Magnesium supports the proper functioning of muscles and nerves, participates in the regulation of blood pressure and in the synthesis of proteins and is necessary for the production of energy. Well, we now know that magnesium also has another benefit, it protects the brain from the risk of developing dementia. This emerges from a very recent scientific research published a few days ago in the Nutrients journal by an American team (Alam et al, Nutrients, Dec 2021).
What magnesium is used for
Magnesium is a fundamental mineral in our body since its deficiency is associated with a higher risk of hypertension, thrombosis and cardiovascular disease, which in turn are risk factors for neurodegeneration. Other studies have already observed that circulating magnesium in the blood is linked to a reduced risk of developing dementia, although until now this link had not been well understood. Precisely to better understand the connection between magnesium and brain functioning and to evaluate a possible future use of this mineral in the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases, the researchers developed the study we are talking about today.
How magnesium protects the brain, the study
Scientists studied the health status of 1,466 people, with an average age of 76, who were already participating in another large study, the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Neurocognitive Study, from 2011 to 2013. In particular, the scientists analyzed the available data concerning the levels of circulating magnesium in the blood and nuclear magnetic resonance tests of the brain. What emerged was that those with higher magnesium values also had greater brain volume. To understand this fact, it is necessary to think that dementia is connected to a reduction in the volume of the brain. And that's not all, higher levels of magnesium have also been linked to a reduction in the risk of cerebrovascular disease, which is caused by impaired blood circulation in the brain. Scientists also provided an explanation for what they observed. Magnesium appears to work through several processes. First of all, in cases of dementia the integrity of myelin, which is the lining of the nerve fibers, is altered. Well, a magnesium deficiency causes a thinning of the myelin sheath. Not only that, magnesium has been shown to support the integrity of the barrier between blood and brain, preventing the release of pro inflammatory cytokines. Indeed, it is precisely neuroinflammation that is considered the fuse of Alzheimer's. Finally, magnesium is able to inhibit particular types of receptors, called NMDA receptors, which, when functioning correctly, are essential for memory and learning processes while when they are hyperactive they cause cell death, paving the way for dementia. Magnesium helps prevent this over activation. All of this explains how higher levels of magnesium are reflected in higher brain volumes and a lower risk of dementia.
Warnings and conclusions
Research is still in its infancy and researchers will have to evaluate dosages and possible effects in more detail before considering magnesium a valid support in the prevention of neurodegeneration. In fact, if a magnesium deficiency increases the risk of dementia, an excess of magnesium can also cause damage to the brain. As emerges from a research of a few years ago, both low, namely lower than 0.7 mmol / l, and high, higher than 0.90 mmol / l, magnesium levels are associated with an increased risk of dementia. For the moment, waiting for science to take its course, we can rely on nutrition for a regular intake of magnesium. Foods rich in magnesium include almonds, bananas, black beans, broccoli, black rice, cashew nuts, flax seeds, spinach, nuts, oats, sesame seeds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, sweetcorn, tofu and whole grains.