This Mineral Is Key For Brain Longevity (But Many Of Us Don't Get Enough Of It)
Magnesium has long been known for its essential role in supporting the body, but new research reveals its important impact on the brain too. A recent study published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that a higher-than-average magnesium intake was associated with healthier, younger-looking brains in both men and women.
Magnesium and brain health
The study, which included a large sample of over 6,000 adults ages 40–73 in the UK, found that getting enough of this essential mineral is associated with less brain shrinkage. Participants who averaged 550 milligrams of magnesium per day had a brain age about one year younger than those who consumed approximately 350 milligrams per day by the time they reached 55. Interestingly, the link between increased magnesium and larger brain volumes was stronger in women than in men.
These findings are particularly significant in the context of brain health among aging individuals, as magnesium levels tend to decline as we get older. Magnesium deficiency is more common among older adults. However, it's important that people of all ages consume enough magnesium, as it's involved in over 600 enzymatic reactions in the body, making it an essential nutrient for overall health. It plays a key role in nerve transmission, helping maintain the general health of the nervous system.
And this isn't the first time magnesium has been shown to have neuroprotective effects. Magnesium is also important for brain function and has been linked to improvements in memory1, learning2, and overall cognitive performance3. It may also help protect the brain from degeneration and improve its resilience4.
How to get this brain-boosting mineral daily
Upping your daily dose of dietary magnesium could significantly improve your overall health and well-being (see how much magnesium you need depending on your age here5). Fortunately, there are plenty of easy and delicious ways to get high doses of this brain-boosting mineral every day:
Stock your kitchen with magnesium-rich foods. Adding foods that are naturally high in magnesium to your meals and snacks is a great place to start. Make sure to include leafy greens, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes.
Supplement with magnesium. If you struggle to get enough magnesium through your diet alone (as up to 43% of U.S. adults do6), consider taking a daily magnesium supplement. Make sure you're taking a high-quality supplement suited to your specific needs, as there are various types of magnesium you can supplement with to address certain health goals—such as looser bowels (magnesium citrate) or better sleep (magnesium bisglycinate). You can find our favorite magnesium supplements here. As always, talk with your doctor before starting any new supplement regimen.
Experiment with new recipes. Trying new magnesium-rich recipes is an easy way to discover some healthy dishes to add to your meal rotation. Scroll through your favorite food creators' feeds, and keep an eye out for anything featuring kale, quinoa, black beans, cashews, or brown rice this spring.
Limit your intake of magnesium-depleting substances. Certain substances, such as alcohol and caffeine7, may deplete magnesium levels in the body in very high amounts. Limiting your intake of these substances may help you maintain adequate magnesium levels.
Recent findings out of the UK highlight the important role that magnesium plays in maintaining good brain health. By making simple dietary and lifestyle changes, you can increase your magnesium intake and reap the benefits of this essential nutrient for years to come. Don't know where to start? Check out our roundup of magnesium supplements, all vetted by a nutrition scientist.
Jenny is a San Francisco-based mbg health contributor, content designer, and climate & sustainability communications specialist. She is a graduate of the University of California Santa Barbara. An avid open-water swimmer, Jenny has worked for healthy living and nutrition brands like Sun Basket, Gather Around Nutrition, and Territory Foods.