Role of magnesium in insulin action, diabetes and cardio-metabolic syndrome X

Mol Aspects Med. 2003 Feb-Jun;24(1-3):39-52. doi: 10.1016/s0098-2997(02)00090-0.


Magnesium (Mg) is one of the most abundant ions present in living cells and its plasma concentration is remarkably constant in healthy subjects. Plasma and intracellular Mg concentrations are tightly regulated by several factors. Among them, insulin seems to be one of the most important. In vitro and in vivo studies have demonstrated that insulin may modulate the shift of Mg from extracellular to intracellular space. Intracellular Mg concentration has also been shown to be effective in modulating insulin action (mainly oxidative glucose metabolism), offset calcium-related excitation-contraction coupling, and decrease smooth cell responsiveness to depolarizing stimuli. A poor intracellular Mg concentration, as found in noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) and in hypertensive patients, may result in a defective tyrosine-kinase activity at the insulin receptor level and exaggerated intracellular calcium concentration. Both events are responsible for the impairment in insulin action and a worsening of insulin resistance in noninsulin-dependent diabetic and hypertensive patients. By contrast, in NIDDM patients daily Mg administration, restoring a more appropriate intracellular Mg concentration, contributes to improve insulin-mediated glucose uptake. The benefits deriving- from daily Mg supplementation in NIDDM patients are further supported by epidemiological studies showing that high daily Mg intake are predictive of a lower incidence of NIDDM. In conclusion, a growing body of studies suggest that intracellular Mg may play a key role in modulating insulin-mediated glucose uptake and vascular tone. We further suggest that a reduced intracellular Mg concentration might be the missing link helping to explain the epidemiological association between NIDDM and hypertension.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / metabolism
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology
  • Magnesium / metabolism*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / metabolism*
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Vanadates / metabolism


  • Insulin
  • Vanadates
  • Magnesium