The Foods That May Stop Your Brain From Shrinking

The number of people diagnosed with dementia is expected to almost triple over the next three decades.

The number of people diagnosed with dementia is expected to almost triple over the next three decades.

Magnesium-rich foods like nuts and spinach may help reduce the risk of dementia, research finds.

People with higher intakes of magnesium had lower levels of brain shrinkage and aging.

The study included over 6,000 people in the UK who completed a survey of their food intake over 16 months.

Those who ate more magnesium-rich foods — including seeds and wholegrains, leafy green vegetables and legumes — had a younger brain age, the researchers found.

Ms Khawlah Alateeq, the study’s first author, said:

“Our study shows a 41 percent increase in magnesium intake could lead to less age-related brain shrinkage, which is associated with better cognitive function and lower risk or delayed onset of dementia in later life.

This research highlights the potential benefits of a diet high in magnesium and the role it plays in promoting good brain health.”

Increasing magnesium intake from an average of 350 milligrams per day to 550 milligrams was linked to a reduction in brain age of one year at age 55.

Foods that are magnesium-rich include:

  • peanuts
  • cashews
  • chia seeds
  • black beans
  • potatoes
  • brown rice
  • yogurt
  • oatmeal
  • milk

Dr Erin Walsh, study co-author, said:

“Since there is no cure for dementia and the development of pharmacological treatments have been unsuccessful for the past 30 years, it’s been suggested that greater attention should be directed towards prevention.

Our research could inform the development of public health interventions aimed at promoting healthy brain aging through dietary strategies.”

The number of people diagnosed with dementia is expected to almost triple over the next three decades — partly due to an aging population, as well as unhealthy lifestyles.

Ms Alateeq said:

“The study shows higher dietary magnesium intake may contribute to neuroprotection earlier in the aging process and preventative effects may begin in our 40s or even earlier.

This means people of all ages should be paying closer attention to their magnesium intake.

We also found the neuroprotective effects of more dietary magnesium appears to benefit women more than men and more so in post-menopausal than pre-menopausal women, although this may be due to the anti-inflammatory effect of magnesium.”

Note that the study did not test the effects of magnesium supplements, rather it examined how much magnesium people were getting from the foods they were already eating.

Getting the right micronutrients from natural foods is usually better than supplementation.


The study was published in the European Journal of Nutrition (Alateeq et al., 2023).

Get FREE email updates to PsyBlog

Hello, and welcome to PsyBlog. Thanks for dropping by.

This site is all about scientific research into how the mind works.

It’s mostly written by psychologist and author, Dr Jeremy Dean.

I try to dig up fascinating studies that tell us something about what it means to be human.

Get FREE email updates to PsyBlog. Join the mailing list.

Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.