Storytime! Once upon a time, 126 people diagnosed with mild to moderate depression were each given a bottle of pills. They were told to take one tablet per day as a depression treatment.
Two weeks later, half of those people reported feeling a little better. Four weeks after that, those same people reported feeling significantly better. The symptoms of their depression had lessened. Anxiety had decreased too. The other half of the group? No improvements at all.
So what’s going on here? Well, these folks were part of a study looking at the role magnesium plays in depression. Half of them took cheap magnesium and the other half, the control group, took a placebo. The magnesium users felt a whole lot better.
So is depression a magnesium deficiency? Well, it’s not as simple as “magnesium cures depression” – although some medical professionals have been making that claim since at least 1967 – but it’s pretty clear that a magnesium deficiency at least exacerbates the problem.
We’ve known for a while that magnesium deficiency is linked to depression, anxiety, and inflammation. But this is the first randomized clinical trial to really test out magnesium’s ability to reduce or control the symptoms of depression.
Perhaps not coincidentally, most people these days are at least a little deficient in magnesium, and it’s estimated that 15 million American adults suffer from depression. That’s almost 7% of the population. Is this simply the result of widespread magnesium deficiency? For now, we can at least say that the two are related.
Ironically, prescription antidepressants can be terribly depressing, with side effects like sexual problems, emotional numbness, and suicidal thoughts being reported by about half of all users.
If those with mild symptoms can get off the prescription meds, and if those with moderate symptoms could reduce the amount they use (or avoid the need for a second med), that would be a very good thing. For the rest of us, magnesium supplementation could at least be a hedge against developing a case of the sads.
What to Take
This study used magnesium chloride at 248 mg per day. But for best results, choose fully chelated magnesium (glyceniate chelate) for better absorption. Those who train hard might want to use a slightly higher serving size, about 400 mg.