News items Magnesium deficiency increases the risk of cardiovascular disease in diabetic patients
21 June 2021

Patients with type 2 diabetes and a magnesium deficiency have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. This is demonstrated by researchers Jeroen de Baaij and Lynette Oost, from the Radboud university medical center. They showed an association between the blood magnesium value and the risk of heart failure, atrial fibrillation and diabetic complications.

It has been known for years that 10 to 30 percent of people with type 2 diabetes have a magnesium deficiency. The long-term consequences of such a deficiency were unknown until now. Patients with type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease due to higher lipid and glucose levels in the blood.

Lower risk for heart and vessels

Physiologist Jeroen de Baaij and PhD candidate Lynette Oost, together with the Dutch Diabetes Research Foundation, studied whether this magnesium deficiency increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. “We started from an existing research cohort of more than 4400 diabetes patients who had been followed for a period of 6 to 11 years”, says Oost. “Blood was taken and stored from all participants at the start of the study. We retrieved that material and reanalyzed it.”

In the new analysis of the thousands of blood samples, the researchers looked at the concentration of magnesium. This analysis showed a strong link between the magnesium value in the blood and the risk of heart disease, such as heart failure and atrial fibrillation. A link was also visible in the micro-vasculature: more magnesium in the blood resulted in a lower risk of diabetic foot and diabetic retinopathy, says Oost. “People with higher levels of magnesium in the blood were found to have a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease.”

Magnesium supplements?

So should people with type 2 diabetes go on magnesium supplements? It can't do any harm, but it's still too early to draw any solid conclusions, Oost thinks. “We have shown that lower magnesium levels in the blood are associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, but that doesn't mean we have demonstrated that magnesium supplements work. Further research is therefore needed to examine the efficacy of magnesium supplements in these patients.”

Further research into the effect of magnesium supplementation may change the way we think about the mineral. “Magnesium is now mainly known in alternative medicine, which sometimes gives it a negative connotation in the clinic”, says De Baaij. “Magnesium is not a miracle molecule, but it is an important mineral for the body, just like calcium. As far as he is concerned, more attention could be paid to magnesium in the promotion of healthy food. In the stores you see many products with added calcium, but not with added magnesium. While we see that magnesium also plays an important role in the body.”

Long-term effects and diagnostics

De Baaij and Oost are therefore setting up several follow-up studies on the role of magnesium. After all, it is useful to investigate the mechanism of action of magnesium first: does magnesium affect the vasculature or inflammatory factors in the blood? “The clinical results point in that direction”, says De Baaij.

Once the effect of magnesium supplements on cardiovascular disease has been tested in clinical trials, De Baaij and Oost expect that this finding will change how diabetes is monitored. “Individuals with diabetes are already checked annually, for example for kidney function and eye disease”, says De Baaij. “Once we know that magnesium supplementation works, we can also fit that into the annual check. Then we will have a better picture of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease for each individual, and the practitioner can subscribe magnesium supplements when necessary.”

About the publication in Diabetes Care

Serum Magnesium Is Inversely Associated With Heart Failure, Atrial Fibrillation, and Microvascular Complications in Type 2 Diabetes – Lynette J. Oost, Amber A.W.A. van der Heijden, Emma A. Vermeulen, Caro Bos, Petra J.M. Elders, Roderick C. Slieker, Steef Kurstjens, Miranda van Berkel, Joost G.J. Hoenderop, Cees J. Tack, Joline W.J. Beulens, Jeroen H.F. de Baaij.

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