Blood magnesium levels linked with dementia risk

20 September 2017

Researchers in the Netherlands have found a link between levels of magnesium in the blood and the risk of developing dementia. Results from the study, published today in the journal Neurology, indicate that both high and low levels of magnesium may be linked to an increased risk of dementia.

The study involved members of the Rotterdam study cohort, a group of people from the city of Rotterdam who are involved in research to explore factors that influence health in old age. The researchers measured magnesium levels in blood samples from 9,569 study members with an average age of 65. Eight years later, each participant received a clinical assessment to see if they had developed any form of dementia. Of the 9,569 people who were included in the study, 823 people developed the condition in this time.

The researchers then divided participants into five groups based on their blood magnesium levels. They found that those with the highest and lowest levels of magnesium were, respectively, 30% and 32% more likely to develop dementia compared to the group with average magnesium levels.

Dr Rosa Sancho, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK said:

“Magnesium is an essential nutrient that plays a role in a number of important biological processes, but research has presented a mixed picture in terms of how it might be related to dementia risk.

“Association studies like this one can be very useful for identifying factors that are linked with dementia risk, but they are not able to tell us about cause and effect. We can’t tell from this research whether magnesium levels contribute to dementia risk or if other factors might be involved.

“As the researchers only measured blood magnesium levels at one point in time, we don’t know whether changes in magnesium levels through life could have any influence on these findings. The authors point out that magnesium levels in this study are within the normal range, and this research didn’t investigate any relationship with unusually high or low levels. Future studies will need to build on these findings and explore any potential role for magnesium in diseases like Alzheimer’s.

“Most people should be able to maintain a healthy level of magnesium through a balanced diet but anyone with concerns should speak to their GP.”