Magnesium has demonstrated activity in increasing insulin sensitivity, which ultimately assists in blood sugar control and lower insulin levels. Keeping insulin in check is one way to improve symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), since an abundance of insulin stimulates the ovaries to make androgens (like testosterone). This abundance of androgens causes PCOS symptoms, such as excess male-pattern hair growth and acne. Magnesium supplementation may therefore help women suffering with PCOS.
In one study, researchers followed 102 people for three months, with half the group each taking 2.5g per day of magnesium chloride (around 300mg elemental magnesium), and the other half taking a non-active placebo. The group of subjects did not have PCOS, were not diabetic, not pregnant, and did not have high blood pressure. They did, however, have very low serum magnesium levels.
Compared to the placebo group, the magnesium group had a vast improvement in fasting insulin levels, significantly lowered fasting blood sugar, lower blood pressure, and significant improvements in blood magnesium levels.
About magnesium deficiency and PCOS
Magnesium levels recorded for serum magnesium may only reflect what you have recently eaten, with tissue levels remaining low despite a blood test that says levels are good. This means you’ll need to examine your diet to see if you are getting enough magnesium, and check for clues. A good clue is a twitchy eyelid or muscle tightness/cramps, since we need magnesium to relax muscles. Without enough magnesium flowing into a muscle, it can twitch and cramp up.
Risk factors for magnesium deficiency include high stress, drinking a lot of alcohol, excess caffeine, and a lack of dark leafy green vegetables. Magnesium is required in soil by plants to make chlorophyll, so the darker a plant’s leaves are, the more chlorophyll it has, and therefore the more magnesium it has.
Other good sources of magnesium include nuts, seeds, grains, legumes (chickpeas/garbanzo beans, lentils, beans), fish, figs, avocado, bananas, and dairy products. It’s not always easy to absorb the magnesium in these foods, however, so you need to eat plenty of them to get enough.
Supplementing magnesium is one of the safest supplements to try, because it is non-toxic. The worst that could happen is loose stools or a little nausea. Most of us are a little on the low side of magnesium, and could benefit from more, especially if you have high insulin or sugar cravings.
If you can, have your magnesium levels checked before, then three months after starting your supplements so you can see the difference.
Guerrero-Romero F, Rodríguez-Morán M. Magnesium improves the beta-cell function to compensate variation of insulin sensitivity: Double-blind, randomized clinical trial. Eur J Clin Invest. 2011;41(4):405-410.