Life Extension Magazine®

Issue: June 2020

Magnesium L-Threonate Regenerates Brain Structures

A patented, bioavailable form of magnesium, developed by scientists at MIT, increases synaptic plasticity and reduces brain aging by 9 years.

Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Kathy Wilson, Ph.D., Psychology, NHD, on May 2020. Written By Harry Stein.

For nearly 30 years, scientists have been convinced that increasing magnesium levels in the brain can potentially prevent or reverse some age-related changes that contribute to cognitive decline and dementia.1

But it’s been difficult to put this knowledge into practice, because taking more magnesium orally does not significantly raise brain levels.

A unique form of magnesium developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is changing that.

Magnesium L-threonate has been shown to boost brain magnesium levels in animals when taken orally. This effect is due to its unique ability to cross the blood-brain barrier.2

Another rodent study showed that oral use of magnesium L-threonate raised brain fluid levels of magnesium by 54%.3

Brain benefits have also been shown in humans.

In a clinical study of adults with cognitive impairment, magnesium L-threonate reversed measures of brain aging by 9 years.4

Brain and magnessium

Magnesium’s Impact on the Brain

Magnesium is an essential mineral found in varying amounts in a range of plant- and animal-based foods.

Throughout the body, it works as a cofactor, or “helper molecule,” required for the normal function of hundreds of enzyme systems.

In fact, magnesium is essential for about 80% of the body’s metabolic functions.5

Magnesium plays an especially critical role in the brain, where it protects the functioning of synapses, the communication connection points between brain cells.

For people to learn and form memories, synapses must have a property known as plasticity, the ability to adapt and change in response to stimuli.

Declining synaptic plasticity is a major contributor to loss of cognitive function in older age. And magnesium can help stop this decline.

How it Works

As you can see in the graphic below, brain cells release a “messenger” from most synapses, known as neurotransmitters.

Neurotransmitters bind to a receptor for the neurotransmitter on the other brain cell, thereby stimulating it.

In areas of the brain where learning and forming memories take place, the most important receptor is NMDA.6

The NMDA receptor requires an additional step to become fully activated—one that involves magnesium.

Magnesium acts as a secondary activator of the NMDA receptor and is vital to the synapses’ plasticity.

Without magnesium, the NMDA receptor and the whole synapse fail to function normally.

In animal studies, researchers have demonstrated that increasing levels of magnesium in the brain increases synaptic plasticity and leads to greater synaptic density.

That means it helps existing synapses work better and also increases the overall number of synapses.2,3,7-10

These effects translate into improvements in cognitive function, including better learning and memory.

computer illustration of human brain

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Brain Protection with Magnesium L-Threonate

  • The mineral magnesium plays a critical role in the brain, protecting the function of synapses involved in complex cognitive processes such as learning and memory.
  • Inadequate magnesium intake is very common, yet most magnesium isn’t absorbed well by the body and can’t enter the brain in sufficient amounts.
  • Scientists at MIT developed a new form of magnesium called magnesium L-threonate, which is highly absorbable and has been shown to increase brain levels of magnesium to a much higher degree than other forms.
  • Studies in animals and humans show that magnesium L-threonate improves and maintains cognitive function, even in older individuals with prior signs of cognitive decline.
  • In one human study, it reversed cognitive measures of brain aging by 9 years.

Boosting Magnesium Brain Levels

Scientists at MIT developed a form of magnesium called magnesium L-threonate.

This form is more easily absorbed, or bioavailable, and results in higher levels of magnesium in the brain compared to other forms.2

In fact, oral intake of magnesium L-threonate raises brain fluid levels of magnesium in rodents by 54%. It also increases synaptic density and increases production of NMDA receptors in brain cells.3

Most importantly, several studies demonstrate that this boost to brain magnesium directly translates to improvement in mental function.

Making Rodents Smarter!

If you have a pet hamster, you might want to give it a little brain boost.

Scientists first tested magnesium L-threonate on aged rats. The results showed an enhanced ability to learn, with improvements seen in both short-term and long-term memory.2

Another study pitted magnesium L-threonate against other, common forms of magnesium, including magnesium chloride and magnesium sulphate.10Magnesium L-threonate led to greater improvements in memory than the other forms of magnesium.

Two mouse studies specifically evaluated magnesium L-threonate in models of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia in older adults.7,9 In both studies, it prevented the loss of synapses associated with Alzheimer’s and maintained or improved memory.

Magnesium L-threonate was even effective at improving cognition in very-late-stage Alzheimer’s disease.

Another study in mice showed that magnesium L-threonate stimulated growth of new brain cells in parts of the brain central to memory and learning.8 Normally, the growth of these brain cells slows or stops in older animals, but magnesium L-threonate prevented this decline.

A Groundbreaking Human Trial

A group of scientists designed a clinical study to test whether these benefits translate to people.

Adults 50-70 years old, with some level of cognitive impairment, received 1,500 mg-2,000 mg (depending on body weight) daily of magnesium L-threonate or a placebo for 12 weeks.4

At the end of the study, subjects who were treated with magnesium L-threonate had an improvement in overall cognitive ability.

On average, subjects started out with some degree of impairment of executive functioning, the ability to think abstractly, plan, and make decisions. By the end of the study, the executive functioning of those taking magnesium L-threonate was restored to nearly normal for their age.

At the start of the study, the participants averaged 57.8 years of age. However, their brain age based on cognitive functioning was 68.3 years old. By the end of the trial, those receiving magnesium L-threonate improved by 9 years of brain age, a truly remarkable result.

foods containing Magnesium

Getting Enough Magnesium

Most people don’t get nearly enough magnesium from their diet.

In the U.S., approximately 65% of all adults have below optimal intake of magnesium.11,12 That number gets even higher in older age, with more than 80% of people over 71 consuming inadequate amounts of magnesium.

Over time, this leads to magnesium deficiency, which contributes to many chronic conditions including cardiovascular disease and age-related loss of cognitive function.1,11,12

Fortunately, supplementation with magnesium L-threonate can resolve magnesium deficiency and contribute to improved health and longevity.

Summary

Magnesium is a critically important mineral required for the function of hundreds of enzymes in the human body, making it essential for nearly 80% of our metabolic reactions.

In the brain, magnesium is needed for the proper functioning of synapses involved in complex tasks such as learning and memory.

A large majority of the population suffers from inadequate magnesium intake. Because most magnesium supplements are poorly absorbed and do not enter the brain in sufficient quantities, fixing this problem has been difficult.

An improved type of magnesium is finally changing that.

Magnesium L-threonate is easily absorbed and taken up into the brain, providing cognitive benefits as shown by animal and human studies.

This form of magnesium offers tremendous promise to aging people seeking to maximize their neurological potential.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.

References

  1. Vink R. Magnesium in the CNS: recent advances and developments. Magnes Res. 2016 Mar 1;29(3):95-101.
  2. Slutsky I, Abumaria N, Wu LJ, et al. Enhancement of learning and memory by elevating brain magnesium. Neuron. 2010 Jan 28;65(2):165-77.
  3. Sun Q, Weinger JG, Mao F, et al. Regulation of structural and functional synapse density by L-threonate through modulation of intraneuronal magnesium concentration. Neuropharmacology. 2016 Sep;108:426-39.
  4. Liu G, Weinger JG, Lu ZL, et al. Efficacy and Safety of MMFS-01, a Synapse Density Enhancer, for Treating Cognitive Impairment in Older Adults: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. J Alzheimers Dis. 2016;49(4):971-90.
  5. Workinger JL, Doyle RP, Bortz J. Challenges in the Diagnosis of Magnesium Status. Nutrients. 2018;10(9):1202.
  6. Billard JM. Brain free magnesium homeostasis as a target for reducing cognitive aging. In: Vink R, Nechifor M, editors. Magnesium in the Central Nervous System. Adelaide (AU)2011.
  7. Huang Y, Huang X, Zhang L, et al. Magnesium boosts the memory restorative effect of environmental enrichment in Alzheimer’s disease mice. CNS Neurosci Ther. 2018 Jan;24(1):70-9.
  8. Jia S, Liu Y, Shi Y, et al. Elevation of Brain Magnesium Potentiates Neural Stem Cell Proliferation in the Hippocampus of Young and Aged Mice. J Cell Physiol. 2016 Sep;231(9):1903-12.
  9. Li W, Yu J, Liu Y, et al. Elevation of brain magnesium prevents synaptic loss and reverses cognitive deficits in Alzheimer’s disease mouse model. Mol Brain. 2014 Sep 13;7:65.
  10. Sadir S, Tabassum S, Emad S, et al. Neurobehavioral and biochemical effects of magnesium chloride (MgCl2), magnesium sulphate (MgSO4) and magnesium-L-threonate (MgT) supplementation in rats: A dose dependent comparative study. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2019 Jan;32(1(Supplementary)):277-83.
  11. Qu X, Jin F, Hao Y, et al. Magnesium and the risk of cardiovascular events: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e57720.
  12. Kostov K, Halacheva L. Role of Magnesium Deficiency in Promoting Atherosclerosis, Endothelial Dysfunction, and Arterial Stiffening as Risk Factors for Hypertension. Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Jun 11; 19(6).

Subscribe to Life Extension Magazine®

Subscribe Now

Advertise in Life Extension Magazine®

Learn More