Magnesium May Improve Memory
Only 32% of Americans Get Recommended Daily Allowance of Magnesium, Researchers Say
Jan. 27, 2010 -- Having trouble remembering where you left your keys? Forgot
the name of an acquaintance?
A new study suggests that increasing your intake of magnesium, an essential
mineral found in dark leafy vegetables and certain fruits, beans, and nuts, may
help combat memory lapses associated with aging.
In the study, published Jan. 28 in Neuron, neuroscientists from the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Tsinghua University in Beijing
found that increasing brain magnesium using a newly developed compound,
magnesium-L-threonate (MgT), improves learning abilities, working memory, and
short- and-long-term memory in rats. The magnesium also helped older rats
perform better on a battery of learning tests.
“This study not only highlights the importance of a diet with sufficient daily
magnesium, but also suggests the usefulness of magnesium-based treatments for
aging-associated memory decline,” one of the study’s authors, Susumu Tonegawa,
says in a news release. Tonegawa works at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning
Although the experiments were conducted in rats, the results have implications
for humans, the researchers say.
Half of the population of the industrialized world has a magnesium deficiency,
researcher Guosong Liu says in the release. “If MgT is shown to be safe and
effective in humans, these results may have a significant impact on public
Liu and his colleagues at MIT developed MgT after discovering in 2004 that
magnesium might enhance learning and memory. Liu is co-founder of Magceutics, a
California-based company that develops drugs for the prevention and treatment
of age-related memory decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
Magnesium for Better Memory
The researchers examined how MgT stimulates changes in synapses, the
junctions between neurons that are important in transmitting nerve signals.
They found that in young and old rats, MgT increased plasticity, or
strength, among synapses and promoted the density of synapses in the
hippocampus, a part of the brain that plays important roles in spatial
navigation and long-term memory.
Other experiments performed within the study found that MgT treatment boosted
memory recall under partial information conditions in older rats but had no
effect in young rats. Aging causes dramatic declines in the ability to
recollect memories when incomplete information is provided, the authors
“Because [magnesium] is an essential ion for normal cellular functions and body
health, many physiological functions are impaired with the reduction of body
[magnesium],” they write. The researchers cite that only 32% of Americans get
the recommended daily allowance of magnesium.
The researchers conclude that the study provides “evidence for a possible
causal relationship between high [magnesium] intake and memory enhancements in
aged rats.” They also call for further studies to investigate the relationship
between dietary magnesium intake, body and brain magnesium levels, and
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.