Alzheimers Research UK explain 'what is dementia?'
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There are currently more than 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia, with this number expected to keep rising. It is a syndrome – or a group of symptoms – related to the ongoing decline of brain function. Although there is no cure, there are some steps that can be taken to reduce your risk of developing dementia in the future.
One such step could include upping your intake of magnesium, according to a new study.
Magnesium is a vital mineral needed by the body for various functions including building strong bones, regulating blood sugar and blood pressure, and muscle and nerve function.
It can be found in plant foods like legumes, dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and fortified cereals. It is also in fish, poultry, and beef.
Now research by the Neuroimaging and Brain Lab at The Australian National University (ANU) has revealed that more magnesium in our daily diet leads to better brain health as we age.
The team says an increased intake of magnesium-rich foods could also help reduce the risk of dementia.
As part of the study, which was published in the European Journal of Nutrition, more than 6,000 “cognitively healthy” participants aged between 40 and 63 from the UK were analysed.
The paper found those who consume more than 550 milligrams of magnesium each day have a brain age that is approximately one year younger by the time they reach 55, compared with someone with a “normal” magnesium intake of about 350 milligrams a day.
Participants completed an online questionnaire five times over a period of 16 months.
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Responses provided were used to calculate the daily magnesium intake of participants and were based on 200 different foods with varying portion sizes.
Researchers focused on magnesium-rich foods such as leafy green vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and wholegrains to provide an average estimation of magnesium intake from diet.
Participants underwent an MRI scan to assess the volume of their brains.
In a university release lead author and ANU PhD researcher, Khawlah Alateeq, said: “Our study shows a 41 per cent 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.
“This research highlights the potential benefits of a diet high in magnesium and the role it plays in promoting good brain health.”
It’s believed the number of people worldwide who will be diagnosed with dementia is expected to more than double from 57.4 million in 2019 to 152.8 million in 2050.
Study co-author Doctor Erin Walsh explained why the findings were significant.
She said: “Since there is no cure for dementia and the development of pharmacological treatments have been unsuccessful for the past 30 years, it’s been suggested that greater attention should be directed towards prevention.
“Our research could inform the development of public health interventions aimed at promoting healthy brain ageing through dietary strategies.”
The researchers say a higher intake of magnesium in our diets from a younger age may safeguard against neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive decline by the time we reach our 40s.
“The study shows higher dietary magnesium intake may contribute to neuroprotection earlier in the ageing process and preventative effects may begin in our 40s or even earlier,” Ms Alateeq added. “This means people of all ages should be paying closer attention to their magnesium intake.
“We also found the neuroprotective effects of more dietary magnesium appears to benefit women more than men and more so in post-menopausal than pre-menopausal women, although this may be due to the anti-inflammatory effect of magnesium.”
In supplement form, the NHS advises taking no more than 400mg of magnesium daily.
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