Increasing Your Intake of This Mineral Could Lower Your Dementia Risk, Says New Study

A new study finds the connection between magnesium and dementia risk. Here's how enjoying a bite of dark chocolate can be a no-brainer.

It’s a vital nutrient that you might usually associate with maintaining strong bones and a healthy heart, and lately it’s grown popular for better sleep. Now, according to a new study, one ingredient in your multivitamin could also play a major role protect your brain from the development of diseases such as Alzheimer’s. A March 2023 European Journal of Nutrition public health study shed light on this intriguing connection—here’s how getting a little more of this mineral might play down your dementia risk.

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Magnesium’s role in brain health

The study involved more than 6,000 participants aged 40 to 73 years and aimed to examine the association between dietary magnesium intake and brain volumes, specifically gray matter and white matter lesions (WMLs). These lesions are areas of damaged tissue often seen in older adults and can indicate a cognitive decline.

Researchers measured dietary magnesium consumption using an online 24-hour recall questionnaire, which helped estimate daily magnesium intake. They observed that the neuroprotective effects of magnesium were powerful in the gray matter and hippocampus regions of the brain, which play key roles in processing information and memory.

By the time they reached 55 years old, people with the highest magnesium intake (greater than or equal to 550 milligrams per day) had a “brain age” that was one year younger than their counterparts taking lower magnesium doses (around 350 milligrams per day). These data imply that a 41% increase in magnesium intake could significantly improve brain health and reduce the risk of dementia later in life.

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So, what does this mean for you? According to Khawlah Alateeq, PhD, researcher and lead author from the ANU National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, this study indicates that “people of all ages” should be thinking about their magnesium intake. “The study shows higher dietary magnesium intake may contribute to neuroprotection earlier in the aging process and preventative effects may begin in our 40s or even earlier,” Dr. Alateeq stated in a press release.

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So, how much magnesium should you take?

According to the NIH, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for magnesium varies depending on your age and sex. Generally, adult women should aim for 310 to 320 milligrams day, while adult men should target 400 to 420 milligrams day.

Ideally, your primary source of magnesium should come from magnesium-rich foods. Harvard University’s blog list some examples as leafy greens, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and dark chocolate (at least 70%). There is always the option of a supplement if there are signs of a magnesium deficiency. If you are unsure if you are getting enough magnesium in your diet, always consult your healthcare professional before starting anything new.

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What is the best magnesium for dementia prevention?

No specific type or form of magnesium can be labeled as the “best” for dementia prevention. However, magnesium L-threonate is a unique form of magnesium that effectively crosses the blood-brain barrier and increases magnesium concentrations in the brain. According to the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, some studies suggest that this form of magnesium may benefit cognitive function and brain health, including preventing dementia.

While these studies are promising, it’s important to remember that research on this topic is ongoing. As always, it’s a good idea to consult with your healthcare professional before significantly changing your diet or supplement regimen.

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Moving forward

This fascinating new research highlights the potential benefits of increasing dietary magnesium intake for better brain health. By incorporating magnesium-rich foods into your diet, and possible supplementation, you may be taking a step toward a healthier, more vibrant brain as you age.

So go ahead and munch on some spinach, grab a handful of almonds, or treat yourself to a square of dark chocolate—these are nutrition no-brainers!

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Dr. Patricia Varacallo, DO
Tricia is a doctor of osteopathy with experience in primary healthcare. She received her medical degree from the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine and conducts clinical research in Sports Medicine and Orthopedics, as she is motivated by the desire to contribute to the development of innovative treatments and therapies. She is also a certified lifestyle coach for the CDC-recognized National Diabetes Prevention Program, empowering individuals to make lasting, healthy lifestyle changes. Dr. Varacallo loves to write— especially about health, wellness, and grief. Drawing from her own experiences of loss and caregiving, she loves to offer support and encouragement to those navigating their own grief journeys. Outside of her professional life, she enjoys traveling and exploring the sunny beaches of Florida with her significant other, always ready for their next adventure.