We examined the effects of a magnesium-supplemented (Mg-S) diet in the male obese Zucker diabetic fatty rat, a model of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM). Obese rats were maintained on either a control (0.20% Mg) or magnesium-supplemented (Mg-S; 1% Mg) diet for 6 wk beginning at 6 wk of age. The rats maintained on the Mg-S diet had markedly lower fasting and fed-state blood glucose concentrations and an improved glucose disposal. By 12 wk of age, all of the eight animals on the control diet became diabetic, whereas diabetes developed in only one of eight animals on the Mg-S diet. Insulin and C-peptide concentrations, in addition to pancreatic GLUT-2 and insulin mRNA expression, were higher in the male obese Mg-S rats than in their control-fed counterparts. A subgroup of rats on the control diet with established diabetes was switched to a Mg-S diet for an additional 4 wk. The Mg-S diet did not reverse diabetes once already established. These data indicate that an increased dietary Mg intake in male obese rats prevents deterioration of glucose tolerance, thus delaying the development of spontaneous NIDDM.