Magnesium (Mg): our heart, bones, muscles and nerves rely on this micronutrient for proper functioning. Without enough, our body experiences damage through increased free radicals production, oxidative tissue damage and inflammation. This means adequate levels are essential for the prevention and management of diabetes and hypertension, which are risk factors for cognitive impairment.
In 2020, a long-term study that followed over 12’000 people, found that low serum Mg was associated with an increased risk of incident dementia. In the same year, reduced Mg was also observed in patients with vascular dementia; these researchers also recommended intracellular vs plasma measurements when testing people with vascular dysfunction. Thankfully, some studies have reported improvements in memory with nutritional Mg support for individuals with dementia and a Japanese study found higher self-reported dietary intake of Mg to be associated with a decreased risk of dementia.
While under 20% of the general population is considered to be Mg deficient, this rate increases to 35-50% for older adults. The susceptibility of a deficiency later in life could be the result of a reduced dietary intake of magnesium rich foods or other health conditions that cause malabsorption. Even without a deficiency, it is estimated that 75% of people do not consistently meet their recommended daily intake. Substances like sugar and caffeine or having fluoride and chlorine in our water can prevent our bodies from absorbing what it needs. Signs of a deficiency are often muscle twitches, cramps, an irregular heartbeat, fatigue or muscle weakness.
The best dietary sources of this nutrient come from fish, dark leafy vegetables, beans and nuts, but be sure to speak to your doctor before supplementing with Mg. Nutrient toxicity can also be a concern and a 2017 study found that both too little and too much Mg was associated with an increased risk of all-cause dementia.
If you’re curious about your levels or want to ensure you’re within the right range, micronutrient testing can help identify your baseline. The results are then used to customize a plan to reduce your risk for disease and positively impact your overall health.
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Dr. Romi Fung, ND, M.Sc and Alaina King, M.Sc
Dr. Romi Fung, ND, M.Sc is a Naturopathic Physician practicing in Richmond, BC with clinical interests in working with patients living with dementia. Dr. Romi has completed additional training in the Bredesen Protocol for treating cognitive impairment, as well as graduate studies in Aging and Health. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D in Aging and Health from Queen's University and is an Adjunct Clinic Faculty at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine - Boucher Campus.
Alaina has a MSc in Aging & Health and is the owner of Grey Matters Tx. A registered professional Recreation Therapist and Certified Dementia Practitioner, Alaina has been working with older adults with dementia since 1998. In addition to Recreation Therapy, Alaina has worked in Community Patient Care Coordination and as a Staff Educator and Health & Safety Auditor in Long Term Care.
Medical Disclaimer: This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice, or delay in seeking it, because of something you have read on this post.
Alam, A. B., et al. (2020). Low Serum Magnesium is Associated with Incident Dementia in the ARIC-NCS Cohort. Nutrients, 12(10), 3074. DOI: 10.3390/nu12103074
Sitzia, C., et al. (2020). Intra-erythrocytes Magnesium Deficiency Could Reflect Cognitive Impairment Status Due to Vascular Disease: A pilot study. Journal of Translational Medicine, 18(485). DOI: 10.1186/s12967-020-02645-w
Zaken, B., et al. (2020). Association Between Serum Magnesium Levels and Alzheimer’s Disease or Mixed Dementia Patients: A Population-based Retrospective Controlled Study. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease Reports, 3(1), 399-404. DOI: 10.3233/ADR-200220