Want To Keep Your Brain Young? Make Sure You're Getting This Science-Backed Nutrient

April 5, 2023

Over the years, I’ve tried dozens of nutrition advice published in PD. There are some that didn’t work (looking at you, edible vegan collagen) and some that I swear by. I’ll never run out of elderberry syrup for immunity support and omega-3 for dry eyes. Hemp seeds, which are high in zinc, are great for energy, muscle and wound repair, and overall wellness. One supplement that I do remain on the fence about is a bottle of magnesium (with zinc, calcium, and vitamin D) in my pantry.

Many natural health wizards in my circles religiously take magnesium supplements. My makeup artist / esthetician advised me to take magnesium before my wedding to reduce inflammation and ensure sleep quality. PD writer Jane swears magnesium reduces hormonal acne, and vegan ballerina Joy Womack says magnesium stabilizes her mood and stress levels under the high demands of professional dancing. Hearing so many gushing testimonials must have convinced me to buy that bottle of supplement a long time ago! But while I go through iron and omega-3 regularly, magnesium has always been more difficult, partly because it’s a big and (literally) difficult pill to swallow. However, this new study on how magnesium keeps Alzheimer’s at bay is re-motivating me to take it regularly.

a blonde woman is taking out a bottle of supplements from her brown bag.

According to a study involving over 6,000 U.K. adults, people who take more than 550 milligrams of magnesium a day have a brain age that’s about one year younger than those consuming a normal 350 milligrams a day. Magnesium intake leads to less age-related brain shrinkage, which means better cognitive function and lower risk of neuro-degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Dementia is the seventh leading cause of death globally.

The researchers also advise that we start taking magnesium earlier in order to boost the brain-protective effects. “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,” says Khawlah Alateeq, the lead author of the study. Um, I hate to say it, but I’m not even that far from turning 40, so. Another noteworthy fact is that evidently magnesium benefits women’s brains even more than men’s. Not complaining!

Personally, I’m happy that a key brain-protecting supplement isn’t some crazy new concoction espoused by Gwyneth Paltrow and made of moon dust. Those supplements are not only expensive but also make me question my life choices. (Am I not doing enough for my well-being?) Magnesium is just a very accessible essential mineral!

Previous studies have also shown that higher than the RDV (normal) level of magnesium (for men, 400–420 milligram; for women, 310–320 milligram) increases cognitive function, memory, and learning. Yet about half of Americans don’t even meet their recommended daily value of magnesium. It’s found in many plant foods like spinach, almonds, cashews, peanuts, plant milk, black beans, edamame, avocado, brown rice, banana, and even dark chocolate. If you feel unsure about your intake, however, do take magnesium supplements. It’s fairly difficult to overconsume magnesium by accident, as your kidneys flush out the excess amount.

Other ways to keep your brain healthy: Virtually any kind of aerobic physical activity increases your brain volume and reduces Alzheimer’s risk, including walking, gardening, and dancing. Dancing has also been credited with noticeable behavioral changes along with brain mass increase, due to the additional challenges of learning and memorizing under pressure. Meditation is another brain mass-increasing activity. Adequate sleep and lowering stress all have an impact on how sharp and bright your brain remains as you get older.

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Photo: Nouri via Unsplash


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