Remember to eat dark green leafy 'cruciferous' vegetables...
Along with its many other functions in the body, magnesium may also help maintain learning and memory in middle age and beyond, according to a study in the Dec. 2 issue of Neuron. Scientists already knew that magnesium helps build bones, regulate body temperature, produce proteins and release energy stored in muscles.
The new study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers found that magnesium also helps regulate a key brain receptor that plays an important role in learning and memory. The finding indicates that magnesium deficiency may result in reduced ability to learn and memorize, while cognitive function may be improved by an abundance of magnesium.
"Our study shows maintaining proper magnesium in the cerebrospinal fluid is essential for maintaining the plasticity of synapses," the study authors wrote.
Synapses are the connections among brain cells. Plasticity, which refers to the ability to change, is vital to the brain's ability to learn and remember.
"Since it is estimated that the majority of American adults consume less than the estimated average requirement of magnesium, it is possible that such a deficit may have detrimental effects, resulting in potential declines in memory function," the authors wrote.
Magnesium is found in foods such as dark green, leafy vegetables. The adult daily requirement for magnesium is about 400 milligrams a day. It's estimated that about half of all Americans don't get enough magnesium.
Anxiety, heart disease, muscle cramps, asthma, allergies, attention-deficit disorder and other health problems have been linked to lack of sufficient magnesium.