People who eat more foods rich in the mineral magnesium appear to reduce their odds of having a stroke, a new study shows.

The link between magnesium in the diet and stroke risk was strongest for ischemic stroke, which is when a clot blocks a blood vessel in the brain.

Researchers found that the risk for ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke in older people, was reduced by 9% for each additional 100 milligrams of magnesium a person consumed each day.

Regularly eating magnesium-rich foods also helped modestly reduce the chances of having any type of stroke. The study found that for every 100 additional milligrams of magnesium per day, people cut their risk of stroke by 8%
Research showed that people who had higher amounts of magnesium in their diets had a lower risk for stroke. This was true even when the scientists took into account multiple other factors that may have confounded the results, such as blood pressure, diabetes, age, smoking, high cholesterol, physical activity, vitamin supplementation, other dietary factors, alcohol consumption, and family history of heart disease.

It's still unclear exactly how magnesium reduces stroke risk. The researchers suggest that the mineral's benefits may be related to its ability to lower blood pressure. Diets high in magnesium have also been linked with lower rates of type 2 diabetes, a risk factor for stroke.

The best natural sources for the mineral are whole grain products, green leafy vegetables, nuts, and beans. Foods that supply close to 100 milligrams of magnesium a day include one ounce of almonds or cashews, one cup of beans or brown rice, three-quarters of a cup of cooked spinach, or one cup of cooked oat bran cereal.
Studies have confirmed that better magnesium levels help protect brain tissue from the damage that can be caused by any head trauma. Magnesium acts as a natural calcium channel blocker, which makes it a principle nutrient for helping to control blood pressure. In the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) study, researchers found that people who took in enough magnesium while on a calorie-controlled diet were able to lower their blood pressure. And this same calcium channel blocking effect plays a role in protecting the brain. The brain operates on a balance between “excitatory” and “inhibitory” activity. A neurotransmitter called glutamate is the primary trigger for the excitatory activity. When brain cells are activated by glutamate, calcium ions rush in. This is fine as long as the excitation is kept under reasonable control. But too much calcium entering the cells can be deadly to brain tissue. That’s where the calcium channel blocking effect of magnesium comes in.
A new animal study shows that intake of magnesium1 above what is traditionally considered the normal dietary amount has a dramatic effect on improving multiple aspects of memory and learning, findings that held true for both young and old.

Magnesium directly improved synaptic plasticity, as the key to the future health of your brain. Various regions in the brain associated with learning and memory experienced significant improvements in synaptic function as a result of magnesium dietary supplementation.
This data suggests that the daily requirement of 400 mg of magnesium, while adequate for some important functions of magnesium, is not adequate for optimal brain function. Over the years I have seen significant health improvement in individuals consuming magnesium in the 600 mg – 1000 mg range. Because magnesium tends to have a laxative effect the amount any one person can consume as a dietary supplement is sometimes limited by bowel function. However, for those interested in strategies to help maintain optimal brain function higher levels of magnesium intake are likely to be helpful.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. George Grant, Ph.D., I.M.D. Specialist in Integrative Medicine