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Magnesium levels in blood indicate dementia

Over 55s with a high or low magnesium level in their blood are more likely to get dementia than elderly people with average levels. Anomalous levels increase the risk for dementia by 30%.

Oudere man, magnesium

Risk factor
This is the finding of a study conducted by Erasmus MC based on ERGO, the large-scale population study in Rotterdam. This is the first time that researchers have shown this relationship in a study on humans and have thus possibly discovered a new risk factor for dementia. The results have just been published in the scientific journal Neurology.

"It is important that these results are also confirmed by other studies, but we are very excited about this finding", says Brenda Kieboom, research physician at Erasmus MC's department of Epidemiology. "It could provide a new lead in the search for treatments for or prevention of dementia. It is striking that a difference was shown in the risk in healthy people with fairly normal levels. We believe that the risk can be even greater than 30% in people with a magnesium deficiency or excess in the blood.

Furthermore, magnesium levels can be easily regulated by magnesium-rich foods or supplements. Magnesium plays an important role in the functioning of the muscles and nerves and can be found in foods such as spinach, almonds, cashew nuts, soya beans and black beans, cereals, yogurt, and avocados." 

Reference group
The researchers studied more than 9,500 people with an average age of 65. The serum level of the mineral magnesium in the blood was measured in these people. As this study includes healthy volunteers almost all participants had serum magnesium levels within normal range.

Arfan Ikram, co-author and Professor of Neuro-epidemiology says: "It is important to note that despite our findings it is still not possible to say whether an anomalous magnesium level is a cause of dementia that can be controlled. Further research will be needed to determine this. An anomalous magnesium level is one of the many causes of dementia; causes that together and in varying combinations often lead to the disease. However, measururing  the magnesium level in the blood of elderly people would do no harm for the purposes of dementia."

For further information, read the press release.

Date published: 21 September 2017.

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