The role of magnesium for cognitive functions in older adults


This article was previously published on July 16, 2020 and has been updated with new information.

Earlier, I discussed the synergy between magnesium and vitamin D, and the importance of vitamin D for optimal immune function and overall health – especially in terms of reducing the risk of COVID-19. Previous studies have also highlighted the role this duo plays in cognitive functions in the elderly as well as in overall mortality.

Vitamin D and magnesium protect cognitive health

One such study,1 “The association of vitamin D and magnesium status with cognitive function in older adults: results of the National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES) 2011 to 2014,” he said. , but it also seems to affect the risk of neurodegeneration as you age.

Magnesium, meanwhile, is essential for the conversion of vitamin D to its active form,2,3,4 it also plays a role in cognitive health, and magnesium deficiency has been implicated in several neurological disorders.

Using NHANES data from 2,984 participants over the age of 60, the researchers compared serum vitamin D status and dietary magnesium intake with cognitive function outcomes.

After adjusting for confusing factors, including total calorie consumption and magnesium intake, higher blood vitamin D levels correlated positively with a reduced chance of low cognitive function scores on the digit replacement test.

The same trend was found when they observed vitamin D intake rather than blood levels. The correlation between higher vitamin D levels and better cognitive function was particularly strong among those whose magnesium intake was equal to or greater than 375 mg per day. According to the authors:5

“We found that higher serum 25 (OH) D levels were associated with a reduced risk of low cognitive function in older adults, and this association appears to have been modified by magnesium intake levels.”

Magnesium improves brain plasticity

While magnesium intake did not appear to affect cognitive functions in the above study, other research has highlighted its role in healthy cognition.

Memory impairment occurs when the connections (synapses) between brain cells are reduced. Although many factors can come into play, magnesium is important. As noted by Dr. David Perlmutter, a neurologist and associate at the American College of Nutrition:6

“Magnesium has now been found to be a key player in activating nerve channels involved in synaptic plasticity. This means that magnesium is crucial for physiological events that are fundamental to learning and memory processes.”

In 2010, a specific form of magnesium called magnesium threonate was found to improve “learning abilities, working memory, and short-term and long-term memory in rats.”7 According to the authors, “our findings suggest that increasing magnesium in the brain improves both short-term synaptic relief and long-term potentiation, and improves learning and memory functions.”

COVID-19 can deprive the brain of oxygen

While we are already on the topic of the brain, the article from July 1, 20208 in The Washington Post reviewed the autopsy findings of patients with COVID-19. Surprisingly, Chinese researchers reported9 that patients with COVID-19 may exhibit a number of neurological manifestations.

Letter to the editors dated June 12, 202010 published in The New England Journal of Medicine also discusses the neuropathological features of COVID-19. As reported by The Washington Post:11

Patients reported a range of neurological impairments, including reduced sense of smell or taste, altered mental status, stroke, seizures – even delirium … In June, researchers in France reported that 84% of intensive care patients had neurological problems, and others were confused or disoriented at discharge.

… Also this month, those in the UK found that 57 of 125 coronavirus patients with a new neurological or psychiatric diagnosis had suffered a stroke due to a blood clot in the brain, and 39 had altered mental status.

Based on such data and anecdotal reports, Isaac Solomon, a neuropathologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, has embarked on a systematic study where the virus could be implanted in the brain.

He performed autopsies of 18 consecutive deaths, taking incisions of key areas: cerebral cortex (gray matter responsible for information processing), thalamus (modulates sensory inputs), basal ganglia (responsible for motor control) and others… “

Interestingly, while doctors and researchers initially suspected that inflammation of the brain was causing the neurological problems observed in some patients, Solomon’s autopsies revealed very little inflammation. Instead, these neurological manifestations appear to be due to oxygen-induced brain damage.

Signs of oxygen deficiency were present in both patients who spent a significant amount of time in intensive care and those who died suddenly after a brief but severe attack of the disease. I believe this is probably due to an increase in clotting in the microvasculature of the brain.

Solomon told the Washington Post he was “very surprised” by the discovery. It makes sense, however, given that patients with COVID-19 have been found to be starving for oxygen. As reported by The Washington Post:12

“When the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, some neurons die … To some extent, the human brain can compensate, but at some point, the damage is so great that various functions begin to degrade … irreversible damage was prevented. “

Magnesium and vitamin D affect mortality

Let’s go back to magnesium and vitamin D, previous research13 using NHANES data from 2001 to 2006, they found that the duo had a positive impact on overall mortality rates. This study also noted that magnesium “significantly reversed resistance to vitamin D treatment in patients with magnesium-dependent vitamin D-resistant rickets.”

Researchers have hypothesized that magnesium supplementation increases your vitamin D levels by activating it more, and that the risk of mortality could therefore be reduced by increasing magnesium intake. That’s really what they found. According to the authors:

High intake of total, dietary or supplemental magnesium has been independently associated with significantly reduced risks of vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency. Magnesium intake has significantly affected vitamin D intake relative to the risk of vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency.

In addition, an inverse association between total magnesium intake and vitamin D deficiency occurred primarily among populations at high risk for vitamin deficiency.

Furthermore, the association of serum 25 (OH) D with mortality, particularly due to cardiovascular disease (CVD) and colorectal cancer, was modified by magnesium intake, and inverse linkages were primarily present among those with above-median magnesium intake.

Our preliminary findings suggest that it is possible that magnesium intake alone or its interaction with vitamin D intake may contribute to vitamin D status. The association between serum 25 (OH) D and mortality risk may be modified by magnesium intake levels. ”

Magnesium reduces the need for vitamin D by 146%

According to a scientific review14,15 published in 2018, as many as 50% of Americans who take vitamin D supplements may not benefit significantly because vitamin D is simply stored in its inactive form, and the reason for this is because they do not have sufficient levels of magnesium.

A study published in 2013 also highlighted this problem, concluding that higher magnesium intake helps reduce the risk of vitamin D deficiency by activating it more. As the authors noted:16

High intake of total, dietary or supplemental magnesium is independently associated with significantly reduced risks of vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency.

Magnesium intake interacts significantly with vitamin D intake in relation to the risk of vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency… Our preliminary findings suggest that magnesium intake alone or its interaction with vitamin D intake may contribute to vitamin D status. ”

GrassrootsHealth recently concluded17 you need 146% more vitamin D to reach a blood level of 40 ng / ml (100 nmol / L) if you are not taking extra magnesium, compared to taking vitamin D with at least 400 mg of magnesium a day.

However, the interaction between magnesium and vitamin D is not one-way. It goes both ways. Interestingly, while vitamin D improves magnesium absorption,18 taking large doses of vitamin D can also deplete magnesium.19 Again, the reason for this is because magnesium is needed to convert vitamin D to its active form.

Magnesium + vitamin K further reduces the need for vitamin D.

Magnesium is not the only nutrient that can have a significant impact on your vitamin D status. GrassrootsHealth data further reveals that you can reduce your oral vitamin D needs by an amazing 244% by simply adding magnesium and vitamin K2. As GrassrootsHealth reported:20

“… 244% more vitamin D supplementation was required for 50% of the population to achieve 40 ng / ml (100 nmol / L) for those who did not take extra magnesium or vitamin K2 compared to those who usually took both extra magnesium and vitamin K2. “

Vitamin D response

How to increase magnesium levels

The recommended daily dose of magnesium is about 310 mg to 420 mg per day, depending on your age and gender,21 But many experts believe that you may need 600 mg to 900 mg per day.22

Personally, I believe that many could benefit from 1 to 2 grams (1,000 to 2,000 mg) of elemental magnesium per day, as most of us have exposure to EMF that simply cannot be alleviated, and extra magnesium can help reduce damage from that exposure.

My personal recommendation is that unless you have kidney disease and on dialysis, constantly increase your magnesium dose until you get loose stools and then reduce it. You want the highest dose you can handle without still having a normal bowel movement.

When it comes to oral supplementation, my personal preference is magnesium threonate, as it seems to be most effective in penetrating cell membranes, including your mitochondria and blood-brain barrier. But I also like magnesium malate, magnesium citrate and ionic magnesium from molecular hydrogen because each tablet has 80 mg of elemental magnesium.

Eat more foods rich in magnesium

Last but not least, although you still need magnesium supplementation (due to denatured soil), it would certainly be wise to try to get as much magnesium from your diet as possible. Dark green leafy vegetables are at the forefront when it comes to magnesium content, and squeezing vegetable juice is a great way to increase your intake. Foods high in magnesium include:23



Green beets

Green beets

Herbs and spices such as coriander, chives, cumin seeds, parsley, mustard seeds, fennel, basil and cloves



Organic yogurt and natto fed raw grass

Hi Choy

Romaine salad


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