New research has found that an increase in the mineral magnesium in the brain improves learning and memory in young and old rats.
The study, published in the January 28th issue of the journal Neuron, suggests that increasing magnesium intake is a good way to enhance cognitive abilities. The study also supports the theory that inadequate levels of magnesium impair cognitive function, leading to faster deterioration of memory in aging humans.
Diet can have a significant impact on brain function and cognitive capability, as explored in previous articles. Nutrients like essential fats (omega-3 and -6), the B-vitamins and zinc are all crucial for a sharper memory, improved concentration, boosting IQ, and keeping the mind young.
Scientists wanted to look at whether identifying dietary factors which have a positive influence on brain health, might help to enhance learning and memory and prevent their decline with age and disease. This study examining whether increased levels of one such dietary supplement, magnesium, boosted brain power.
"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," explained the author.
"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."
The scientists developed a new magnesium compound, magnesium-L-threonate (MgT), because it is difficult to boost brain magnesium levels with traditional oral supplements. They used MgT to increase magnesium in rats of different ages and then looked for behavioral and cellular changes associated with memory.
"We found that increased brain magnesium enhanced many different forms of learning and memory in both young and aged rats," they said.
By looking at cellular changes associated with memory, they found an increase in the number of functional synapses, activation of key signaling molecules and an enhancement of short- and long-term synaptic processes that are crucial for learning and memory.
The authors noted that the control rats in this study had a normal diet which is widely accepted to contain a sufficient amount of magnesium, and that the observed effects were due to elevation of magnesium to levels higher than provided by a normal diet.
"Our findings suggest that elevating brain magnesium content via increasing magnesium intake might be a useful new strategy to enhance cognitive abilities,"
"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."
Magnesium cannot be made in the body so must be provided through the diet. As well as brain health, magnesium is required for building and strengthening bones, relaxing muscles and nerves, and keeping the blood circulating smoothly.
Good food sources of magnesium include green vegetables like swiss chard, spinach, and broccoli, as well as a variety of seeds.
Research Paper Details:
Slutsky I, Abumaria N, Wu LJ, et al. Enhancement of Learning and memory by Elevating brain magnesium. Neuron, Jan. 28, 2010.