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    Magnesium Improves Memory Power

    By Margarita Nahapetyan

    Neuroscientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, found that increasing the intake of magnesium in the diet may be a valid strategy to enhance cognitive abilities and boost brain power.

    Magnesium is an essential mineral that is present in dark, leafy vegetables such as spinach, and certain fruits, beans, and nuts. The experts say that insufficient levels of magnesium reduce, and even impair cognitive function, leading to faster deterioration of memory in aging humans. Those who get less than 400 milligrams of the mineral a day are at risk for allergies, asthma and heart disease, among other conditions.

    In 2004, Professor Guosong Liu, Director of the Center for Learning and Memory at Tsinghua University, led a study examining whether increased levels of one such dietary supplement, magnesium, can improve brain power. Professor Liu and his team discovered that magnesium might have a positive influence on learning and memory. They followed up by developing a new magnesium compound - magnesium-L-threonate (MgT) - that is more effective in comparison with conventional oral supplements at boosting magnesium in the brain, and tested it on rats.

    The investigators examined how MgT stimulates changes in synapses, the junctions between neurons that are essential when it comes to transmitting nerve signals. They revealed that in young and old rats, MgT increased plasticity, or strength, among synapses and promoted the density of synapses in the hippocampus, a region in the brain that plays critical role in spatial navigation and long-term memory. The scientists note that the control rats in their experiment were fed a normal diet which is widely accepted to contain a sufficient amount of magnesium, and that the observed effects were due to elevation of magnesium to levels higher than provided by a normal diet.

    The researchers concluded that in spite of the fact that the experiments were conducted on rats, the results have implications for humans as well. They also say that further studies and research are needed in order to examine what is the relationship between dietary magnesium intake, body and brain magnesium levels, and cognitive skills.

    Half the population of the industrialized countries has a magnesium deficit, which is known to be increasing with aging. If normal or even higher levels of magnesium can be maintained in our bodies, it will be possible to significantly slow age-related loss of brain function and perhaps even prevent or treat diseases that are associated with cognitive function. The recommended dietary allowance for magnesium for adults between 19 and 30 years old is 400 milligrams daily for men and 310 milligrams a day for non- pregnant women. For adults from 31 years and older, the daily recommended dose is 420 milligrams for men and 320 milligrams for non-pregnant women.

    The new study is published by Cell Press in the January 28th issue of the journal Neuron.

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