An American study from The University of Vermont shows that the ordinary, cheap mineral magnesium may reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Previous research has shown a strong link between higher magnesium intake and reduced risk of depression, but this is the first randomized clinical trial that examined the effects of magnesium supplements on depressed adults in the United States.
Depression is an enormous burden on healthcare. More than 350 million people worldwide suffer from the disease, and treatment with antidepressant drugs is a burden on both cost and side effects.
According to Michael Berk, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Melbourne, Australia, only about one-third of those treated with so-called SSRI drugs against depression receive good relief. One-third does not respond at all, while one in three gets moderate relief. A Danish research survey from 2015 showed that antidepressants increase the risk of aggressive behavior and suicidal thoughts twice as much in younger patients.
A vital nutrient
Magnesium is a mineral that is needed for vital body functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar control, but also for bone health. The main sources in the diet are vegetables, whole grains, seeds, and nuts. But magnesium also plays a role in combating inflammation in the body (inflammation has been linked to depression and many other diseases), and several research groups have confirmed that there is a connection between this mineral and depression. However, so far, few studies have been conducted on the clinical effects of the substance in patients suffering from depression and anxiety disorders.
But now, research recently published in the medical magazine PLoS One shows that the addition of 248 mg of pure magnesium per day seems to be a safe and effective complement or alternative in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. The trial conducted was an open, randomized crossover study with 126 adult participants, all of whom suffered from mild to moderate depression. The average age was 52 years and 42 percent were women.
The participants were divided into two groups, one of which received 248 mg of pure magnesium per day for six weeks, while the other did not receive any treatment at all. After six weeks, the groups changed place so that previously untreated patients received six weeks of magnesium and vice versa. The researchers chose to provide supplements in the form of magnesium chloride because it has high bioavailability (as well as several other forms of magnesium). Investigations of participants’ depression symptoms were then conducted every fourteen days.
Fast and comprehensive effect
At the beginning of the study, participants had symptoms corresponding to between 5 and 19 points on the PHQ-9 self-assessment form used to diagnose depression. The positive effect already appeared after two weeks, and after six weeks the symptoms had decreased by an average of 6 points, regardless of sex, age, disease burden and drug intake.
A decrease of 5 points is considered clinically relevant and used as an effective measure when testing antidepressant drugs.
It has been known before that nutrients like omega 3, vitamin D and folic acid can improve the effectiveness of antidepressant drugs, and it was also true in this study. Those who also took antidepressants got lower scores on the self-assessment form. The magnesium supplement was well tolerated and had few side effects – diarrhea in eight participants and nausea in one. Many other beneficial effects in addition to alleviation of depression and anxiety were reported, including fewer problems with headaches and muscle cramps which are common signs of magnesium deficiency.
“The results of this study are very encouraging given the great need for more treatment options for depression,” says researcher Emily Tarleton who led the study. We have shown that magnesium supplements are a fast, safe and inexpensive method for controlling depressive symptoms.
University of Vermont. Tarleton Study Finds Magnesium is Effective and Safe Treatment for Depression. Pressmeddelande 20170617.
Tarleton EK, Littenberg B, MacLean CD, Kennedy AG, Daley C. Role of magnesium supplementation in the treatment of depression: A randomized clinical trial. PLoS One. 2017 Jun 27;12(6):e0180067.