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The Role of Magnesium in the Fight Against Alzheimers Disease


Magnesium is an abundant mineral in the body and a cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems that regulate biochemical reactions such as protein synthesis, muscle function and blood pressure regulation. It is also an essential nutrient for the brain, and a particular form has been shown to have positive effects in animal studies of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Five million Americans now suffer from Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. There is a worldwide effort underway to find better ways to treat the disease, delay its onset and prevent it from developing in the first place.

A specific type of magnesium, known as Magnesium-L-Threonate or Magtein, has been found to exert a positive effect on brain synapses in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. In studies conducted at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MgT is a compound developed by neuroscientists which in rats was found to increase plasticity (or strength) among synapses (the junctions between neurons where nerve signals are transmitted) and promoted the density of synpases in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that plays important roles in long-term memory.

Future studies in humans may prove the nutrient form could help significantly enhance cognitive functions and decrease symptoms of cognitive impairments, says Dr. Guosong Liu, one of the world’s leading cognitive health researchers.

“There is no doubt that magnesium threonate has dramatic effects in preventing synapse loss and reversing memory decline in mice with Alzheimer’s disease,” says Dr. Liu. “More exciting, though, are the implications of this study for the potential for treating AD in humans.”

Previous studies have suggested that magnesium deficiency is notable among the most cognitively impaired. World-renowned magnesium researcher Dr. Jean Durlach once stated: "Magnesium depletion, particularly in the hippocampus, appears to represent an important pathogenic factor in Alzheimer's disease. It is associated with high aluminum incorporation into brain neurons."

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Although magnesium is an essential nutrient, the researchers cite that only 32% of Americans get the recommended daily allowance. Foods rich in magnesium include dark leafy vegetables, certain fruits, beans and nuts (almonds, cashews and peanuts).

The recommended dietary allowance for magnesium for adults 19-30 years old is 400 milligrams/day for men and 310 milligrams/day for non-pregnant women. For adults 31 and older, it is 420 milligrams/day for men and 320 milligrams/day for non-pregnant women.

A quick Google search finds that MgT is readily available as a dietary supplement, however, consumers should be aware before purchasing this ahead of studies of the supplement’s safety. The FDA has not evaluated the long-term effects of such supplementation.

In addition, too much magnesium from food does not pose a health risk in healthy individuals because the kidneys eliminate excess amounts in the urine. However, high doses of magnesium from dietary supplements or medications often result in diarrhea that can be accompanied by nausea and abdominal cramping.

Symptoms of magnesium toxicity, which usually develop after serum concentrations exceed 1.74–2.61 mmol/L, can include hypotension, nausea, vomiting, facial flushing, retention of urine, ileus, depression, and lethargy before progressing to muscle weakness, difficulty breathing, extreme hypotension, irregular heartbeat, and cardiac arrest

W. Li, G. Liu et al.Elevation of Brain Magnesium Prevents and Reverses Cognitive Deficits and Synaptic Loss in Alzheimer's Disease Mouse Model. Journal of Neuroscience, 2013; 33 (19): 8423 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4610-12.2013
Magnesium Research 24(3):115-121, 2011

National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements