According to scientists at the Australian National University’s (ANU) Neuroimaging and Brain Lab, more magnesium in our daily diet improves brain health as we age.
Researchers say increased intake of magnesium-rich foods such as spinach and almonds may also help reduce the risk of dementia, which is the second leading cause of death in Australia and the seventh biggest killer worldwide.
A study of more than 6,000 cognitively healthy participants aged 40 to 73 in the UK found that people who consumed more than 550 milligrams of magnesium per day had about a year less brain age by the time they reached age 55. A normal magnesium intake of about 350 mg per day.
“Our study shows that a 41 percent increase in magnesium intake can lead to less age-related brain shrinkage, which is associated with better cognitive function and a lower risk or delayed onset of dementia later in life,” lead author and PhD researcher Khawlah Alatek, ANU National Center for For Epidemiology and Population Health from Dr.
“This study highlights the potential benefits of a diet rich in magnesium and the role it plays in promoting good brain health.”
It is believed that the number of people who will be diagnosed with dementia worldwide is expected to more than double from 57.4 million in 2019 to 152.8 million in 2050, placing further pressure on health and social services and the global economy.
“As there is no cure for dementia and the development of pharmacological treatments has failed over the past 30 years, it has been suggested that more attention should be paid to prevention,” study co-author Dr Erin Walsh, who is also from the ANU, said.
“Our research can inform the development of public health interventions aimed at promoting healthy brain aging through dietary strategies.”
Researchers say that a higher intake of magnesium in our diet from a young age can protect against neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive decline by the time we reach our 40s.
“The study shows that higher dietary magnesium intake may contribute to neuroprotection earlier in the aging process and that the preventive effects may begin in our 40s or even earlier,” said Ms Altek.
“This means that people of all ages should pay more attention to their magnesium intake.
“We also found that the neuroprotective effects of more dietary magnesium appear to be more beneficial in women than in men, and more so in postmenopausal than premenopausal women, although this may be due to magnesium’s anti-inflammatory effects.”
Participants completed an online questionnaire five times over a 16-month period. The responses provided were used to calculate participants’ daily magnesium intake and were based on 200 different foods with different portion sizes. The ANU team focused on magnesium-rich foods such as leafy green vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains to provide an average estimate of participants’ dietary magnesium intake.