Magnesium is an essential nutrient that benefits health in important ways. Research has shown it helps to prevent heart disease, slashes the risk of cerebral palsy, and can even treat age-related hearing loss. Now, a study by Chinese scientists, published in the in the January 28 issue of the journal Neuron, shows magnesium could have a powerful impact on the brain, too — and boost learning and memory.
In a statement to the media, the researchers noted that diet can affect cognitive capacity. Because learning and memory tend to decline with age and disease, they decided to search for dietary factors that could prevent these changes by having a positive influence on the sites of communication between brain cells (neurons) called synapses. Professor Guosong Liu, Director of the Center for Learning and Memory at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, led the new study to see whether supplementing the diet with magnesium could boost brain power in this way.
The results suggest increasing magnesium intake could be a successful, drug-free way to improve brain function. It also supports the idea that insufficient levels of magnesium could result in increased deterioration of memory in older people.
“Magnesium is essential for the proper functioning of many tissues in the body, including the brain and, in an earlier study, we demonstrated that magnesium promoted synaptic plasticity in cultured brain cells,” Dr. Liu explained in the press statement.”Therefore it was tempting to take our studies a step further and investigate whether an increase in brain magnesium levels enhanced cognitive function in animals.”
“We found that increased brain magnesium enhanced many different forms of learning and memory in both young and aged rats,” stated Dr. Liu. In fact, the research revealed an increase in the number of functional synapses and enhancement of a host of processes in the brain that are necessary for learning and memory.
“Our findings suggest that elevating brain magnesium content via increasing magnesium intake might be a useful new strategy to enhance cognitive abilities,” Dr. Liu concluded in the media statement. “Moreover, half the population of industrialized countries has a magnesium deficit, which increases with aging. This may very well contribute to age-dependent memory decline; increasing magnesium intake might prevent or reduce such decline.”
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