Science Update

New Study Demonstrates Low Magnesium Levels Associated with Increased Dementia Risk

Dementia affects one’s ability to function socially, personally, and professionally. It is important to recognize that dementia begins long before symptoms start, just like many other conditions. There is evidence that prevention strategies may reduce the risk by as much as 50%.

According to a new study published last week in Nutrients, researchers investigated the role of magnesium levels in cognitive decline and dementia over a 27-year period. Magnesium is often cited as the nutrient most deficient and has been shown to have beneficial effects in multiple chronic conditions, such as diabetes, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. Since these conditions increase the risk of cognitive decline and dementia, magnesium may have a protective role.

This large, community-based cohort included 12,040 participants who did not have dementia when they began the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study. Serum magnesium levels were measured in 1990 through 1992. Dementia status was determined by cognitive examinations of participants performed in the years 2011 to 2013, 2016 to 2017, and 2018 to 2019, as well as from interviews, dementia-related hospitalizations, and in death. Each patient’s cognitive function was assessed up to 5 times between 1990 and 1992 and between 2018 and 2019. 

The research team identified 2,519 cases of dementia over an average follow-up period of 24 years. As a result, the lowest quintile of serum magnesium was associated with a 24% higher rate of incident dementia compared with those in the highest quintile of magnesium, even after adjusting for demographics, lifestyle, cardiovascular risk factors, apolipoprotein E4 (APOE4) carrier status, and other micronutrients. No relationship was found between serum magnesium and cognitive decline.

In summary, low serum magnesium is associated with an increased risk of dementia, but it did not appear to impact rates of cognitive decline. However, it is important to note that cognitive performance at the second visit was poorer among participants with lower serum magnesium compared with those who had higher magnesium. 

Magnesium targets numerous pathways in the pathology of dementia. Magnesium is able to inhibit excitotoxicity of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors and inhibit excessive beta-amyloid production. An ideal form of magnesium for these individuals would be magnesium glycinate and magnesium L-threonate. Magnesium glycinate is a great bioavailable form of magnesium that can be used to increase intracellular levels of magnesium and magnesium L-threonate is a novel form of magnesium that crosses the blood brain barrier and increases brain magnesium levels. There have been a few human studies demonstrating its effects in Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment.

Other brain supportive nutrients to consider are glycerophosphocholine (GPC), cytidine diphosphocholine (CDP-choline), Gingko biloba, phosphatidylserine, curcumin, folate, cobalamin (vitamin B12), and fish oil. 

By Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN, CNS

Source: Alam AB, Lutsey PL, Gottesman RF, Tin A, Alonso A. Low serum magnesium is associated with incident dementia in the ARIC-NCS cohort. Nutrients 2020;12(10):3074.