Magnesium Balance and Metabolic Syndrome

Boris Levitsky

The late Dr. Larry Resnick of Cornell University, involved in heart and magnesium research for over twenty years, described cardiovascular metabolic syndrome as a condition characterized by a high calcium-to-magnesium ratio.

Too much calcium automatically creates a magnesium deficiency.1 Americans in general have a high calcium-to-magnesium ratio in their diet and consequently in their bodies. Finland, which has the highest incidence of heart attack in middle-aged men in the world, also has a high calcium-to-magnesium ratio in the diet.

The U.S. ratio in this study is said to be 3.5:1, Finland’s 4:1.8 (With our dietary emphasis on a high calcium intake without sufficient magnesium, according to magnesium expert Dr. Mildred Seelig, we will soon be faced with a 6:1 ratio in our population.) The conventional recommended dietary ratio of calcium to magnesium, 2:1, has been debunked. To reverse syndrome X, it may be necessary to only use 600 mg per day of dietary calcium and 600 mg of magnesium in supplement form and not use any supplemental calcium.

According to Dr. Resnick, syndrome X is caused not by chronically elevated insulin levels but by a low level of magnesium ions—because insufficient magnesium is the cause of insulin resistance in the first place.2 As stated, insulin opens the cells to glucose only if the cells have sufficient amounts of magnesium, and without magnesium, insulin resistance occurs.

Studies clearly show that animals deprived of dietary magnesium develop insulin resistance, and the human population has the same risk.3 Some researchers conclude that hypertension and insulin resistance may just be different expressions of deficient levels of cellular magnesium.4 The various conditions that make up syndrome X, cardiovascular metabolic syndrome, or metabolic syndrome X, its most recent designation, all have similar origins  in magnesium deficiency.

The magnesium deficiency in syndrome X comes from a combination of our magnesium-deficient diet and the well documented loss of magnesium in the urine caused by elevated insulin. A vicious cycle creates further magnesium losses, causing more syndrome X symptoms. In a fifteen-year study of 5,000 young adults, it was found that the more magnesium in the diet or taken as supplements, the lower the likelihood of developing metabolic syndrome.5

The cornerstone of both prevention and treatment of Metabolic syndrome, along with diet, is to restore magnesium to normal levels. Unfortunately, for many, the ravages of diabetes, hyper-tension, and high cholesterol have taken their toll, but even then, magnesium taken along with medications can play a beneficial role in controlling and reducing symptoms.6,7


1. Resnick LM, “Cellular ions in hypertension, insulin resistance, obesity, and diabetes: a unifying theme.” J Am Soc Nephrol, vol. 3 (4 suppl.), pp. 578–585, 1992.

2. Resnick LM, “Ionic basis of hypertension, insulin resistance, vascular disease, and related disorders. The mechanism of Syndrome X.” Am J Hypertens, vol. 6, no. 5, pt. 1, pp. 413–417, 1993.

3. Resnick LM, “The cellular ionic basis of hypertension and allied clinical conditions.” Prog Cardiovasc Dis, vol. 42, pp. 1–22, 1999.

4. Resnick LM et al., “Hypertension and peripheral insulin resistance. Possible mediating role of intracellular free magnesium.” Am J Hypertens, vol. 3, no. 5, pt. 1, pp. 373–379, 1990.

5. He K, Liu K, Daviglus ML, Morris SJ, Loria CM, Van Horn L, Jacobs DR, Savage PJ, “Magnesium intake and incidence of metabolic syndrome among young adults.” Circulation, vol. 113, no. 13, pp. 1675–1682, 2006.

6. Paolisso G et al., “Low fasting and insulin-mediated intracellular magnesium accumulation in hypertensive patients with left ventricular hypertrophy; role of insulin resistance.” Hypertens, vol. 9, pp. 199–203, 1995.

7. Nadler JL et al., “Magnesium deficiency produces insulin resistance and increased thromboxane synthesis.” Hypertension, vol. 21, no. 6, pt. 2, pp. 1024–1029, 1993.

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