Do you have problems with anxiety? So many of us do. It has been estimated that about 18% of Americans 18 and older, or roughly 40 million people, are affected by an anxiety disorder.
And the numbers only seem to be getting worse.
So, how do we cure ourselves? There are psychiatric drugs, but many have serious side effects. There is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, but not all of us have the time or money for therapy sessions.
There are many options, from going to a walk to reconnecting with family, but a relatively low-cost and effective option may be magnesium. A meta-analysis concluded that several natural supplements had positive effects on anxiety, and one of the most promising was magnesium.
Magnesium is a necessary precursor for over 300 biochemical reactions, yet it is estimated that at least 68% of Americans are magnesium deficient. Similar numbers of people are deficient in most developed countries across the world.
Magnesium has particular importance in the brain. It can occupy the NMDA receptor, a glutamate receptor, without activating it. Without magnesium, calcium and glutamate are free to over-stimulate these receptors. This over-stimulation can lead to cell death and is associated with anxiety.
By blocking this over-stimulation, magnesium helps reduce anxiety. Simple, right?!
A 2008 study showed that magnesium was effective in treating depression and as effective as a popular prescription anti-depressant drug.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study with 264 participants showed that magnesium, in conjunction with two herbal extracts, significantly decreased anxiety better than placebo. As far back as the 1920’s, magnesium has been used reportedly with great success to treat agitated depression and to increase sleep and relaxation.
Unfortunately, only 20% – 50% of magnesium is absorbed into the body. Additionally, calcium blocks magnesium absorption and the Western diet favors calcium over magnesium. A 2:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium is commonly recommended, while the ratio is roughly 3.5:1 in America.
Fortunately, a new type of magnesium, called magnesium threonate, has been developed by a team of M.I.T. scientists, including Nobel Laureate Dr. Susumu Tonegawa, and it appears to be uniquely well-absorbed.
Twenty-four days of oral supplementation with magnesium threonate raised cerebrospinal fluid levels of magnesium 15% in an animal study, while other forms of magnesium did not raise levels to the point of statistical significance 4. This 15% increase in brain magnesium levels might not sound like much but its effects were profound.
In animals, it increased short-term memory 18% and long-term memory 100%. By the end of the supplementation, the experimental group had approximately 50% more neurons in the dentate gyrus than the control group; the dentate gyrus is a part of the hippocampus thought to contribute heavily to the formation of new memories/learning.
Importantly, magnesium threonate was also found to decrease the generalized fear response in the animals. Interestingly, it increased the prefrontal cortex/hippocampus-dependent fear-memory, but not amygdala-dependent fear-memory, meaning it increased the intellectual side of the memory while diminishing the emotional fear response associated with it.
Magnesium deficiency is a problem that is plaguing our culture. We see its effects everywhere, particularly in our ever-increasing levels of collective anxiety. Fortunately, with the advent of this new type of magnesium, we have an option that seem to be more effective than ever.