Almonds and other nuts are a great source of magnesium.
BY SARAH OWENS
Older adults who had either high or low levels of magnesium in their blood had an increased risk of developing dementia, according to a new study published online in Neurology on September 20.
Found in a variety of foods like dark leafy greens, fish, nuts, avocados, and whole grains, magnesium is an important element of a healthy diet. Too little of it has been linked with an increased risk of several neurologic conditions, including epilepsy, migraine, depression, and dementia.
Because the studies on dementia were on animals or very small, short-term human trials, researchers wanted to investigate the link in a larger group of humans over a longer period of time.
Scientists at Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, assessed data on 9,569 participants in The Rotterdam Study, a long-running study of the health of people living in Rotterdam, between 1997 and 2008. As part of the study, the participants gave blood samples at the time of their enrollment.
The researchers followed the participants until January 1, 2015 (between seven and 18 years, depending on the time of enrollment) and assessed their records to find diagnoses of any type of dementia.
Participants who had either too little magnesium (0.79 mmol/L or less) or too much (at least 0.90 mmol/L) had an increased risk of developing dementia.
Too much or too little magnesium may adversely affect the NMDA receptor, a part of the brain that plays a crucial role in memory and learning. It may also cause oxidative stress, or an imbalance of free radicals in the body, which can lead to thickening of the arteries, which may in turn increase the risk of dementia.
In the meantime, you can help protect your brain by keeping your magnesium within normal levels.
To learn more about different diets that benefit brain health, read our story, "Brain Food": bit.ly/NN-BrainFood.