A Higher Dose of Magnesium Each Day Keeps Dementia at Bay

Summary: Adding more magnesium-rich foods, such as spinach and nuts, to your daily diet can help reduce age-related brain shrinkage and stave off symptoms of dementia, a new study reports.

Source: ANU

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 and nuts could also help reduce the risk of dementia, which is the second leading cause of death in Australia and the seventh biggest killer globally.

The study of more than 6,000 cognitively healthy participants in the United Kingdom aged 40 to 73 found people who consume more than 550 milligrams of magnesium each day have a brain age that is approximately one year younger by the time they reach 55 compared with someone with a normal magnesium intake of about 350 milligrams a day.

“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,” lead author and Ph.D. researcher Khawlah Alateeq, from the ANU National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, said.

“This research highlights the potential benefits of a diet high in magnesium and the role it plays in promoting good brain health.”

It’s believed the number of people worldwide who will be diagnosed with dementia 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.

“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,” study co-author Dr. Erin Walsh, who is also from ANU, said.

“Our research could inform the development of public health interventions aimed at promoting healthy brain aging through dietary strategies.”

This shows a brain
The researchers say increased intake of magnesium-rich foods such as spinach and nuts could also help reduce the risk of dementia, which is the second leading cause of death in Australia and the seventh biggest killer globally. Image is in the public domain

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.

“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,” Ms Alateeq said.

“This means people of all ages should be paying closer attention to their magnesium intake.

“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.”

Participants completed 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.

About this diet and dementia research news

Author: Press Office
Source: ANU
Contact: Press Office – ANU
Image: The image is in the public domain

Original Research: Open access.
Dietary magnesium intake is related to larger brain volumes and lower white matter lesions with notable sex differences” by Khawlah Alateeq et al. European Journal of Nutrition


Dietary magnesium intake is related to larger brain volumes and lower white matter lesions with notable sex differences


To examine the association between dietary magnesium (Mg) intake and brain volumes and white matter lesions (WMLs) in middle to early old age.


Participants (aged 40–73 years) from UK Biobank (n = 6001) were included and stratified by sex. Dietary Mg was measured using an online computerised 24 h recall questionnaire to estimate daily Mg intake. Latent class analysis and hierarchical linear regression models were performed to investigate the association between baseline dietary Mg, Mg trajectories, and brain volumes and WMLs. Associations between baseline Mg, and baseline blood pressure (BP) measures, and baseline Mg, Mg trajectories and BP changes (between baseline and wave 2) were also investigated to assess whether BP mediates the link between Mg intake and brain health. All analyses controlled for health and socio-demographic covariates. Possible interactions between menopausal status and Mg trajectories in predicting brain volumes and WMLs were also investigated.


On average, higher baseline dietary Mg intake was associated with larger brain volumes (gray matter [GM]: 0.001% [SE = 0.0003]; left hippocampus [LHC]: 0.0013% [SE = 0.0006]; and right hippocampus [RHC]: 0.0023% [SE = 0.0006]) in both men and women. Latent class analysis of Mg intake revealed three classes: “high-decreasing” (men = 3.2%, women = 1.9%), “low-increasing” (men = 1.09%, women = 1.62%), and “stable normal” (men = 95.71%, women = 96.51%). In women, only the “high-decreasing” trajectory was significantly associated with larger brain volumes (GM: 1.17%, [SE = 0.58]; and RHC: 2.79% [SE = 1.11]) compared to the “normal-stable”, the “low-increasing” trajectory was associated with smaller brain volumes (GM: − 1.67%, [SE = 0.30]; white matter [WM]: − 0.85% [SE = 0.42]; LHC: − 2.43% [SE = 0.59]; and RHC: − 1.50% [SE = 0.57]) and larger WMLs (1.6% [SE = 0.53]). Associations between Mg and BP measures were mostly non-significant. Furthermore, the observed neuroprotective effect of higher dietary Mg intake in the “high-decreasing” trajectory appears to be greater in post-menopausal than pre-menopausal women.


Higher dietary Mg intake is related to better brain health in the general population, and particularly in women.

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