Staying Healthy Newsletter - <em>In the news:</em> Magnesium for Active Women: Alpha lipoic acid & Vision in Diabetes
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In the news: Magnesium for Active Women: Alpha lipoic acid & Vision in Diabetes

Magnesium Benefits Active Women

Daily supplements of magnesium combined with a mild fitness program, improves the physical performance of mature, Italian women, according to a newly published study from the University of Padua.

The findings are clinically important for American women too, as surveys report that the majority of adults fall short in meeting recommended intakes of magnesium – a mineral important for strong bones, muscle function and the production of energy.

In the 3-month trial (1), healthy older women attending a light fitness program were randomly assigned to receive either 300 mg of magnesium (as oxide) or a placebo daily. The participants, whose average age was 71.5 years, took a battery of tests (the Short Physical Performance Battery or SPPB) at the beginning and end of the study.

Compared to the placebo group, women in the magnesium group had a significantly improved SPPB score. The benefits were even more pronounced in women with initial magnesium intakes below the RDA.

The magnesium-takers were able to walk faster and had stronger legs and better endurance as measured by 4 meter walking speed and the number of times they were able to stand up and sit down from a seated position (the “chair stand time” test). Both of these tests are key indicators of age-related decline in muscle mass and predictors of developing disabilities with age.

Alpha lipoic acid May Aid Vision in Diabetes

One potential complication faced by those with diabetes is diabetic retinopathy, caused by damage to the small blood vessels of the eye’s retina. Oxidative stress and inflammation have been implicated in the development and progression of diabetic retinopathy, leading some researchers to test whether various antioxidants might be of help in the condition. Investigators from the Department of Ophthalmology at the Medical University of Gdansk in Poland were prompted to explore the effects of the antioxidant alpha lipoic acid because it has been previously shown to be of benefit in experimental animal models of diabetic retinopathy.

The researchers chose to measure the effects of alpha lipoic acid on contrast sensitivity in the eyes of type 1 and type 2 diabetic patients, many of whom had early stage (non-proliferative) diabetic retinopathy. Visual acuity, which evaluates sharpness of vision, is often used to assess overall vision: it’s the eye chart with a large "E" at the top we’re asked to read when visiting the eye doctor.

Contrast sensitivity – the ability to see objects that may not be outlined clearly or that do not stand out from their background – can also be important in evaluating vision. If contrast sensitivity is impaired it can affect vision even when visual acuity is normal.

Three groups of people participated in this exploratory study (2): those with type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM); those with type 2 (T2DM), and healthy controls. Participants within each group were randomly assigned to receive 300 mg of alpha lipoic acid daily or no supplements for a 3-month period.

The researchers report that contrast sensitivity remained stable in the group of patients with T1DM and improved in the T2DM group receiving alpha lipoic acid, while contrast sensitivity significantly declined in non-supplemented T1DM and T2DM groups. Among healthy supplemented volunteers, minor improvement (at only one spatial frequency) was observed.

The results are promising but preliminary, and larger well-designed trials should be conducted to see whether alpha lipoic acid can truly benefit the vision of those with diabetes.



  1. Veronese N, et al. Effect of magnesium supple-mentation on physical performance in healthy elderly women involved in a weekly exercise program: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr, July 9, 2014 [Epub ahead of print].
  2. Gebka A, et al. Effect of the administration of alpha-lipoic aid on contrast sensitivity in patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Mediators Inflamm, Volume 2014:1-7 (Article ID 131538).
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