Depression treated by ordinary over-the-counter magnesium? A recent small study (112 people) found that 6 weeks of taking magnesium chloride (four 500 mg tablets daily) improved mild to moderate depression - and it improved it similarly in both those who were not taking any antidepressant medications and those taking antidepressants. Positive effects were seen within 2 weeks. There was also a reduction in anxiety symptoms. And interestingly, after 2 weeks of stopping magnesium supplementation, some of the positive effects were diminished (meaning it was cleared from the body). Age, and gender also didn't seem to make a difference, or whether the depression was mild or moderate.
The dosage taken of four 500 mg tablets of magnesium chloride daily is equivalent to 248 mg of elemental magnesium. The researchers pointed out that it was tolerated well by everyone and that oral (taking it by mouth) magnesium supplementation is safe in adults with normal kidney function, who are not taking medications that interact with the supplement, and when the doses taken are below the "upper tolerable limit set by the Institute of Medicine of 350 mg elemental magnesium per day". Persons taking magnesium supplements also reported some positive physical effects - such as decreases in headaches and muscle cramps.
Now the study needs to be done in a larger group of people. Note that large doses of magnesium supplements can cause diarrhea (wasn't a problem in this study). A good safe way to boost magnesium intake is through foods. What foods are good sources of magnesium? The National Institutes of Health (NIH) page on magnesium state that green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, legumes, nuts (especially almonds, cashews, peanuts), seeds, and whole grains are good sources. From Medical Xpress:
Depression presents an enormous disease burden, with a reported 350 million people worldwide suffering from the disease, but traditional SSRI treatments carry a burden of their own - in dollars and side effects. New clinical research published today in PLoS One shows that over-the-counter magnesium appears safe and effective to treat mild to moderate depression. Critical to such body functions as heart rhythm, blood pressure and bone strength, the mineral magnesium plays a role in combating inflammation in the body and has been proven to have an association with depression. However, few clinical trials have studied the supplement's effects.
Emily Tarleton, MS, RD, CD, a graduate student in Clinical and Translational Science and the bionutrition research manager in the University of Vermont's Clinical Research Center, and colleagues conducted a clinical trial of over-the-counter oral magnesium tablets for mild-to-moderate depression. Their results showed that magnesium is safe and effective and comparable to prescription SSRI treatments in effectiveness.
The researchers at the University of Vermont's Larner College of Medicine conducted an open-label, blocked, randomized cross-over trial involving 126 adults in outpatient primary care clinics. The study participants, who were currently experiencing mild-to-moderate depression, had a mean age of 52, with 38 percent of them male. Participants in the active arm of the study received 248 milligrams of elemental magnesium per day over six weeks, while those in the control arm received no treatment. Depression symptom assessments were conducted on all participants on a bi-weekly basis.
The study team found that in 112 participants with analyzable data, consumption of magnesium chloride for six weeks resulted in a clinically significant improvement in measures of depression and anxiety symptoms. In addition, these positive effects were shown quickly, at two weeks, and the supplements were well tolerated and similarly effective regardless of age, sex, or use of antidepressants, among other factors....Tarleton and colleagues say the next step is to see if their promising results can be replicated in a larger, more diverse population. [The original study.]