I’ve been thinking a lot about the BBB since the 2009 rat study “Enhancement of Learning and Memory by Elevating Brain Magnesium.” Everyone heard about this study because the news that a patented magnesium was able to get into the brain and cerebrospinal fluid – of rats – was promoted relentlessly. The study authors implied that only their magnesium was able to penetrate the impenetrable BBB. I immediately knew this was an incredible exaggeration because even magnesium oxide with a 4% absorption into the blood can have positive effects on the brain. I reread the L’threonate study to confirm that there was only a 7% increase in magnesium in the CSF compared to magnesium citrate. With that tiny, tiny difference, the study authors declared their product to be The Holy Grail that conquered the BBB.
Here is what I wrote in an Aug 2014 blog about the Magnesium L-Threonate study:
I’ve been asked about the newest magnesium on the block—Magnesium L’Threonate. The manufacturers are on record as saying theirs is the only magnesium that crosses the blood brain barrier. However, that is definitely NOT an accurate statement. The treatment of migraines, seizures, stroke, head injuries, and other nervous system problems with even the highly unabsorbed magnesium oxide (at 4%) shows that all magnesiums work at the neuron level, which means they all get into the brain to some extent. The animal study using Magnesium L’Threonate obscures the reality that probably any magnesium would produce some of these effects.
Personally, when I take Magnesium L’Threonate, I get the laxative effect, which means to me that it’s not fully absorbed at the cellular level like ReMag. From a quick Google search I see that that it is a patented product, thus this animal study is being used for promotion of a commercial product. Therefore every opportunity is used to say it’s better than the competition making people feel that if they don’t take this one, they are not getting any brain benefit. In August 2013, I heard from a supplier of this magnesium that after the dust had settled, there was a vendor price increase of up to 400%. Create the demand and then raise the price is the name of the game.
Chapter 3 “Magnesium Transport Across The Blood-Brain Barriers” excerpted from the book Magnesium in the Central Nervous System shows that any form of supplemental magnesium has access to the brain. The following edited abstract shows you why: (Bracketed words are my additions.)
The finding that magnesium levels are reduced in acute and chronic brain diseases has led to a recent surge in interest in the role of magnesium in the normal and injured nervous system, although the mechanisms of magnesium decline in pathological conditions and its availability in the neural tissue after administration are not fully understood. The brain has two main barrier systems: (1) the blood-brain barrier (BBB) formed by brain capillary endothelial cells which separate the blood from the extracellular fluid in the neuropil (a dense mass of unmyelinated axons, dendrites and glial cell processes); and (2) the blood-CSF barrier (BCSFB) formed by choroidal epithelial cells which separate the blood from the CSF…Recently, transient receptor potential melastatin members have been identified as cation channels for magnesium transport. Although it is not known if choroidal epithelial cells express these molecules, but they are expressed by brain endothelial cells and may play a role in magnesium transport. It is evident that magnesium enters the CNS through the BBB and is actively transported by choroidal epithelial cells into the CSF.
This abstract very clearly shows us just how vital magnesium is to the brain because it has its own transport mechanism in place.
The first chapter in Magnesium in the Central Nervous System is called “Free Magnesium Concentration in the Human Brain.” The following edited abstract places magnesium in a central role in the brain: (Bracketed words are my additions.)
The cellular free magnesium concentration can be assessed in the human brain by phosphorous magnetic resonance spectroscopy. This technique has been employed in the human brain, providing new hints of the action of magnesium at the cellular level. Magnesium measured in the human brain is about half of that in the human skeletal muscle. This result is likely related to the lower ATP concentration of brain tissue. (Magnesium is required in 6 of the 8 steps in ATP production. So, if the brain produces less ATP then it stores and needs less magnesium.)
The possibility to assess cellular magnesium allowed it to be studied in different neurological pathologies, and particularly in those where the defective mitochondrial energy production represents the primary causative factor in pathogenesis. Testing provided evidence that cellular magnesium is a function of the energy charge of brain cells and a defective mitochondrial respiration causes a derangement of cellular magnesium homeostasis. A reduced cellular magnesium has been also found in the occipital lobes of patients with different types of migraine and cluster headache. In addition, the assessment by phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy of brain magnesium can help in the differential diagnosis of Multiple System Atrophy and Parkinson’s disease, offering a new diagnostic tool.
You now know how important magnesium is for your brain and how it fights to keep your levels intact. So, be sure to use a well-absorbed magnesium like ReMag for superior results.
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Carolyn Dean MD ND
The Doctor of the Future®