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Study: Magnesium Shows Promise as Depression Treatment

July 06, 2017
Emily Tarleton
    Emily Tarleton, MS, RD, CD

A 6-week clinical trial with more than 100 participants suggests that over-the-counter oral magnesium tablets may be a safe and effective treatment for mild to moderate depression.

Researchers at the University of Vermont's Larner College of Medicine in Burlington conducted the open-label, blocked, randomized crossover trial, which involved 126 adults in outpatient primary care clinics who were experiencing mild to moderate depression.

Participants in the treatment group received 248 milligrams of elemental magnesium per day, while the control group received no treatment. All participants’ depression symptoms were assessed every 2 weeks.

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Of the 126 participants, 112 had usable data at the end of the study. The results showed magnesium consumption was associated with a clinically significant improvement in symptoms of depression and anxiety. The positive effects were shown as early as 2 weeks into the study.

The supplements were well tolerated and similarly effective regardless of other factors, including age, sex, and use of antidepressants.

"This is the first randomized clinical trial looking at the effect of magnesium supplementation on symptoms of depression in U.S. adults," said 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. "The results are very encouraging.”

The study team said the next step is to see if the results can be replicated in a larger, more diverse population.

—Terri Airov


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 June 27.

Tarleton study finds magnesium is effective and safe treatment for depression [press release]. Burlington, VT: Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont; June 27, 2017

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