Global dementia prevalence is expected to rise dramatically, from 57.4 million in 2019 to 152.8 million in 2050. This will significantly burden health and social services and incur high economic costs. To address this, more emphasis should be placed on prevention, with modifiable dementia risk factors accounting for only 35% of the non-genetic risk.
A new study examines the association between dietary magnesium (Mg) intake and brain volumes and white matter lesions (WMLs) in the middle to early old age. Scientists discovered that increasing our magnesium intake in our diets from a young age may protect us from neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive decline by the time we reach our 40s.
According to researchers from the Neuroimaging and Brain Lab at The Australian National University (ANU), eating more magnesium improves the health of our brains as we age. Eating more magnesium-rich foods like spinach and nuts may help reduce the risk of dementia, Australia’s second-leading cause of death and the seventh-leading cause of death worldwide.
The Neuroimaging and Brain Lab at The Australian National University (ANU) discovered that increasing magnesium intake by 41% could lead to better brain health as we age. A study of over 6,000 cognitively healthy participants in the United Kingdom discovered that people who consume more than 550 milligrams of magnesium per day have a brain age approximately one year younger by the time they reach 55 compared to people who consume 350 milligrams of magnesium per day.
Lead author and Ph.D. researcher Khawlah Alateeq, from the ANU National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, said, “Our study shows a 41 percent 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.”
“This research highlights the potential benefits of a diet high in magnesium and its role in promoting good brain health.”
The number of people diagnosed with dementia worldwide is expected to more than double from 57.4 million in 2019 to 152.8 million in 2050, placing a greater strain on health and social services and the global economy.
Study co-author Dr. Erin Walsh, also from ANU, said, “Since there is no cure for dementia and the development of pharmacological treatments have been unsuccessful for the past 30 years, it’s been suggested that greater attention should be directed towards prevention.”
He also said, “Our research could inform the development of public health interventions aimed at promoting healthy brain aging through dietary strategies.”
Ms. Alateeq said. “The study shows higher dietary magnesium intake may contribute to neuroprotection earlier in the aging process, and preventative effects may begin in our 40s or even earlier.” This means that people of all ages should monitor their magnesium intake more closely.
He added, “We also found the neuroprotective effects of more 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.”
Over 16 months, participants completed an online questionnaire five times. The responses provided were used to calculate participants’ daily magnesium intake 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 whole grains to provide an average estimate of magnesium intake from the participants’ diets.
This study states to the growing body of evidence that higher dietary Mg intake is associated with better brain health in the general population. More research is needed to support possible population health interventions to slow the progression of age-related neurodegeneration.
- Khawlah Alateeq, Erin I. Walsh. et al. Dietary magnesium intake is related to larger brain volumes and lower white matter lesions with notable sex differences. European Journal of Nutrition. DOI: 10.1007/s00394-023-03123-x