Higher dietary magnesium intake may keep dementia at bay

April 3, 2023 in Brain Health, Nutrition for Older Adults, Nutrition Topics in the News

Higher dietary magnesium intake may keep dementia at bay

More magnesium in our daily diet leads to better brain health as we age, according to scientists from the Neuroimaging and Brain Lab at The Australian National University (ANU).  

The researchers say increased intake of magnesium-rich foods such as spinach, Swiss chard and pumpkin seeds could help reduce the risk of dementia, the second leading cause of death in Australia and the seventh biggest killer globally.  

For the study of more than 6,000 cognitively healthy participants in the United Kingdom, aged 40 to 73, researchers had participants complete an online questionnaire five times over a period of 16 months.

The responses provided were used to calculate the daily magnesium intake of participants and were based on 200 different foods with varying portion sizes. The ANU team focused on magnesium-rich foods such as leafy green vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and wholegrains to provide an average estimation of magnesium intake from the participants’ diets.  

The findings, which foods to eat

The results showed that people who consumed more than 550 milligrams of magnesium each day had a brain age approximately one year younger by the time they reach 55 compared with someone with a normal magnesium intake of about 350 milligrams a day.   

The study found that such 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.  

Green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, beans and lentils and soybeans contain the most magnesium. Yogurt, salmon, mackerel and halibut are also decent sources.

The researchers say a higher intake of magnesium in our diets from a younger age may safeguard against neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive decline by the time we reach our 40s.  This means people of all ages should be paying closer attention to their magnesium intake. 

The researchers also found the beneficial brain effects of increased dietary magnesium appears to benefit women more than men and more so in post-menopausal than pre-menopausal women, although this may be due to the anti-inflammatory effect of magnesium.”

Source: European Journal of Nutrition, March 10, 2023.

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