Magnesium L-Threonate: Breakthrough Brain Enhancer

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Last updated November 27, 2023.
Edited and medically reviewed by Patrick Alban, DC. Written by Deane Alban.

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.

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 surrounding the therapeutic use of magnesium supplements for cognitive and mental health issues.

Since magnesium supplements do not readily enter the brain, how beneficial can they be?

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 means that the magnesium molecules are bonded to another molecule.

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

Most magnesium supplements are chelated including magnesium citrate, taurate, malate, and glycinate.

Magnesium l-threonate is simply the latest magnesium chelate.

It was developed by a team of neuroscientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that bound magnesium to l-threonate, a vitamin C metabolite.

" Magnesium l-threonate readily crosses the brain’s protective filter, the blood-brain barrier, to get into the brain where it is needed.

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 sulfate naturally occurs in Epsom salts, but it’s a harsh laxative that is barely absorbed and has a lot of potential side effects. 

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

How Does Magnesium L-Threonate Work?

Magnesium is largely missing from the modern diet.

Additionally, many common medications contribute to the loss of magnesium

In the US, less than half of the population meets the RDA (recommended daily allowance) for magnesium. 

The brain’s need for magnesium is high.

It is normally 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: 

  • 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
Illustration of the blood-brain barrier.

Here are the three known ways in which magnesium l-threonate works: 

1. Magnesium l-threonate readily crosses the brain’s protective filter, the blood-brain barrier, to get into the brain where it is needed. 

2. Magnesium l-threonate has been shown to increase brain plasticity. Neuroplasticity (brain plasticity) is the brain’s ability to change and grow and is fundamental for memory and learning to take place.

3. 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

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 supplements, it does not have a long history of use.

This makes research results more important than usual.

Magnesium L-Threonate Clinical Trial Results

So far, there’s only been a handful of clinical trials on magnesium l-threonate.

Here’s a look at the results of two of the most relevant studies. 

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

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, according to standard tests, as if they were 9.4 years younger than when the study began.

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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 that is also called MMFS-01.)

In another small clinical trial, magnesium l-threonate was given to 15 people diagnosed with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

Study participants experienced significant improvements in cognition which lasted for months after magnesium supplementation was discontinued. 

As you’ll read below, animal studies support the use of magnesium l-threonate for treating dementia and Alzheimer’s as well. 

Magnesium L-Threonate Animal Study Results

This compound is still new and more human tests will likely 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. 

It also works at the blood-brain barrier to prevent stress chemicals from entering the brain

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.

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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 forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s. 

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

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. 

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

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. 

They learned more readily and showed improvements in working, short-term, and long-term memory

Choosing a Magnesium L-Threonate Supplement

Very few magnesium supplements contain magnesium l-threonate.

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

Magnesium l-threonate is available in its generic form, but there is one brand name you can look to ensure the highest quality — Magtein®.

Magtein

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

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

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

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

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 companies have little incentive to conduct studies on substances that can’t be patented.

Magnesium L-Threonate Dosage

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

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 that 1,000 mg be taken twice a day for optimal cognitive benefits. 

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

These amounts 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 (2 g) 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 the best choice for overcoming an overall magnesium deficiency.

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

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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 of magnesium 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. 

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.

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