Cognitive impairment, ranging from mild dementia to Alzheimer’s disease, is rampant in the U.S. Not surprisingly, Big Pharma is all over this issue. But so far dementia drugs have not been blockbuster successes.
While the drug industry dithers and goes back to the drawing board, fortunately there are many natural approaches to keeping the brain healthy—including the often overlooked mineral magnesium.
New research shows that magnesium deficiency in adults may play a significant role in the development of dementia. And a recent study found that giving magnesium to lab animals in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease reduced their cognitive impairment. In fact, it even restored their aging brains to a more youthful condition.i
Although this study wasn’t done on humans, it does reveal an all-important mechanism by which cognitive decline can be reversed. Adequate levels of magnesium in the body appear to prevent the loss of brain synapses. Which are critical for memory and other mental functioning.
Another recent clinical trial on humans further explores these findings. Researchers found that the study participants who took magnesium had significantly better cognitive function and decreased symptoms of cognitive impairment than people who didn’t.
So should you be taking a magnesium supplement? Most likely yes. Dairy, eggs, and meat are rich dietary sources of magnesium, and leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains also contain the mineral. But your body only absorbs about 30 to 40 percent of the magnesium you eat.ii Consequently, researchers estimate that as much as 68 percent of U.S. adults are magnesium deficient.iii
There are other factors that also deprive you of this much-needed mineral. While drinking coffee and organic green tea in moderation can have health benefits, the caffeine can contribute to magnesium depletion. And as you grow older, your body can lose its magnesium stores. This is yet another potential problem with consuming green teas.
With all of this—and the new research—in mind, I’m convinced that magnesium supplementation is important for healthy aging. Look for a supplement that has 200 to 400 mg of magnesium. However, it’s difficult to get enough of this essential mineral from supplements alone, so make sure to also eat the magnesium-rich foods listed above.
i “Elevation of Brain Magnesium Prevents and Reverses Cognitive Deficits and Synaptic Loss in Alzheimer’s Disease Mouse Model.” Journal of Neuroscience, 2013; 33 (19): 8423
ii “Magnesium Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.” National Institutes of Health. Available at: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/. Accessed February 13, 2014.
iii “Dietary Magnesium and C-reactive Protein Levels”, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 24, No. 3, 166-171 (2005).