other conditions. But is it really helpful for weight loss?

Recently the idea that magnesium is what most people need for successful weight loss has been circulating around the Internet. There's no doubt that magnesium is an essential nutrient, and there is no doubt that most people don't get enough magnesium from their diets, but can taking a magnesium supplement really help you lose weight?

Magnesium And Metabolic Syndrome

The research that most articles quote in recommending magnesium for weight loss was really a study of the treatment of hypomagnesemia, a chronic condition of low magnesium levels, and metabolic syndrome, a collection of symptoms that usually includes overweight, along with high blood pressure, "prediabetes" or full-blown diabetes, and high triglycerides. Metabolic syndrome also includes insulin resistance, which will be explained below.

Doctors in the Mexican public health system identified 48 individuals who had been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. They gave half of the volunteers a daily dose of a liquid solution that contained 382 mg of magnesium (the minimum dose for preventing low magnesium levels, but not so much as to cause diarrhea), and half of the volunteers a placebo solution that contained no magnesium.

Four months later, the volunteers in the magnesium group had:

  • 2% lower systolic blood pressure (the first number, about 3 mm Hg lower),
  • 3% lower diastolic blood pressure (the second number, about 5 mm Hg lower),
  • Drastic reductions in triglyceride levels, on average about 47%,
  • Slightly lower fasting blood sugar levels, about 12.3 mg/dl (1.3 mmol/L), and
  • Greatly reduced insulin resistance, only about half as much insulin resistance as before treatment.

Insulin resistance is very important in weight control. When cells are resistant to the effects of insulin in transporting glucose, the pancreas is forced to make more insulin to keep blood sugar levels normal. Insulin doesn't just transport sugar. It also regulates the enzymes that allow fat cells to release fatty acids for the muscles to burn.

When insulin resistance is high, insulin levels are high, and fat stays locked in fat cells. When insulin resistance is lower, insulin levels are lower, and fat cells can release fatty acids for the muscles to burn as fuel. 

Taking magnesium definitely lowers insulin resistance, but it's not really fair to say that taking magnesium lower weight, at least on the basis of this widely cited article. In this study, the scientists recruited "metabolically obese" normal-weight individuals, who did not need to lose weight. Magnesium supplementation may help prevent weight loss, but can it help people lose weight?

An Obvious Way Magnesium Can Help Weight Loss

One way in which taking magnesium can help weight loss is by encouraging regularity. Overweight and obese people tend to be constipated, and magnesium supplements encourage the movement of waste out of the bowel. Milk of Magnesia, after all, is primarily magnesium. Magnesium compounds draw water into the bowel and make elimination easier. A quick weight loss of 2 to even sometimes 10 pounds (1 to 5 kilos) is possible, but magnesium also has longer-term benefits.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • Rodríguez-Moran M, Guerrero-Romero F. Oral magnesium supplementation improves the metabolic profile of metabolically obese, normal-weight individuals: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Arch Med Res. 2014 Jul.45(5):388-93. doi: 10.1016/j.arcmed.2014.05.003. Epub 2014 May 13. PMID: 24830937.
  • By Ragesoss (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons: upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2f/500_mg_calcium_
  • By Ragesoss (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons: upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2f/500_mg_calcium_
  • Photo courtesy of potamos.photography via Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/riverofgod/5385516173

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