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Take This Type Of Magnesium For A Healthy Brain

In a sea of supplements that claim to unlock mental clarity and enhance cognitive function, distinguishing the truly effective from the overly hyped can be a daunting task. Backed by robust scientific support that illuminates its advantages for cognitive and mental health—including memory enhancement and mood stabilization—magnesium l-threonate is one that stands out.

But what makes this particular form of magnesium the go-to for those looking to boost brain health? Here’s how magnesium l-threonate works in the body, who it can best serve, and how to add it to your self-care routine for a potential improvement in mental performance, sleep, and more.

The Science Behind Magnesium L-Threonate

Magnesium l-threonate is a compound formed by combining magnesium with l-threonic acid, a vitamin C metabolite (a substance created when the body breaks down vitamin C). This pairing is what gives magnesium l-threonate its superpower, which is its ability to penetrate the brain’s defenses. 

“L-threonate is the newest form of magnesium discovered (it was identified in 2010), and it’s been shown in some recent studies to promote cognition, learning, and memory,” says registered dietitian Megan Hilbert, R.D., of Top Nutrition Coaching. “It’s rapidly absorbed into the brain, unlike other forms of magnesium that may not be absorbed as effectively.”

Research into magnesium l-threonate—including both human and animal studies—has highlighted its potential to do what other forms of magnesium cannot: effectively cross the blood-brain barrier, the filtering mechanism that carries blood to the brain and spinal cord tissue, while blocking the passage of certain substances. 

Mag l-threonate works its magic by enhancing the brain’s plasticity, essentially making the brain more adaptable and capable of forming new neural connections while also protecting against damage, such as from oxidative stress. Early research suggests it can increase the density of synapses (the communication points between neurons), potentially leading to improved memory, learning, and overall cognitive function. 

Potential Benefits Of Magnesium L-Threonate

Cognitive Enhancement

According to board-certified naturopathic doctor Dr. Jolene Brighten, N.D., “Magnesium l-threonate shows promise for helping to improve memory and working against age-related cognitive decline.” 

Studies suggest that regularly supplementing with magnesium l-threonate may help work against brain aging, making your gray matter more vibrant and responsive. (Researchers believe that its ability to increase synapse density is the key driver here.)

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Hilbert notes that, in studies, magnesium l-threonate’s beneficial effects seem to be most prominent in older adults. “It’s hypothesized to help older adults most substantially because it can help reverse specific aspects of brain aging by increasing the number of functional presynaptic release sites.” For example, in one “Clinical Memory Test” conducted in Chinese hospitals and academic institutes, participants who supplemented with magnesium l-threonate for 30 days showed significant improvements over the control group in all five subcategories of overall memory scores.

While research is ongoing, certain studies show that this form of mag may also support those with trouble focusing due to its specific neurobiological and neurofunctional effects.

Improved Sleep Quality

In general, magnesium is known to support sleep quality and sleep duration and help you wake feeling more rested. “Magnesium l-threonate can help improve sleep quality and reduce feelings of anxiety due to its actions within the brain and nervous system,” says Hilbert. 

These perks carry over to brain benefits, too, of course. Not only does getting enough restful sleep lead to greater energy levels and focus, but “both improved sleep and reduced anxiety are correlated with lower rates of cognitive decline in older populations,” Hilbert points out.

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Yet another potential benefit of supplementing with this form of magnesium: reduced physical discomfort, which often goes hand in hand with getting better sleep. “Some studies have shown that mag l-threonate may help reduce symptoms of nerve discomfort,” says Hilbert.  

Getting Started with Magnesium L-Threonate

Anyone looking to sharpen their mental focus or memory can benefit from the cognitive enhancements of magnesium l-threonate. It can also provide support for those struggling with feelings of anxiety or sleep issues.

As with all supplements, you’ll reap the most benefits from magnesium l-threonate by choosing a high-quality product and taking it consistently as directed, says Dr. Chelsea Azarcon, N.M.D., a naturopathic medicine doctor. (Of course, it’s wise to consult with a healthcare provider first if you have any existing health conditions or take other medications.)

What to Look for in a Product

Since there are many different types of supplemental magnesium (like citrate, oxide, and glycinate, just to name a few), be sure to look for supplements that specify “magnesium l-threonate” on the label if you specifically want to take this form, says Brighten. 

“It’s also best to look for supplements that are third-party tested,” adds Hilbert. Third-party testing helps ensure that supplements contain the correct amount of active ingredients and are free of potentially harmful contaminants.

Dosage Recommendations

“There currently is no specific recommendation for a daily allowance of magnesium l-threonate,” says Hilbert. “However, the current recommended daily allowance (or RDA) of magnesium can help guide us in terms of how much to supplement with.” For men, about 420 milligrams of magnesium per day (from a combination of foods and supplements) is a typical recommendation, while for women, about 320 milligrams is the daily goal.

That said, in studies, the dosages of magnesium l-threonate used have varied. Many studies have used dosages ranging from 1,500 to 2,000 milligrams (or 1.5 to two grams) of magnesium l-threonate per day.

Given the wide variety here, consider talking to a healthcare provider, such as a registered dietitian or naturopath, about how much of this type of magnesium you might add to your routine. “Magnesium doses that are much higher than the RDA can cause negative side effects like loose stool and diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal cramping,” says Hilbert. 

Timing for Optimal Effects

For the greatest impact on brain health and sleep quality, consider taking your magnesium l-threonate supplement in the evening. “I usually recommend taking magnesium supplements at night to help improve my patients’ sleep quality,” says Hilbert. This timing helps leverage its calming effects on the brain, potentially making it easier to drift off to sleep and experience a restful night without interruptions. 

Key Takeaways for Magnesium L-Threonate Supplementation

Magnesium l-threonate stands out in a crowded field of supplements as a targeted approach to improving brain health and sleep quality, which is crucial for cognitive function, says Azarcon. Whether you’re a student aiming for academic excellence, a professional seeking a mental edge, looking to preserve your cognitive function as you age, or simply eager to meet your magnesium needs, research suggests that magnesium l-threonate is a promising option.

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