Magnesium L-Threonate: Breakthrough Brain Supplement

Edited and medically reviewed by Patrick Alban, DC | Written by Deane Alban

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Magnesium l-threonate is a synthesized form of magnesium that can boost cognitive abilities. Learn how it’s used to improve memory and reverse brain aging.

photo of scientist working with beakers and test tubes

Magnesium is so important for health that it’s been called the master mineral.

It’s particularly important for a healthy brain and nervous system.

It exhibits anti-stress, anti-anxiety, anti-depressive, and neuroprotective properties.

But there’s always been a quandary with the therapeutic use of magnesium supplements for cognitive and mental health issues — they do not readily cross into the brain.

Now there’s a new breakthrough form of magnesium, magnesium l-threonate, that solves this problem.

What Is Magnesium L-Threonate?

Most magnesium supplements are chelated and magnesium l-threonate is no exception.

Chelated simply means that the magnesium molecules are bonded to another molecule.

Chelation can improve a magnesium supplement’s stability, absorption, and bioavailability. (1)

Magnesium l-threonate is the latest magnesium chelate.

It was developed by a team of neuroscientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tsinghua University in Beijing who bound magnesium to l-threonate, a vitamin C metabolite. (2)

There is no reason to be concerned that magnesium l-threonate is not natural.

When it comes to magnesium supplements, natural is not necessarily better.

Magnesium sulphate naturally occurs in Epsom salts, but it’s a harsh laxative that’s barely absorbed.

This makes it one of the worst forms of magnesium that you can take, especially if improving brain function is your goal. (3)

You may already be familiar with popular magnesium supplements like magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate.

They, too, are synthesized in a laboratory.

How Does Magnesium L-Threonate Work?

Magnesium is largely missing from the modern diet.

Magnesium is the second most common deficiency in industrialized countries. (4)

Here in the US, only 32% of us get the RDA (recommended daily allowance) of magnesium. (5)

The brain’s need for magnesium is high — it is found in higher concentrations in the brain than in the blood.

Magnesium plays a critical role in a number of brain-related and neurological conditions including: (678910)

  • acute brain injury
  • addictions
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • anxiety
  • attention disorders
  • bipolar disorder
  • dementia
  • depression
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • schizophrenia
  • seizures

But frustratingly, very little of the magnesium found in typical supplements gets into the brain, limiting its therapeutic value.

illustration showing blood-brain barrier
The blood-brain barrier.

Magnesium l-threonate was specifically created to cross the brain’s protective filter, the blood-brain barrier. (11)

Another brain-enhancing property of magnesium l-threonate is that it increases brain plasticity. (12)

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change and grow, and is fundamental for memory and learning to take place.

Lastly, there’s evidence that magnesium l-threonate can increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that stimulates the formation of new brain cells.

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Benefits of Magnesium L-Threonate: What the Research Shows

There are dozens of known magnesium benefits.

Appropriate magnesium supplementation has been proven to lift mood, increase resilience to stress, improve focus and concentration, raise energy levels, and improve sleep quality. (13)

It’s also good for a wide variety of conditions not related to brain health such as asthma, muscle cramps, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and heart disease.

Magnesium l-threonate has been around only since 2010.

So unlike many other natural supplements, it has no history of traditional or medicinal use.

This makes research results more important than usual.

Of the dozen or so studies done on magnesium l-threonate, there’s been only one clinical trial (i.e., study on humans).

Since this study is by far the most relevant, let’s take a look at this one first.

Magnesium L-Threonate Clinical Trial Results

There’s only one clinical trial that’s been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Study participants were older adults (ages 50 through 70) who reported concerns with memory, concentration, anxiety, and sleep. (14)

They were evaluated for four aspects of cognitive ability — working memory, episodic memory, attention, and executive function — the last being a group of skills that helps you set goals, plan, and get things done.

They were given magnesium l-threonate for 12 weeks.

As researchers expected from the results of animal tests, magnesium l-threonate increased magnesium levels in human brain cells.

When retested, all participants performed significantly better in all four cognitive areas.

Magnesium l-threonate also significantly reduced their biological brain age.

On average, these seniors’ brains functioned as if they were 9.4 years younger than when the study began, according to standard tests.

For most participants, this effectively reversed their brain age back to their chronological age.

This is very encouraging news!

However, magnesium l-threonate did not help with sleep, mood, or anxiety any better than a placebo.

(This study used ClariMem, a trademarked form of magnesium l-threonate. It is also called MMFS-01. At this time, according to the product website, ClariMem is currently out of stock.)

Magnesium L-Threonate Animal Study Results

This compound is still new and more human tests will certainly be forthcoming.

Until then, here’s what animal research has discovered so far.

Magnesium l-threonate and anxiety disorders

Magnesium l-threonate may be helpful for anxiety disorders.

Magnesium is highly regarded as a natural relaxant.

It works by increasing the calming neurotransmitter GABA, while reducing the release of stress hormones. (15)

It also works at the blood-brain barrier to prevent stress chemicals from entering the brain. (16)

The results of animal research suggest that magnesium l-threonate could be particularly helpful for anxiety disorders, such as phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder, but human studies are needed. (17)

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Magnesium l-threonate and dementia and Alzheimer’s

Magnesium l-threonate shows potential for treating dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

There’s a well-established link between low magnesium and all kinds of dementia, including Alzheimer’s. (18)

Research studying human populations finds that diets high in magnesium correlate to a reduced risk of all kinds of dementia. (19)

Mice and rats are commonly used in Alzheimer’s research because they have good memories and develop brain diseases similar to those experienced by humans.

Magnesium l-threonate supplements can prevent memory loss and mental decline in aging rats. (20)

Researchers are hopeful that the substantial neuroprotective benefits seen in rodents indicate potential for treating Alzheimer’s in humans. (21)

Magnesium l-threonate, learning, and memory

Magnesium l-threonate aids learning and three kinds of memory.

Rats became smarter, better “students” when given magnesium l-threonate. (22)

They learned more readily and showed improvements in working, short-term, and long-term memory. (23)

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Choosing a Magnesium L-Threonate Supplement

Very few magnesium supplements contain magnesium l-threonate.

So you must check product labels carefully to make sure your supplement contains it.

Magnesium l-threonate is available in its generic form, but there is one brand name you can look for as well, Magtein.

Magtein

Magtein™ is a patented form of magnesium l-threonate (magnesium l-threonate hydrate) that’s been well-studied in animals.

Magtein is a raw ingredient included in magnesium formulations from a handful of supplement companies including Jarrow Formulas, NOW, and Source Naturals.

The company behind Magtein partnered with Stanford University in one clinical trial, The Use of Magnesium L-Threonate for the Enhancement of Learning and Memory in People With Mild to Moderate Dementia.

You can read about it on ClinicalTrials.gov, a database of clinical trials being conducted around the world.

However, the results have not yet been published.

(Considering this study was completed in 2016, this is rather puzzling.)

The fact that this brand name product has been studied does not necessarily mean it is more effective than generic magnesium l-threonate.

In my opinion, this simply reflects the monetary reality that there is little incentive for companies to conduct studies on supplement ingredients that can’t be patented.

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Magnesium L-Threonate Dosage

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for magnesium is 420 mg for men and 320 mg for women, but that can vary slightly depending on age. (24)

There is no RDA for magnesium l-threonate, but 1,500 to 2,000 mg per day is a good rule of thumb for now.

The manufacturer of Magtein suggests 1,000 mg taken twice a day for optimal cognitive benefits. (25)

In the ClariMem study, participants took 1.5 to 2 grams per day. (26)

This may sound like a lot, but keep in mind that only a fraction of magnesium l-threonate is elemental magnesium.

So 2,000 mg of magnesium l-threonate delivers only 144 mg of elemental magnesium.

See a typical magnesium l-threonate supplement label below.

The 34% on the right indicates that 2 grams of magnesium l-threonate delivers roughly one-third of your daily requirement of magnesium.

magnesium l-threonate supplement label
2,000 mg of magnesium l-threonate delivers 144 mg of elemental magnesium.

Why You Should Consider Taking More Than One Form of Magnesium

This low amount of elemental magnesium indicates that magnesium l-threonate is not a good choice for overcoming an overall magnesium deficiency.

For that, better choices are magnesium glycinate, gluconate, or citrate.

Read more —
Learn more about the best and worst types of magnesium to take for different situations in 8 Ways Magnesium Relieves Anxiety and Stress.

There’s no reason you can’t take more than one kind of magnesium.

In fact, many formulations cover all bases by including more than one form.

You’ll know if you’ve overdone it with magnesium — loose stools are the telling sign.

Magnesium L-Threonate Side Effects and Interactions

The only reported side effects of magnesium l-threonate are headaches, drowsiness, or a feeling of increased blood flow to the head.

One common side effect of magnesium supplements in general is digestive upset.

Most forms have a laxative effect.

This can be a benefit or a side effect depending on your situation!

Magnesium l-threonate generally does not have this effect since it was formulated to enter and be absorbed by the brain.

Discuss taking magnesium with your doctor if you take antibiotics, high blood pressure medications, blood thinners, osteoporosis medications, or muscle relaxants. (28)

Magnesium can affect these drugs’ effectiveness.

Magnesium should not be taken if you have kidney disease since kidneys normally clear magnesium out of the body.

Magnesium L-Threonate: Take the Next Step

Magnesium is a mineral required for good physical and mental health.

But the therapeutic use of magnesium supplementation for cognitive health problems has been stymied by this mineral’s inability to pass through the brain’s protective filter.

Magnesium l-threonate was synthesized specifically to overcome this problem.

It readily crosses into the brain where it increases brain plasticity and encourages the formation of new brain cells.

It shows promise for treating memory loss, brain aging, anxiety, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and more.

Since most people are low in magnesium and it’s a safe essential mineral, there is no reason not to try magnesium l-threonate to boost your cognitive abilities.

READ NEXT: 8 Ways Magnesium Relieves Anxiety and Stress