Dr. Guosong Liu explains what magnesium does in the body and how it enhances overall brain health. Dr. Liu also explains why most people are likely deficient in magnesium. If you depend on your diet for your magnesium, you're likely getting much less than people did through diet 100 years ago.
Your Brain Needs More Magnesium
Interviewer: Doctor, you do a lot of research with magnesium. Can you talk
a little about just what that is and, in general terms, what it does for
Dr. Guosong Liu: So, if you think about the composition of our body, and in
terms of the mineral, I mean it's basically calcium, magnesium and sodium,
and potassium. Why we have these four component? Because, you know, if you
believe certain theory about, you know, we are going from ocean, and
eventually moving up, if we believe that, actually, the composition of
ocean, in terms of [inaudible 00:00:37].
Dr. Liu: So, under that case, actually, magnesium is important mineral we
have to take. Now, it's interesting and we have done some experiment. About
100 years ago, because we don't have this high, sophisticated technology to
process food. So, the rice and, you know, whatever food that we eat, is not
really highly processing. It's interesting, magnesium, actually is inside
of those, you know, not-clean stuff. Actually, the, you know, skin of the
food, you know, they contain a lot of magnesium. So, when we start to
remove that, so our daily magnesium intake, at this stage is about half of
what happened 100 years ago.
Dr. Liu: Okay. So, that's the first part. So, half of the... in fact,
there's a huge study, and 9000--they surveyed 9,000 people, 9,000
Americans. They found an average of people taking about half of the daily
recommended magnesium. So, that's number one.
Now, the people... magnesium is a strange item, I mean the... it's a
deficiency, how reduction of magnesium intake is going to affect our body
has not been studied extensively. So, it's by some, almost like, accident,
when I was at MIT, we actually found that magnesium is crucial for brain
function. Particularly, magnesium concentration in brain control the number
of synapse. The synapse is, basically, like transistor in computer. That is
how you do the computation. So, we found, actually, when you grow the
culture, if you increase the magnesium concentration, the synapse density
go up. So, that was done like ten years ago.
Then, we think, obviously, we start to recommend people to take more
magnesium, but later on, we found a problem. The ordinary organic
magnesium, you know, let's say, like a supplement, or even some of food
magnesium, cannot actually upload into the brain. So, they have a poor
bioavailablity to bring the magnesium into the brain. So that, what we have
done, so far, is try to develop a new magnesium compound, which can elevate
the brain magnesium. So, finally, we found this new compound, basically
combined vitamin C with magnesium. And, somehow, we figured a way to upload
it, increasing brain magnesium. So, that actually solved the problem we
tried to solve. That is, we found in an animal study, when you elevate the
brain magnesium, synapse number increase significantly. And, then,
obviously, later on, we showed the age-dependent memory decline is
significantly reduced, and we are using that to treat Alzheimer's disease
in model mice.
Interviewer: Mm-hmm. Do we know exactly what magnesium does to affect the
brain? How is it helpful? What is it doing?
Dr. Liu: You know, so, we have some simple idea. If you think about brain,
of course, the brain is like a muscle. Muscle is made by muscle fiber.
Brain is made by many neurons, of course. But, brain is different from any
other biological system. Brain, function of the brain is communicating
information. So, the location where information exchange occur is the
location of the what they call synapse. So, there are idea about during
when you're getting you might lost neuron. But, recent studies show, you
may not lost that much neuron.
Of course, also, brain have another problem: they don't regenerate. You
know, except a few, two brain regions, most of brain regions, neuron cannot
So, you know, what we found... in fact, a lot of people have shown--is that
when you're getting old, the number of neuron doesn't change much, but the
synapse... it's almost like you have a tree; the synapse is like a leaf.
So, actually, when you're getting old, when the tree getting old, the
leaves start to drop. So, in this case, actually, when you're looking at
the aging brain, what you first see first is reduced number of synapse, and
not just dying of neurons.
Dr. Liu: So, synapse lost first. So, what this magnesium does is, actually,
in a way, prevent the synapse loss. Or, maybe, we think it's by generating
new synapse. We can see clearly, sign of pro-synapse genesis effects of
elevation of brain magnesium.