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ANU Research Suggests Increased Intake of Magnesium Can Help Prevent Dementia

Magnesium Can Help Prevent Dementia

Dementia, a debilitating neurodegenerative disorder characterized by progressive cognitive decline, affects millions worldwide. With its increasing prevalence and lack of effective cure, the search for preventive strategies remains at the forefront of healthcare research.

One research finding of the Australian National University (ANU) suggests that an increased intake of magnesium can help reduce the risk of dementia or be associated with delayed onset of dementia in later life. The study was conducted on 6000 cognitively healthy individuals in the United Kingdom aged 40-73. The study found that participants who consumed more than 550 milligrams of magnesium every day had much younger brain health by the time they reached 55 than someone who took a normal intake of magnesium of 350 milligrams daily.

As we know there are no confirmed treatments of dementia that can completely cure dementia. However, there are lifestyle habits and alternative medications that may slow down the process to some extent. So, in order to explore the dementia-related benefits of magnesium we need to understand how magnesium may help in achieving better cognitive health.

That’s why we are going to understand whether or not and up to what extent magnesium can help prevent dementia looking into empirical studies.

Magnesium Can Help Prevent Dementia – How?

Magnesium is a mineral critical for numerous bodily functions, including nerve transmission, muscle contraction, and maintaining a healthy immune system. It’s also integral to brain health. The brain’s dependency on magnesium is a tale as old as time—or at least as old as human biology.

As researchers continue exploring the complexities of dementia, the plotline now features magnesium as a potential protagonist in the fight against cognitive decline.

Magnesium deficiency is linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Studies suggest it may help protect against neuronal damage and inflammation associated with these conditions.

Also, magnesium plays a role in regulating stress hormones like cortisol. Increased intake has been associated with reduced anxiety and depression symptoms, leading to improved overall mental well-being.

The Magnesium Dementia Connection 1

Striding ahead is a groundbreaking study suggesting that people with higher levels of magnesium intake possess a reduced risk of developing dementia. This research, corralling data from a vast cross-section of individuals across different demographics, proposes that magnesium’s neuroprotective effects may be much more significant than previously understood.

How does magnesium exert its protective effects on the brain?

Magnesium’s role in brain function is multifaceted. It helps regulate neurotransmitters, which send messages throughout the brain and body and plays a pivotal part in the brain’s plasticity—its ability to adapt and reorganize neural pathways.

Furthermore, it serves a defensive function by preventing excessive stimulation that may result in the death of nerve cells (excitotoxicity). Additionally, it has been linked to several neurological illnesses. Given its crucial role in the nervous system, magnesium has garnered significant attention as a mineral with the potential for preventing and treating neurological illnesses.

Magnesium also acts as a gatekeeper for N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors in the brain, which are involved in memory and learning. Excessive activation of these receptors can lead to neuron damage, and magnesium helps keep this activity in check.

How does magnesium exert its protective effects on the brain 1

The research dive into cellular levels reveals that magnesium may also reduce oxidative stress and inflammation—two key players in the development of dementia. Additionally, the maintenance of proper magnesium levels can support healthy blood pressure and glucose control, which are important for reducing the risk factors associated with cognitive decline.

Studies Linking Magnesium and Dementia

Several epidemiological studies have investigated the relationship between magnesium intake and dementia risk. These studies, often involving large cohorts followed over several years, have observed a consistent association between higher magnesium intake and a lower risk of developing dementia.

An article published by Mang-Hua Tao, Jialiang Liu and Diana Cervantes, which is based on the National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES) between 2011 to 2014, conducted on 2508 participants aged 60 and over suggested that high magnesium intake alone may improve cognition in older adults, especially among non-Hispanic Whites. Further, both optimal levels of blood vitamin D and sufficient magnesium consumption may be necessary to safeguard against cognitive decline in older adults.

Another research article published in the European Journal of Nutrition, consuming a higher amount of foods rich in magnesium is associated with improved brain health as we become older, particularly in women. This may potentially reduce the likelihood of developing dementia. The study encompassed a cohort of over 6,000 people ranging in age from 40 to 73 in the United Kingdom. Participants were required to complete an online questionnaire on five occasions throughout 16 months. The purpose of this questionnaire was to enable researchers to determine the participants’ average daily magnesium intake. This calculation was based on the quantity of 200 particular meals consumed by the participants. These options encompass foods that are abundant in magnesium, such as green leafy vegetables, legumes, seeds, nuts, and whole grains. Brain volumes of subjects were quantified using MRI imaging. Individuals who ingested more than 550 milligrams (mg) of magnesium per day had larger brain volumes, which researchers correlated with a brain age that was roughly one year younger at the age of 55, compared to participants who consumed approximately 350 mg of magnesium daily. The magnitude of these impacts was more pronounced in women as compared to males.

The study titled “Relations of magnesium intake to cognitive impairment and dementia among participants in the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study: a prospective cohort study” examined the associations of dietary and supplemental magnesium (Mg) intake with cognitive impairment among aging women. Here are the main findings:

  • The study focused on postmenopausal women aged 65-79 years without dementia on enrollment, spanning over a follow-up of more than 20 years.
  • Out of 6473 participants, 765 (11.8%) developed Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) or Probable Dementia (PD).
  • Risks of MCI/PD and MCI tended to be lower for participants in the 2nd to 5th quintiles of Mg consumption compared to the lowest quintile, with the third quintile having a significantly lower risk after multivariate adjustments.
  • No significant association was found between total magnesium intake and PD specifically.
  • The association between total magnesium intake and cognitive outcomes (MCI/PD and MCI) appeared to be non-linear.

The study concluded that an intake of magnesium within the range between the estimated average requirement and the recommended dietary allowances may be associated with a lower risk of MCI/PD and MCI in postmenopausal women. The research highlighted several strengths such as the long follow-up period and the adjudication process to confirm cognitive impairment events, as well as limitations including the lack of information on serum magnesium levels and the generalizability of the findings to other populations like elderly men.

Implementing the Findings

So, what does this mean for the general public and those at risk for dementia? First and foremost, it encourages a re-evaluation of dietary guidelines to emphasize foods rich in magnesium. It also leads to the potential development of magnesium-based supplements specifically designed for the prevention of cognitive decline.

Old man with dementia having Mg diet 1

While the benefits of magnesium seem promising, it is vital not to overdose on magnesium supplements. Excessive intake can lead to side effects, including gastrointestinal upset and potentially more severe complications. People with kidney issues are particularly at risk for magnesium toxicity because their kidneys may not be able to excrete excess magnesium efficiently. It’s important to consult a healthcare professional before taking magnesium supplements to avoid these potential harms.

Consult your doctor or health expert regarding the suitable intake of magnesium based on your body’s requirements.

Recommendations for Optimizing Magnesium Intake

Given the accumulating evidence linking magnesium to cognitive health, increasing dietary magnesium intake could be a simple and potentially effective strategy for reducing dementia risk. Here are some recommendations:

  • Consume magnesium-rich foods: Leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, avocados, bananas, and whole grains are excellent sources of magnesium. Spinach, kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, and turnip greens are all excellent sources, boasting around 150-200mg per cup cooked. Dark chocolate (70% or higher), avocados, fatty fish like salmon and tuna, bananas, and sweet potatoes also offer a decent amount of magnesium.
  • Consider supplementation: If dietary intake falls short of the recommended daily allowance (310 mg for women and 400mg for men), magnesium supplements can help bridge the gap.
  • Consult your doctor: Before starting any new supplements, discuss the potential benefits and risks with your healthcare provider.
Optimizing Magnesium Intake 1 1


While further research is needed to fully understand the link between magnesium and dementia risk, the current evidence suggests that magnesium can help prevent dementia. Increasing magnesium intake through dietary sources or supplementation may offer a valuable tool for supporting cognitive health and potentially reducing the risk of developing dementia.

Embracing a magnesium-rich diet may be a simple, yet powerful, tool in the proactive defense against dementia. This choice can help maintain not just the vibrancy of the body but also the sanctity of the mind.

However, it’s crucial to note that magnesium should be considered as an additional preventive measure alongside a balanced diet, regular exercise, and a healthy lifestyle. By incorporating these strategies, individuals can empower themselves to maintain cognitive function and reduce their risk of dementia, ultimately promoting a longer, healthier, and more fulfilling life.

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Picture of Cherie Voise

Cherie Voise

Cherie Voise, inspired by personal experiences and driven by her role as an advocate, founded Voise Foundation to improve the lives of those with dementia. As the foundation's key content creator and blog author, she draws on her deep understanding of the disease, advocating for respect, dignity, and creative therapy avenues such as VST Music© and other programs. Cherie's heartfelt writings, fueled by empathy, resonate with readers, offering insight and stirring action. Become a part of this journey and together with Cherie, let's make a meaningful impact in the world of dementia care.