New Study Says Magnesium Can Lower Your Dementia Risk—Here's How to Up Your Intake
Experts share the best ways to get more magnesium in your diet.
With nearly 10 million new cases of dementia diagnosed each year, finding ways to keep your brain healthy is more important than ever. And since there is no cure for dementia, prevention is your best bet when it comes to cognitive decline. Things like flossing regularly, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining an active social life have all been shown to help lower your dementia risk. And now a new study out of the Brain Lab at The Australian National University (ANU) says that adding magnesium to your diet can help, too.
The study, published in the March 2023 issue of the European Journal of Nutrition, looked at more than 6,000 healthy adults in the UK and found that those who consumed more than 550 milligrams of magnesium daily had a brain age about one year younger than those whose magnesium intake was around 350 milligrams a day. "Our study shows a 41 percent increase in magnesium intake could lead to less age-related brain shrinkage, which is associated with better cognitive function and lower risk or delayed onset of dementia in later life," researcher and lead author Khawlah Alateeq said in a statement. "This research highlights the potential benefits of a diet high in magnesium and the role it plays in promoting good brain health."
With that in mind, Best Life reached out to experts to find the best ways to increase magnesium intake—and what else we can all do to keep our brains functioning at their highest capacity for as long as possible.
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This isn't the first study to show the brain benefits of magnesium.
Neuroscience researcher Dale Bredesen, MD, author of the New York Times bestseller The End of Alzheimer's: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline, says this isn't the first time magnesium's brain-boosting benefits have been highlighted. "What the study showed was reduced brain aging, associated with less brain atrophy and therefore likely less dementia. Earlier studies have also shown benefits of magnesium, which is why many take magnesium threonate."
Bredesen adds that many people are deficient in magnesium—and a few other essential minerals as well. "Most of us have diets that are too low in magnesium, zinc, iodine, potassium, and choline, so those are all good to include in your diet," he notes.
Adding magnesium-rich foods to your diet can boost your brain health.
Neuroscientist, nutrition expert, and Nature Made Wellness Ambassador Nicole Avena, PhD, says that in addition to reducing dementia risk, eating foods rich in magnesium can aid muscle and nerve function, even out blood sugar levels, and help maintain healthy blood pressure.
"Many common foods are rich in magnesium, such as whole grains, dark leafy greens (think spinach, kale, arugula), avocados, soybeans, black beans, lima beans, lentils, peanuts, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and low-fat milk and yogurt," she advises.
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Taking magnesium supplements can help, too.
If you're not a fan of leafy greens, lentils, and other foods high in magnesium, you can always take a supplement. "Getting nutrients through food is always better—more bioavailable, more physiological timing," says Bredesen. "However, if you can't get these through diet, then supplementation is the next best way to do it, and far better than being deficient."
"It is always best to aim to get the majority of your vitamins and minerals through food," Avena concurs. But if you're looking for a magnesium supplement, she has some recommendations. "Nature Made has a wide variety of magnesium products for all purposes. They have magnesium vitamins with different doses and potencies, and even differentiate their products like Magnesium Citrate and Magnesium Glycinate, which serve different purposes in the body. Magnesium citrate is more common, better absorbed by the body, and tends to relieve constipation, while magnesium glycinate is the form more useful to aid in sleep, anxiety, and inflammation."
Avena stresses that any type of magnesium you take "will aid in various processes in the body and even support healthy blood sugar regulation, stress levels, bone health, and more."
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Doing these seven things can optimize your cognitive functioning.
Upping your magnesium intake isn't the only way to keep your brain healthy. Bredesen says that reducing inflammation and keeping your energy levels up are two things that can have "a major impact" on cognition, as both are associated with cognitive decline. "Optimizing these two contributors [can help] you to keep your brain health for years," he says.
"If you're over 40 or have brain fog (e.g., from COVID), we recommend a cognoscopy (brain check)," he adds. He also lists seven things that he calls "fundamentals to stay sharp: nutrition (plant-rich, mildly ketogenic diet), exercise, sleep (and make sure you don't have sleep apnea, a common contributor), stress management, brain training, detoxification, and some targeted supplements."
Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.