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Depression affects 350 million people worldwide and is predicted to be the leading cause of disease burden by 2030. Current treatment options with anti-depressant medications are limited by efficacy, cost, side effects and acceptability to patients. There is an urgent need to develop newer strategies that are effective and with fewer or no side effects.

A clinical trial carried out by researchers from the University of Vermont in the U.S. and published in the journal, PLOS One, has found magnesium to be an effective treatment for depression.

Study details:

A total of 126 men and women diagnosed with, and currently experiencing, mild-to-moderate symptoms of depression, were recruited for the open-label, randomized, crossover trial. The study participants were divided into two groups.  Over the course of 12 weeks, both groups received 6 weeks of active treatment (4 x 500mg tablets of magnesium chloride providing a total of 248mg elemental magnesium per day) and 6 weeks of control (no treatment).

Depressive symptoms were assessed throughout the study via bi-weekly phone calls and the standard medical questionnaires Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD-7) & Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9).

The researchers found that consumption of 248mg magnesium improved depression scores by statistically and clinically significant levels. Symptoms of anxiety also improved, and other benefits such as decreased headaches, constipation, muscle aches and cramps and increased energy were also noted by many participants. Supplements were well tolerated and similar effects were observed regardless of baseline severity of symptoms, age, gender, baseline magnesium level or use of antidepressant treatments.

The study authors concluded,

“Magnesium supplementation provides a safe, fast and inexpensive approach to controlling depressive symptoms. Most patients who experience improvement do so within two weeks of starting supplements.”

“This trial showed magnesium supplements may be a fast, safe, and easily accessible alternative, or adjunct, to starting or increasing the dose of antidepressant medications.”

Tarleton EK, Littenberg B, MacLean CD et al. Role of magnesium supplementation in the treatment of depression: A randomized clinical trial.  PLOS One June 27 2017. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0180067 

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