Magnesium is an essential trace element found in many foods. Magnesium is used in many different processes in the body.
It is thought that magnesium deficiency may contribute to depression symptoms in some people. Treating this deficiency with magnesium supplements may lead to improvements in depression symptoms.
There is very little scientific evidence on magnesium for the treatment of depression. Some case studies have found that a small number of people with depression rapidly improve after taking high doses of magnesium supplements, but this type of evidence is of poor quality. One randomized trial found that magnesium supplements were similarly effective to a tricyclic antidepressant in treating depression in a sample of elderly people. However, all of the participants in this study had a magnesium deficiency as well as type two diabetes.
More studies of better quality are needed to understand the effects of magnesium on depression.
There have been some reported side effects from magnesium, such as abdominal pain and diarrhea. Dietary supplements, including magnesium, may have negative interactions with prescribed medications or other supplements. They should always be taken under the supervision of a health care professional.
Magnesium supplements can be purchased from a chemist and some supermarkets. If you think you might have a magnesium deficiency, it is important to discuss this with your doctor and have a blood test to check.
Given the lack of evidence on magnesium it cannot be recommended as a treatment for depression.
Last reviewed and updated: 1 December 2016