More than 55 million people around the globe live with dementia, and as of 2030, that figure is projected to reach 78 million, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International. Among the research efforts to find ways to prevent, mitigate, and live better with this condition, two new studies report on the benefits of the nutrients magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids. It appears that foods and supplements containing these substances may reduce the risk of dementia.
What is dementia?
Dementia is a general term for a group of conditions that involve impaired cognitive abilities, including the ability to think, remember, concentrate, and make decisions and judgments that interfere with performing everyday activities. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease (60-80% of cases), while others include vascular dementia (about 10% of cases), Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and mixed dementia. Even though dementia usually affects older adults, it is not a part of normal aging. Dementia may be caused by thyroid hormone imbalance, medication, elevated pressure in the brain, and vitamin deficiency. These cases are typically curable and reversible, while other types currently are not.
Magnesium and dementia: new research
One way to improve brain health and reduce the risk or delay the onset of dementia later in life is to boost your intake of magnesium. That’s the consensus of researchers who recently published their findings in the European Journal of Nutrition. Scientists from the Neuroimaging and Brain Lab at The Australian National University studied more than 6,000 cognitively healthy individuals aged 40 to 73. They discovered that people who consume more than 550 milligrams (mg) of magnesium daily have a brain age about one year younger by the time they are 55 years old when compared with someone who consumes about 350 mg daily. Note that the RDA for magnesium for adults age 19 and older is 310-320 mg for women and 400-420 mg for men.
The study’s lead author, Ph.D. researcher Khawlah Atateeq, explains that the study “shows a 41 percent increase in magnesium intake could lead to less age-related brain shrinkage, which is associated with better cognitive function and lower risk or delayed onset of dementia in later life.” She also notes that the findings show “higher dietary magnesium intake may contribute to neuroprotection earlier in the aging process and preventative effects may begin in our 40s or even earlier.”
The lack of a cure for dementia and the ineffective pharmacological treatments available suggests “that greater attention should be directed towards prevention,” says study co-author Dr. Erin Walsh. This appears to be especially important for women, as the researchers found that the neuroprotective impact of higher dietary magnesium seems to help women more than men and that the benefit is superior in postmenopausal compared with premenopausal women.
Foods rich in magnesium include leafy green vegetables, avocados, brown rice, legumes, nuts (almonds, cashews), seeds (especially pumpkin and chia), and whole grains. A high-quality magnesium supplement such as Morphus’ Magnesium can assist you in reaching your goal.
Omega-3 fatty acids and dementia: new research
Omega-3 fatty acids have long been associated with brain health, reducing dementia risk, and fighting inflammation. The two main omega-3s found in fish oil are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Foods rich in omega-3s include cold-water fatty fish (e.g., tuna, salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel), walnuts, chia seeds, and flax seed.
In new research, scientists examined the relationship between taking fish oil supplements and incident dementia in a large study. Incident dementia is a newly identified case of a condition per population at risk over a specific time period.
In the study, the population analyzed consisted of 211,094 individuals older than 60 who lived in the general population and had enrolled in the UK Biobank between 2006 and 2010. None of them had dementia when they enrolled. Overall, 83,283 (nearly 40%) said they regularly took fish oil. The median follow-up period was 11.7 years.
Over the study period, the authors found that regular use of fish oil supplements was significantly associated with a lower risk of incident dementia of various causes, including vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and other dementias. However, they did not see an association between taking fish oil and Alzheimer’s disease. The authors concluded that their findings support the regular use of fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids) in clinical practice to help prevent dementia.