Alzheimer’s disease is one of the main causes of death in older people in the United States. A team of MIT researchers has found a type of magnesium that can help improve Alzheimer’s symptoms. It is more efficient at concentrating in the brain than conventional magnesium, rebuilding ruptured synapses and restoring neuronal connections. This magnesium-L-threonate was 100% effective in improving long-term memory in one experimental model.
The elderly are facing an increasing number of Alzheimer’s diagnoses. Heart disease is now the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive mental decline that can lead to dementia and eventually personal extinction. It affects between 24-30 million people worldwide. About one-fifth of all global cases of Alzheimer’s disease are in the United States, and that is expected to triple by 2050.3,6
Even though there is no cure for Alzheimer’s yet, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have given new hope to people with the disease.
The scientists have found several things that can cause Alzheimer’s and a new way to treat it with nutrients.
This article discusses the important role magnesium plays in protecting the brain as we age, as well as why conventional supplements do not provide enough magnesium to the brain.
A new form of magnesium that is easier for the body to absorb has been found to help improve memory and connections in the brain that are degraded in Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of memory loss.
,9 Experimental models showed that magnesium-L-threonate improved short-term memory by 18% and long-term memory by 100%.8,9
Magnesium Deficiency: An Overlooked Cause of Neurologic Decay
About half of all people in developed countries who are getting older are not getting enough magnesium, which is a nutrient that becomes more and more lacking as time goes on.
Confirmatory data show that Americans are no exception. For example, American women consume only 68% of the recommended daily intake of magnesium.
Magnesium is a key nutrient for optimal brain function. More recently, scientists have found it specifically promotes learning and memory as a result of its beneficial effect on synaptic plasticity and density.
Magnesium affects “ion channels” that open in response to nerve impulses, which trigger neurotransmitter release. The most important channels are controlled by a complex called the NMDA receptor. The NMDA receptors are important for memory because they help to create new neural pathways and strengthen existing ones.
A lack of magnesium can lead to symptoms like apathy and psychosis, as well as memory problems. Without enough magnesium, it takes longer for the brain to recover from an injury, and in lab studies, it causes cells to age faster.
At first, magnesium deficiency may not cause any noticeable symptoms. The difficulty in maintaining high concentrations of magnesium in the brain is part of the problem.
Researchers have long sought ways that higher magnesium brain concentrations might be achieved and sustained in order to improve brain function. One possible reason why many Americans suffer from magnesium deficiency (known as hypomagnesemia) is that the symptoms are easily mistaken for common bodily reactions and natural degenerative processes.
8 Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include:
- Muscle cramps
- Twitching muscles
- High blood pressure
- Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
- Loss of appetite
Magnesium deficiency also impacts brain health. Many studies in the last ten years have found a strong connection between magnesium and how well the brain works.
The following additional symptoms can be caused by a magnesium deficiency in the brain: impaired memory, poor concentration, anxiety, irritability, and depression.
- Reduced cognitive abilities (attention, concentration, etc.)
What Causes Magnesium Deficiency?
They include: A wide range of factors can lead to magnesium deficiency, such as: If you are aware of the lifestyle habits that can lower magnesium levels, you can adjust them accordingly to raise your magnesium levels naturally.
The following could cause magnesium deficiency:
- Poor soil quality – Produces micronutrient-deficient foods that fail to maintain optimal magnesium levels when ingested.
- Drinking distilled water – Distilled water is water that has all of its minerals removed, including magnesium.
- Bad eating habits – Processed food contains very low levels of magnesium.
- Excessive consumption of vitamin D and Calcium – Both nutrients compete with magnesium for absorption in the body.
- Excessive sweating – Magnesium is lost in perspiration.
How Does Magnesium Impact Stress Levels?
Stress is a normal part of life that causes the release of catecholamines and corticosteroids.
There are two primary categories of stress.
Several things can cause physical stress, for example, extreme weather conditions, being ill, or working out too much.
Emotional stress can be caused by a variety of intense emotions, such as depression, anxiety, pain, and excitement.
When you’re stressed, your magnesium levels drop, which raises your risk of heart problems, high blood pressure, and irregular heartbeats. It’s important to consume enough magnesium during times of stress.
Chronic stress initiates a harmful cycle of magnesium depletion. When you’re under a lot of stress, your body loses magnesium, which makes you even more stressed.
Magnesium is important for controlling the body’s response to stress. An insufficient level of magnesium can trigger feelings of anxiety because your body is constantly sending a signal to your brain that it is in danger. When magnesium levels are low, it can lead to chronic diseases.
A Breakthrough Form of Magnesium
Scientists have been challenged to find a way to raise magnesium levels in the brain. This is because even intravenous infusions only cause a modest elevation of magnesium levels in the central nervous system.
An innovative team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently found a way to get around this problem. The scientists created a new magnesium-based compound called magnesium-L-threonate, or MgT, which allows for oral administration and maximizes magnesium absorption into the brain, according to laboratory tests.
Before this, there was research that showed that more magnesium in the brain leads to better synaptic density and plasticity in the hippocampus.14 However, there was no good way to get magnesium into the brain quickly and efficiently.
By contrast, MgT yielded compelling results.
While a 15% increase in magnesium levels in the brain may not sound like a lot, it induced a profound effect on neurological function.
The researchers tested MgT against currently available magnesium compounds to evaluate the effects of MgT on memory. The researchers used the Novel Object Recognition Test (NORT) to assess learning and memory. A high NORT score means that the animal is good at recognizing and identifying new objects, a skill that is critical in aging humans as well.8 NORT is a good test of function in the hippocampus, which is particularly responsive to magnesium.
The researchers gave aged animals either MgT or one of the commercially available magnesium compounds and then put them through the NORT test. Only MgT increased both short and long-term memory significantly, with a 15% increase for short-term memory and a 54% increase for long-term memory compared to magnesium citrate.
Impact of Magnesium on Brain Health
Better Function of Memory-Forming Synaptic Connections
The team investigated whether the changes caused by MgT led to an increase in the number of neurotransmitter release sites, which would subsequently enhance signal transmission. This is the hallmark of learning and memory.
The team used high-tech microscopic measuring devices to demonstrate that MgT supplementation increases the number of functioning neurotransmitter release sites. This effect could be likened to increasing the number of soldiers on the battlefield: when the call to action comes, a much larger force is prepared to perform.
The question addressed in the final study was whether the observed improvements in memory created by MgT supplementation were directly correlated with the increased density of synaptic connections.
The researchers systematically plotted out the time course of the increase in synaptic density following MgT supplementation and found that it directly paralleled the improvements in memory.8 They also found that when MgT supplementation was stopped, the density of synaptic connections dropped back to levels before supplementation, further confirming the correlation. The study found that MgT supplementation not only boosted the animals’ average performance but also improved their overall performance.
Improvement in Spatial Short-Term Memory
Spatial working memory is responsible for your short-term recall of where things are and where you are in relation to the world. Working memory enables you to store information for a short period of time so you can retrieve it later. This is why you can remember where you left your car keys or what page you were reading in a magazine a few minutes ago.
MIT researchers tested how well animals could remember where an object was located in space. If left untreated, both young and old animals will forget the correct choice 30% of the time. Even though the young and old animals improved their memory performance by more than 17%, it still took them 24 days to do so.
The performance of the older animals became equal to that of the younger ones after 30 days of supplementation. Since the older animals had worse memory at the start of the study, they had a bigger improvement than the younger animals.
The memory-enhancing effects of MgT supplementation persisted in younger animals even after the supplementation was suspended, but in older animals, spatial working memory performance declined dramatically and returned to baseline within 12 days. However, when MgT supplementation to the older animals was resumed, their memory performance was restored in 12 days.
Because magnesium-L-threonate improved memory in both old and young animals, it had a greater effect on aged individuals who need memory enhancements.
13 Magnesium-Rich Foods
A diet that includes magnesium-rich foods is important for maintaining physical and mental health. Although magnesium supplementation cannot provide all the nutrients you need, it can help to top up your levels and ensure you have enough on a daily basis.
Below is a list of 13 healthy foods that are rich in magnesium. Make sure you save this list for future shopping trips.
- Dark green leafy vegetables
- Whole grains
- Dark chocolate
- Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, halibut)
Types of Magnesium Supplements
There are many forms of magnesium supplements. Some options are listed below.
- Magnesium glycinate: This form of magnesium is bound with the amino acid glycine. It’s used to facilitate sleep, and decrease inflammation. It’s easily absorbed and may help reduce anxiety, depression, and stress.
- Magnesium citrate: This is one of the most common forms of magnesium. It’s bound with citric acid and among the more bioavailable forms. It has a laxative effect and is often used to treat constipation.
- Magnesium oxide: Is a salt combining magnesium and oxygen. It has extremely high levels of elemental magnesium but has poor bioavailability. It has a laxative effect and is often used to treat constipation.
- Magnesium chloride: Is a salt binding magnesium with chloride. It is easily absorbed and used to increase magnesium levels in the body. It’s often added to lotions and ointments to relieve muscle soreness.
- Magnesium taurate: This form of magnesium is bound with the amino acid taurine. It’s used for regulating blood sugar and supports healthy blood pressure.
- Magnesium malate: This type of magnesium is bound with malic acid, which is found in fruit and wine. This form is well absorbed and is believed to be gentler on the digestive system, with less of a laxative effect.
- Magnesium L-threonate: Is a salt combining magnesium and threonic acid, which is derived from the breakdown of vitamin C. This form is low in elemental magnesium overall but is sufficiently potent to support brain health.
Side Effects of Magnesium Supplements
Magnesium supplements are considered safe for most people, but some may experience mild side effects, such as a laxative response. These could include diarrhea, upset stomach, and bloating.
. Toxic side effects from magnesium are rare and usually occur in people with kidney diseases or who consume large amounts of magnesium.
The following symptoms could be indicative of a toxic reaction to magnesium supplements:
- Muscle weakness
- Irregular breathing.
The recommended amount of magnesium to consume each day in Canada is 300 mg for men and 250 mg for women. NIH recommends that males aged 51 and up should consume 400-420 mg of magnesium daily, and females aged 51 and up should consume 310-320 mg of magnesium daily.