Magnesium For Memory

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A new international study that included researchers from the University of Toronto published in the journal Neuron has found increased brain levels of magnesium improves both learning and memory.

To this end, the researchers found that supplementing the diet of both young and old rats with magnesium enhanced cognitive abilities. Interestingly, the researchers were supplementing at levels higher than what is considered normal dietary intake of magnesium (400mg is the RDA for magnesium) and found the increased intake of this important mineral has a dramatic effect on improving multiple aspects of memory and learning.

The researchers closely examined parts of the brain associated with memory and found a number of cellular changes: The number of functioning parts of the brain cells involved in sending messages actually increased, more signaling molecules were activated and processes for short and long-term memory were enhanced in the magnesium supplemented group.

Dr. Guosong Liu of Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, lead researcher in the study, said this about the study’s implications. “It is important to point out that the control rats in this study had a normal diet which is widely accepted to contain a sufficient amount of magnesium.” This means that for the effects on memory and learning observed in this study, higher than the recommended 400mg of magnesium per day is necessary. Dr. Lui said these findings suggest increasing magnesium intake is a “useful new strategy to enhance cognitive abilities”.

This becomes even more relevant considering widespread magnesium deficiency around the world. Dr. Liu continued, “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.”

Why is over half the population of industrialized countries deficient in magnesium? Because our diets are deficient in magnesium. The Western-style, highly refined diet of mostly white flour, meat and dairy cannot possibly deliver the amount we need.

Moreover, “magnesium levels are decreased by excess alcohol, salt, coffee, phosphoric acid in colas, profuse sweating, prolonged or intense stress, chronic diarrhea, excessive menstruation, diuretics (water pills),antibiotics and other drugs, and some intestinal parasites,” says Dr. Mark Hyman, commenting outside of this study.

Adding sea vegetables, nuts, green veggies and legumes to a deficient diet would be a good start to getting more magnesium. Specific high-magnesium foods include kelp, almonds, cashews, garlic, buckwheat, Brazil nuts, dulse, filberts, millet, pecans, walnuts, rye, brown rice, figs, dates, collard greens, shrimp,avocado, parsley, legumes, barley and dandelion greens.

But adding in these foods likely still won’t lead to the enhanced learning abilities, working memory and short- and long-term memory found in this study. For this you might need a magnesium supplement or a greens supplement, such as chlorella, spirulina or wheatgrass.

The Healthy Foodie is Doug DiPasquale

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