A recent study out of China may soon have you reaching for the spinach. ScienceDaily.com reports that boosting magnesium levels in young and old rats can improve their learning and memory. The same findings may hold true for humans, perhaps slowing the deterioration of memory in aging people.

Scientists have long known that diet can have a significant impact on the mind. This particular study looks at whether increased levels of the dietary supplement magnesium enhance brain power. After boosting magnesium levels in rats of all different ages, researchers discovered an increased number of functional synapses. Additionally, both short and long-term synaptic processes were enhanced.

Professor Guosong Liu, director of the Center for Learning and Memory at Tsinghua University in Beijing, led the study. As Dr. Liu told ScienceDaily, "We found that increased brain magnesium enhanced many different forms of learning and memory in both young and aged rats.” But don’t run out and buy magnesium supplements just yet. Apparently, it is difficult to boost magnesium levels in the brain from traditional supplements. The researchers developed a new magnesium compound, magnesium-L-threonate (MgT), that could reportedly increase magnesium in the brain through dietary supplementation.

In the meantime, you can increase your magnesium intake with food. Spinach and pumpkin seeds are rich in magnesium, as are halibut, okra and black beans. Scientists noted in the study that their control rats were fed a normal diet with a sufficient amount of magnesium. As ScienceDaily reports, the observed effects were due to elevation of magnesium to levels higher than provided by a normal diet.

Dr. Lui points out that half the population of industrialized countries has a magnesium deficit, a problem that increases with age. His study also supports the scientific speculation that inadequate levels of magnesium decrease brain function as we age. Increasing magnesium may bring much-needed relief to aging adults who suffer from memory loss.

For further reading:

New study: Magnesium is a brain super food
Memory and learning in rats improved with magnesium supplements, researchers in China find.