Is Magnesium An Effective Tool For Managing Depression?

Chances are you, or someone you know, has suffered with depression at some point. Although these symptoms typically come and go based on life circumstances, an individual is diagnosed with depressive disorder when sadness becomes persistent or severe enough to interfere with one’s ability to function in day-to-day activities.  

Depression is associated with a variety of behavioral and physiological challenges, including but not limited to:

  • Impaired sleep quality
  • Appetite changes
  • Low energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Agitation
  • Low self-esteem
  • Lack of interest in normally pleasurable activities
  • Suicidal thoughts

Although the etiology behind depression is not clearly understood, doctors believe a combination of genetic predisposition, abnormal neurotransmitter activity and psycho-social factors are responsible.

Nutritional Support For Depression

In cases of persistent or severe depression, treatment typically involves medication and/or psychotherapy. Unfortunately, this disease is difficult to treat and requires an individualized approach. This knowledge has led researchers to look into the role of various micronutrients in depression management.

Magnesium is a great example of a micronutrient important for mental well-being. Why? Well, magnesium is involved in over 300 enzymatic processes in the body, and every organ requires magnesium to function properly. In addition, magnesium regulates neurotransmitters and activates the parasympathetic nervous (or the rest and digest) system. In fact, the calming effect of magnesium is so significant that it has been coined “the original chill pill”.

Despite its crucial role in the body, most Americans aren’t getting enough. In fact, magnesium is considered one of the most prevalent nutrient deficiencies in the United States, following closely behind vitamin D deficiency.

A large number of studies have been conducted in an effort to better understand the role of magnesium in mental health. Although research consistently reports an association between magnesium deficiency and depression, clinical trials have yielded conflicting findings. Therefore, researchers recently conducted a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to evaluate the efficacy of magnesium supplementation in improving depressive symptoms.

Magnesium And Depression

A total of 126 adults with mild to moderate depression from various outpatient primary care clinics were included in this trial. The participants were randomly assigned to take a total of four 500 mg tablets of magnesium chloride per day for either the first or second half of the 12-week trial.

The researchers evaluated the change in depression and anxiety symptoms from baseline to completion of each treatment period. Here is what they found:

  • After two weeks, participants began experiencing improved depression and anxiety symptoms.
  • By the end of the six week treatment, magnesium supplementation significantly improved depression and anxiety scores (p < 0.001).
  • A total of 61% of the participants stated they would continue using magnesium in the future.

The researchers summarized their findings:

“Magnesium is effective for mild-to-moderate depression in adults. It works quickly and is well tolerated without the need for close monitoring for toxicity.”

Magnesium And Depression: Summary

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for magnesium ranges between 320 – 420 mg per day for the average adult. However, some research suggests adults need anywhere between 500 – 700 mg of magnesium per day to receive the full scope of health benefits from this mineral.  

Although magnesium is considered safe and well tolerated in these doses, it’s always wise to check with your physician prior to introducing this supplement if you have health problems or are taking any medications. Have you found magnesium has helped benefit your health? If so, please reach out to share your experience!


Tarleton, E. et al. Role of magnesium supplementation in the treatment of depression: A  randomized clinical trial. PLOS ONE, 2018.

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