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Heart failure, atrial fibrillation, and complications from type 2 diabetes are related to low magnesium

Heart failure, atrial fibrillation, and complications from type 2 diabetes are related to low magnesiumChronic heart failure is a clinical syndrome that involves, among other things, reduced heart pumping function. The condition is often life-threatening. A new study that is published in Journal of the American Heart Association looks closer at how supplementation with magnesium can help the heart muscle contract with greater force and perhaps be a useful adjuvant in the treatment of heart failure. The study supports another study that is published in Diabetes Care. In this study, it is demonstrated that lack of magnesium is linked to heart failure, atrial fibrillation, and other complications from type 2 diabetes.

Millions of people worldwide are affected by chronic heart failure and the rate is going up. Around half the cases are caused by diastolic dysfunction, which is a reduced ability of the left ventricle to relax and take in an adequate volume of blood. This results in an insufficient blood flow through the body. Because little is known about the underlying mechanisms, there is no specific treatment for diastolic dysfunction.
Earlier, the team of scientists behind the study in the Journal of the American Heart Association had looked at mice suffering from a combination of hypertension, diabetes, and diastolic dysfunction. They found that the energy-producing powerhouses (mitochondria) in the heart cells of these mice were exposed to oxidative stress caused by free radicals. This disrupted the heart’s ability to relax and become filled with blood during the diastole. They also mentioned that lack of magnesium in the blood is very common and explained why this may also be involved in heart failure caused by diastolic dysfunction.

  • The heart is a large muscle that pumps blood through the large veins
  • The diastole is the phase where the heart muscle relaxes so the heart chamber becomes filled with blood
  • The systole is the phase where the heart muscle contracts and pumps oxygenated blood into the large blood vessels and onward to the body’s organs
  • Heart failure results in various symptoms such as dyspnea (breathing difficulty), fatigue, and fluid retention (edemas)
  • Heart failure can also result in pain around the heart, blood clots, and sudden death

Magnesium’s many functions

Magnesium is one of the minerals that we need in the largest quantities. It is of vital importance to nerve impulses, muscle contraction, blood pressure, bone health, and number of other functions. Most of our magnesium is found inside the cells. Here, it supports well over 300 different biochemical reactions. Also, magnesium makes sure that cells in soft tissues such as nervous tissue, heart tissue, muscle tissue, and blood vessels remain nearly devoid of calcium. If calcium ions flood cells in soft tissues it can trigger cramps and other dysfunctions. You can think of magnesium as nature’s own calcium channel blocker.

Widespread magnesium deficiency and its implications for health

Today, most Americans only get approximately 185-235 mg of magnesium from their diet per day. Around 100 years ago, their daily intake of the nutrient was around 450 mg. The magnesium status of the Danes is bound to be similar. The widespread magnesium deficiency is a result of nutrient-depleted farmland, refined foods, unhealthy diets, and filtered tap water. In addition, having chronic diseases, using different types of medicine, and consuming great quantities of calcium can impair the body’s ability to utilize magnesium and can also lower blood levels of the mineral. It has been demonstrated that low dietary magnesium intake and low blood levels of the nutrient in combination with hypertension and metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes can increase the risk of diastolic dysfunction. Magnesium deficiency is also common in heart failure. Having low levels of magnesium in the blood increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death. On the other hand, magnesium supplements have been seen to improve heart function and to lower the risk of heart failure. On behalf of these facts and earlier studies, the scientists wanted to investigate whether magnesium supplementation could improve these symptoms.

The new study: Blood levels of magnesium are linked directly to heart function

In their study, the scientists looked at two groups of mice. For six weeks, the mice were randomly assigned to a diet with plenty of magnesium or a magnesium-depleted diet. Afterwards, half of the mice receiving a magnesium-depleted diet were put on a diet with plenty of magnesium for another six weeks. In the group of mice that got the magnesium-deficient diet, blood levels of magnesium dropped significantly while level of calcium and sodium increased. Also, their hearts’ ability to relax during the diastole was impaired. The energy turnover (measured as ATP) in their magnesium-depleted hearts was also reduced.
Altogether, these changes were related to oxidative stress and dysfunctions of the cellular mitochondria. However, when the magnesium-depleted mice were put back on a diet with plenty of magnesium, their functions were normalized.
The study supports another new study that is published in Diabetes Care. This study is carried out on 4,348 patients with cardiovascular diseases, diabetic retinopathy (an eye disease), and other complications from type 2 diabetes.
The scientists observed that blood levels of magnesium were linked directly to the risk of developing heart failure, atrial fibrillation (heart rhythm disturbances), and cardiovascular complications associated with type 2 diabetes. Blood levels of magnesium were also important for blood sugar levels that are linked to the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Magnesium supplements as part of a new treatment for heart failure and type 2 diabetes

The new studies suggest that magnesium supplementation is relevant as a new type of treatment for heart failure. The scientists also say that heart failure is common among the increasing number of type 2 diabetics and that low magnesium levels contribute to cardiovascular disease. For that reason, magnesium supplements are also relevant for people with type 2 diabetes, not only because of heart health but because of magnesium’s importance for blood sugar levels.

Magnesium sources and supplements

Magnesium is primarily found in coarse greens, whole grain, kernels, almonds, nuts, seeds, beans, avocado, cabbage, and other vegetables.
It’s important to stick with supplements that contain organic magnesium sources because the body can easily absorb them. Magnesium oxide, a type of inorganic magnesium that is found in various supplements and Magnesia (against constipation) is difficult for the body to absorb. This source of magnesium is primarily active in the intestine.


Man Liu et al. Magnesium Deficiency Causes a Reversible, Metabolic, Diastolic Cardiomyopathy. Journal of The American Heart Association. 2021

Lynette J. Oost et al. Serum magnesium In Inversely Associated With Heart failure, Atrial Fibrillation, and Microvascular Complications in Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care 2021

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