The maintenance of good nutritional status is important for normal cognition. Studies have shown that certain micronutrients are directly or indirectly involved in many aspects of cognitive function. These micronutrients include certain vitamins and minerals. We continue to explore key minerals that play a role in cognitive function. In this edition we examine zinc and magnesium.
Zinc has been shown to be essential for cognitive function, and its deficiency could interfere with proper brain function. Zinc is present in the brain at high levels. Most of the brain zinc is tightly bound with protein, but the zinc ion is present in neurons, where it plays a role in neurotransmission mediated by glutamate and GABA. These all play roles in brain activity. The balance of brain excitability vs. inhibition plays a role in every aspect of human behavior, from abstract thinking to emotional responses. A 2011 study done by OSU, Micronutrient Information Center showed that deficiency of zinc during critical periods of cognitive development can lead to birth defects, deficits in attention, learning, memory, and neuropsychological behavior. New studies have indicated that zinc is critical to communication between neurons in the hippocampus, the brain’s learning and memory center.
Magnesium is necessary for the function of many metabolic enzymes involved in brain function. It is also a key regulator of calcium channels involved in neurotransmission, including the maintenance of learning and memory. Magnesium is key regulator of brain activity and plasticity, and enhances learning abilities, working memory, and both short and long term memory. According to a 2011 J Neursci study, magnesium helps to promote proper electrical and neurotransmitter functions in the brain. Magnesium influences the production of BDNF, a compound used by the brain to rejuvenate cellular function. Magnesium is required to dissipate the effects of traumatic stress that can occur from intense episodes of fear or anxiety. Magnesium is essential to maintain high brain energy.
Look for the next newsletter from Albion Human Nutrition: Supporting Brain Function with Minerals: Part 3.