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Magnesium Improves Symptoms of Depression

10/10/2017 2:18:53 PM
Magnesium is an essential cofactor for hundreds of biochemical pathways, including production of hormones and neurotransmitters involved in mood regulation. Magnesium deficiency has been associated with depression, but clinical trials on magnesium as an intervention for active depression are limited. The first clinical trial on magnesium for depression in the United States was conducted by researchers Tarleton et al and published in 2017.
 
The study was a 12-week, open-label, randomized, crossover trial. A total of 126 adults with active depression participated in the trial. Participants had baseline scores on the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) of 5-19, indicating mild-to-moderate depression (PHQ-9 scores range from 0-27, with 27 indicating the most severe symptoms of depression). Participants were randomly assigned to take magnesium chloride or no treatment for 6 weeks and then cross over to the other arm for the second 6 weeks. Magnesium chloride (Alta Health Products, Idaho City, ID) was dosed at 4 x 500mg tablets per day, providing a total of 248mg elemental magnesium per day. The primary outcome measure was the difference between the active and control groups in the change in depression symptoms from baseline to the end of each treatment period (the net difference).
 
PHQ-9 depression scores improved during magnesium treatment but not during the control period, for a net improvement of -6.0 points (95% CI, -7.9 to -4.2; p<.001). Improvement was observed within 2 weeks of beginning supplementation and persisted over the 6 weeks. The effect diminished within 2 weeks of stopping supplementation. The effect of magnesium was significant, regardless of age, gender, baseline severity of depression, or use of antidepressant medications. Secondary outcome measures found that magnesium also improved symptoms of anxiety (4 point improvement on GAD-7) and that 61% of participants would choose to take magnesium again in the future.   
 
The improvement observed with magnesium supplementation in this clinical trial is clinically relevant, as a change of 5 or more points on the PHQ-9 is considered clinically relevant in patients treated for depression. Despite the fact that this study did not account for baseline magnesium status, did not include a placebo, and was not blinded, the results suggest that magnesium may be a promising intervention for patient with depression. Magnesium is inexpensive, generally safe, and does not carry the stigma of anti-depressant medications. The authors of this study conclude that magnesium deserves further research for its role in the treatment of depression and mood disorders.
 
Reference: 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;12(6).