-Dr. Kathy Johnson, PhD, CMC
“Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body, but today half of all people in industrialized countries are living with magnesium deficiencies that may generally impair human health, including cognitive functioning,” says Dr. Inna Slutsky.
In the U.S. the facts are even worse: The recommended daily allowance of magnesium for adult women is 320 milligrams and for adult men is 420 milligrams. Researchers estimate that only about a third of the population is getting that amount on a regular basis.
Slutsky’s post-doctoral work at MIT was expanded into a study of a new magnesium supplement, magnesium-L-theronate (MgT), that effectively crosses the blood-brain barrier to inhibit calcium flux in brain neurons. This new study has shown that magnesium deficiency has an adverse effect on brain functioning – particularly in small children and older adults. It ends up that magnesium, long known to play an important role in memory, is also essential for the plasticity, strength, and density of synapses in the part of the brain responsible for much of our long-term memory and spatial navigation.
A five-year study of rats showed that over-the-counter supplements were not crossing the blood-brain barrier. The new supplement, MgT, does cross that barrier. High magnesium levels that were able to affect the brain (those from natural dietary sources and MgT) prevented memory impairment and, more impressively, improved learning abilities, working memory, and both short- and long-term memory. The study also saw an increase in synapses in the brain-connective nerve endings (which carry memories from one part of the brain to the other as electrical impulses) in magnesium-enriched subjects. All of these findings held true for the older adult rats, which performed better on memory tests with the magnesium.
“This study not only highlights the importance of a diet with sufficient daily magnesium, but also suggests the usefulness of magnesium-based treatments for aging-associated memory decline,” Susumu Tonegawa of MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory and one of the study’s authors, said in a news release.
“Our results suggest that commercially available magnesium supplements are not effective in boosting magnesium in cerebro-spinal fluid,” Dr. Slutsky says. The new magnesium supplement that the study found did work is not yet available commercially.
Dietary Magnesium – Where Is It?
Luckily, magnesium is found in plenty of foods. A diet rich in whole grains, legumes, and fresh vegetables leaves little need for a supplement. Barley, buckwheat, cornmeal, and oat bran are excellent sources of magnesium. Leafy greens (the darker the better), legumes, and tomato paste are also high in this essential mineral. Almonds, pumpkin seeds, and cashews are fun snacks that happen to pack a magnesium punch. That harbinger of spring – the artichoke – also contains more than your average amount of magnesium.
No improvement will happen overnight, but with persistent change in diet over a long period of time, memory should improve and the effects of dementia and other cognitive impairment diseases related to aging may be considerably delayed with a magnesium-rich diet.