Dementia cases are currently over 55 million worldwide, and this number is expected to reach 78 million by 2030, which is only 7 years away. There is currently no cure for the debilitating disease. As researchers attempt to look for one, they are also gearing the conversation toward prevention. One preventative therapy that has been identified is magnesium. A new study suggests that a higher intake of the mineral may protect against the development of dementia.
Magnesium and Brain Health
Magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals in the body, and it plays a pivotal role in brain health.
The mineral helps ensure the normal functions of neurons as well as the regulation of neurotransmitters. This allows for the communication of brain cells. Any imbalance can cause cognitive issues. This is why low levels of magnesium have been linked to neurological diseases and disorders. These include depression, migraines, seizures and, you guessed it, dementia.
Is there a link between magnesium and dementia?
In a new study, Australian National University researchers set out to examine the link between dietary magnesium intake and brain volumes and white matter lesions (WML).
As we age, brain volume does decline and its accelerated shrinkage is a precursor to a dementia diagnosis. In regards to white matter lesions (WML), are brain abnormalities. Sometimes WML can reflect normal aging, but there are times when they are considered early signs of neurodegenerative conditions.
For the study, a team of researchers examined the data of 6,001 participants, aged between 40 and 73, taken from the UK Biobank. The participants had no previous evidence of neurological disorders. They completed an online questionnaire five times over 16 months. The responses were used to calculate their daily magnesium intake based on 200 foods (leafy green vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains) of different portion sizes.
Does magnesium keep dementia away?
The study’s findings, published in the European Journal of Nutrition, revealed an association between dietary magnesium and larger brain volumes and lower WMLs.
These effects were more pronounced in participants who consumed more than 550 mg of magnesium a day. The participants had a brain age that was approximately a year younger than their “body age” by the time they reached 55.
“Our study shows a 41% 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.
This research highlights the potential benefits of a diet high in magnesium and the role it plays in promoting good brain health.” – Khawlah Alateeq, lead author of the study.
Eating magnesium-rich foods
Alateeq said the results display the neuroprotective benefits of a higher dietary magnesium intake. She adds that people of all ages should be paying closer attention to their magnesium intake.
So, which magnesium-rich foods should you be adding to your diet?
- Green leafy vegetables
- Fatty fish
- Whole grains
- Dark chocolate
If you’re looking for some cooking inspiration, you can try out one of the delicious magnesium-rich recipes below:
- Spinach with Tofu and Peas
- Quinoa Salad With Roasted Veg & Spinach
- Oats Porridge
- Quick Banana & Oat Flapjacks
Reducing dementia risk
Increasing your intake of magnesium isn’t the only way to protect yourself from dementia. A recent study identified 7 healthy habits that can keep your brain healthy and reduce your risk for dementia by 9%.
Alateeq, K., Walsh, E.I. & Cherbuin, N. (2023). Dietary magnesium intake is related to larger brain volumes and lower white matter lesions with notable sex differences. Eur J Nutr. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-023-03123-x