Magnesium For Cognitive Health


Over the last few years, it has become more obvious how eating has an important role in our health and, specifically, in our cognitive health and well-being. Some nutritional factors, such as magnesium, have shown how vital they are for strong cognitive health.1

But what exactly is cognitive health, you may ask? Well, cognitive health is a term that a lot of times is described as “staying sharp”, but it actually refers to the ability to think, learn, and remember effectively.2 It is a broad term that includes a variety of mental abilities and processes, such as attention, perception, judgment, memory, and language.3 Good cognitive health is necessary for people to be able to perform at their best mentally, while poor cognitive health can lead to problems with simple daily tasks and a decrease in overall quality of life.

Magnesium is an important mineral that serves a number of functions and physiological processes in our bodies.1 It is essential in enzymatic reactions, metabolic cycles, ion channel functions, cellular signalling, synthesis of nucleic acids, among others.4 Regarding cognitive health, magnesium is obviously also involved in several different processes. In fact, magnesium plays a key role in various neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.4

If you found this information interesting, and you want to find out more about why and how magnesium is important for cognitive health and what is the best source of magnesium for cognitive health, keep on reading this article.

How does magnesium affect cognitive health?

As mentioned before, magnesium is essential for the healthy functioning of many different systems. Regarding the cognitive health system, magnesium plays an important role and is involved in:

  • Oxidative stress: magnesium acts as an antagonist for oxidative stress.1 Some studies have found that hypomagnesemia can enhance oxidative damage, by inducing a stress response.5 Oxidative stress is thought to contribute to cognitive decline and the development of age-related neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's1
  • Regulation of neurotransmitters: magnesium affects several neurotransmitter systems, which are chemicals that transmit signals in our brain6
  • Creation and preservation of neural connections: magnesium is critical for the development of new connections between brain cells called synapses, which are crucial for memory and learning7 Magnesium has been associated with better academic performance. A study analysed the correlation between the levels of several minerals and the academic performance of a group of students, and there was evidence that some of the minerals correlated with better academic performance1
  • Regulation of blood pressure and glucose metabolism: magnesium appears to play an important role in regulating blood pressure and blood sugar, which are two vital processes for maintaining optimal brain function8,9,10

Research has indicated that a deficiency in magnesium can lead to cognitive impairment. On the other hand, there is evidence showing that a higher intake of magnesium may be an important factor for the prevention and treatment of several neurological disorders, such as dementia and several age-related disorders.11,12  

How much magnesium should I take for cognitive health?

To ensure that the magnesium intake you are consuming is producing benefits for, not only your cognitive health, but also for your health in general, it is important to respect the recommended daily amount (RDA) for magnesium.

The RDA of magnesium varies based on age and gender.13 It is generally recommended that people get their nutrients from a balanced diet.14 This is summarised in the following table.  For those assigned female at birth (AFAB) and those assigned male at birth (AMAB). 

Age RangeFor those AFABFor those AMAB
14-18410 mg360 mg
19-30400 mg310 mg
31-50420 mg320 mg
51+420 mg320 mg

It is important to consume the appropriate amount of magnesium daily to support optimal health and proper body function.13 These numbers can vary if you are pregnant or lactating.13

Which magnesium source is best for cognitive health?

A number of scientific studies have found that magnesium may have a vital role in good and strong cognitive health. The best way to achieve your magnesium RDA is through naturally rich-magnesium foods.15 Some of these foods include:

  • Cooked green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli
  • Nuts, such as almonds, peanuts, cashews
  • Banana
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Salmon
  • Brown rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Beef
  • Poultry
  • Dark chocolate (at least 70%)
  • Raisins
  • Milk and yogurt

The second option is magnesium supplements. It's important to note that research on the relationship between magnesium and cognitive health is still ongoing, and more studies are needed to fully understand the potential benefits and risks of magnesium supplements for cognitive health. Also, most individuals get enough magnesium from their diet, and supplements are usually not necessary unless you have a deficiency. If still you want to increase your magnesium intake, before taking any supplements, you should always consult a healthcare provider to determine the appropriate dosage for you.

There are different types of magnesium supplements available. These supplements can come in different formats, such as powders, tablets, liquids, and capsules.16

Some of the supplements available are:

  • Magnesium citrate
  • Magnesium lactate
  • Magnesium chloride
  • Magnesium taurate
  • Magnesium oxide
  • Magnesium aspartate
  • Magnesium sulfate
  • Magnesium malate16

Before starting the magnesium supplement, it is also important to consult your doctor if you suffer from any of these conditions: kidney or heart disease, intestinal disease, neuromuscular disease or allergy to magnesium salts.17

The best type of magnesium supplement for cognitive health is not clear and may vary depending on the individual's specific needs and health problems. However, some forms, especially, magnesium L-threonate, have been found to be effective in promoting cognitive function and brain health.7,18

Side effects and other concerns

Like It was mentioned before, magnesium is essential for the normal functioning of several bodily functions, nonetheless, excessive intake of magnesium supplements can possibly lead to some side effects. Although it is uncommon, because the kidneys remove the excess magnesium in the urine, large-dosage supplements or prolonged use can lead to magnesium toxicity.15

Some of the symptoms of hypermagnesemia include:

  • Depression
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Low blood pressure
  • Muscle weakness
  • Heart attack15

It’s important to also keep in mind that, in some cases, magnesium supplements can interact with certain medications such as antibiotics or blood pressure drugs.19 People who suffer with acute or chronic kidney conditions should be cautious when taking magnesium supplements, as their kidneys may not be able to remove excess magnesium from the body and increase the risk of suffering from hypermagnesemia.20


Cognitive health is a term that refers to the ability to think, learn, and remember effectively. It includes a variety of mental abilities and processes, such as attention, perception, judgment, memory, and language.  Magnesium is an important mineral that serves a number of functions and physiological processes in our bodies.  Magnesium plays a key role in various neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Magnesium is involved in the regulation of neurotransmitters, in oxidative stress (which contributes to the development of age-related neurodegenerative disorders), in the creation and preservation of new brain cells connections (crucial for learning and memory) and in the regulation of blood pressure and glucose metabolism (vital for maintaining optimal brain function). 

To ensure that the magnesium intake you are consuming is producing benefits for, not only your cognitive health but also for your health in general, is important to respect the RDA for magnesium, which varies based on age and gender. It is generally recommended that people get their nutrients from a balanced diet, some foods that are high in magnesium include leafy green vegetables, nuts, chocolate and banana.


  1. Billard JM. Brain free magnesium homeostasis as a target for reducing cognitive aging [Internet]. University of Adelaide Press; 2011 [cited 13-01-2023].
  2. Cognitive health and older adults [Internet]. National Institute on Aging. [cited 13-01-2023].
  3. CDC. What is a Healthy Brain? New Research Explores Perceptions of Cognitive Health Among Diverse Older Adults [Internet].
  4. Yamanaka R, Shindo Y, Oka K. Magnesium is a key player in neuronal maturation and neuropathology. Int J Mol Sci [Internet]. 12 July 2019 [cited 13-01-2023];20(14):3439.
  5. Zheltova AA, Kharitonova MV, Iezhitsa IN, Spasov AA. Magnesium deficiency and oxidative stress: an update. Biomedicine (Taipei) [Internet]. 17 November 2016 [cited 13-01-2023];6(4):20.
  6. Cuciureanu MD, Vink R. Magnesium and stress. Em: Vink R, Nechifor M, editores. Magnesium in the Central Nervous System [Internet]. Adelaide (AU): University of Adelaide Press; 2011 [cited 13-01-2023].
  7. Slutsky I, Abumaria N, Wu LJ, Huang C, Zhang L, Li B, et al. Enhancement of learning and memory by elevating brain magnesium. Neuron [Internet]. 28 January 2010 [cited 13-01-2023];65(2):165–77.
  8. Veronese N, Dominguez LJ, Pizzol D, Demurtas J, Smith L, Barbagallo M. Oral magnesium supplementation for treating glucose metabolism parameters in people with or at risk of diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of double-blind randomized controlled trials. Nutrients [Internet]. 15 November 2021 [cited 13-01-2023];13(11):4074.
  9. Key minerals to help control blood pressure [Internet]. Harvard Health. 2014 [cited 13-01-2023].
  10. Sugar and the brain [Internet]. [cited 13-01-2023].
  11. Kirkland AE, Sarlo GL, Holton KF. The role of magnesium in neurological disorders. Nutrients [Internet]. 6 June 2018 [cited 13-01-2023];10(6):730.
  12. Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation. Magnesium [Internet]. 2016.
  13. Office of dietary supplements - magnesium [Internet]. [cited 13-01-2023].
  14. Britton J, Pavord I, Richards K, Wisniewski A, Knox A, Lewis S, et al. Dietary magnesium, lung function, wheezing, and airway hyper-reactivity in a random adult population sample. The Lancet [Internet]. 6 August 1994 [cited 13-01-2023];344(8919):357–62.
  15. Boston 677 Huntington Avenue, Ma 02115 +1495‑1000. Magnesium [Internet]. The Nutrition Source. 2019 [cited 13-01-2023].
  16. Magnesium dosage for children [Internet]. LIVESTRONG.COM. [cited 13-01-2023].
  17. Aboutkidshealth [Internet]. [cited 16-12-2022].
  18. Zhang C, Hu Q, Li S, Dai F, Qian W, Hewlings S, et al. A magtein®, magnesium l-threonate, -based formula improves brain cognitive functions in healthy chinese adults. Nutrients [Internet]. January 2022 [cited 13-01-2023;14(24):5235.
  19. Pros and cons of taking a magnesium supplement [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. [sited 13-01-2023].
  20. Cascella M, Vaqar S. Hypermagnesemia. Em: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 [cited 13-01-2023].
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Joana Carneiro

Masters of Public Health - Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública, Lisboa

Joana is a recent graduate, who has a Degree in Biomedical Sciences and a Master's Degree in Public Health. She has more than two years of experience working as a healthcare professional in both private and public settings and more than 4 years of experience working as a volunteer in a non-profit organization, helping disadvantaged communities. Joana is passionate about public health, specifically about everything related to health education, health communication and health equity.

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