Depression Treatment Will Taking Magnesium Help Your Depression? By Kendra Cherry Kendra Cherry Facebook Twitter Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology. Learn about our editorial process Updated on February 19, 2021 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Daniel B. Block, MD Medically reviewed by Daniel B. Block, MD LinkedIn Twitter Daniel B. Block, MD, is an award-winning, board-certified psychiatrist who operates a private practice in Pennsylvania. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Verywell / Alex Dos Diaz Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Magnesium and the Brain Magnesium and Depression Reasons You Might Be Magnesium Deficient How to Increase Your Magnesium Levels Magnesium is an essential mineral that is critical for health. It plays a role in a wide variety of body functions including the formation of DNA, bone formation, and the regulation of nerve and muscle function. Low levels have also been linked to the development of depression. Magnesium and the Brain In the brain, magnesium helps to regulate the actions of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) glutamate receptors. These receptors are believed to play an important role in memory formation and learning. Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter that is important for normal function in the brain. In excess, however, it can cause cells to become overstimulated. This overexcitation of cells ultimately leads to cell death and is linked to conditions such as seizures, stroke, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In addition to contributing to these neurological conditions, excessive glutamate activity is also linked to depression and anxiety. Magnesium blocks the actions of glutamate in the NMDA receptors. If your body is magnesium deficient, it means that few of the NMDA receptors are blocked. This may lead to overexcitation and cell damage. Because of this, it is possible that magnesium may be useful in the treatment and prevention of depression. Since magnesium plays such an important role in health, a deficiency in this important nutrient could potentially predispose people to a number of different health problems, including depression. Magnesium and Depression Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses and a leading cause of disability worldwide. It contributes to a decreased quality of life and a greater risk of death. It also commonly co-occurs along with other neurological and chronic pain conditions. Because these are also linked to changes in glutamate activity, it is possible that low magnesium levels may be linked to both the psychiatric and neurological symptoms. Treatments for depression often center on psychotherapy and medications, which have been well-validated with a proven record of effectiveness. However, dietary interventions for depression have also been the subject of interest in recent years. The hope of such research is to find ways that diet and nutritional supplements might be used to prevent or alleviate symptoms of depression. Vitamins and nutrients such as B-vitamins, S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids have all been implicated for possible therapeutic or preventive potential. Research on Magnesium for Depression While promising, the exact effects of dietary magnesium on depression are not yet well understood. There is research that supports the potential use of magnesium supplementation for depression: A 2015 study found a significant link between low magnesium intake and depression in adults.A 2017 randomized clinical trial published in the journal PLoS One found that supplementation with magnesium chloride resulted in significant improvements in depressive symptoms. The study also found that the participants who were taking an antidepressant experienced stronger benefits when taking magnesium, which suggests that it might be useful when used in conjunction with antidepressant medications.A 2019 study found that low serum magnesium levels were associated with depressive symptoms. Such findings suggest that measuring magnesium levels may be useful as a way to identify people who might respond best to magnesium supplementation. One benefit of magnesium as a treatment option is that it is relatively affordable, fast-acting, and well-tolerated by most people. Reasons You Might Be Magnesium Deficient While magnesium is critical for health, magnesium deficiency is surprisingly common. Dietary magnesium often comes from plant sources. However, magnesium levels can vary depending on how much of the substance the plants absorb from their environment. Environmental factors can, therefore, play a role in how magnesium-rich certain foods are. Other dietary factors can affect magnesium absorption. The use of antacids or diuretics and the consumption of alcohol and caffeine can affect how much magnesium people absorb from the foods they eat. Excessive stress can also play a role in depleting magnesium from the body. During times of stress, magnesium is released into blood cells and eventually excreted by the kidneys. While this can initially play a role in protecting the body from some of the negative effects of stress, longer-lasting periods of chronic stress can lead to magnesium depletion and deficiency if this loss is not replaced by dietary consumption. Different forms of magnesium may affect magnesium levels. The type of magnesium supplement used can also affect how readily it is absorbed by the body. Some supplements options tend to be more bioavailable, while others may be more difficult for the body to absorb. How to Increase Your Magnesium Levels The average daily recommended amounts of magnesium vary depending on factors such as sex, age, pregnancy, and breastfeeding. The daily recommended amount for adult men is between 400 and 420 mg and the daily recommended amount for adult women is between 310 and 320 mg per day. While magnesium is an essential nutrient, many people do not get enough each day. Certain medical conditions can also make it more likely to become magnesium deficient including celiac disease, type 2 diabetes, and long-term alcohol use disorders. If you want to increase your magnesium intake, one of the best things you can do is to eat a diet that contains foods that are high in magnesium. These include: BananasMagnesium-fortified foodsLegumesMilkNutsPeanut butterPotatoesSeedsSpinach and other leafy green vegetablesWhole grainsYogurt You may also consider taking a magnesium supplement, although you should always discuss this with your doctor first. Also be sure to tell your doctor about any medications, supplements, or substances that you are also taking before you begin taking magnesium supplements. Some medications, including antibiotics and diuretics, can sometimes create drug interactions if taken with magnesium. You should also always be sure to only take the amount that your doctor recommends. Very high intakes of magnesium may lead to abdominal pain, diarrhea, and nausea. In some cases, it can lead to heart problems if taken in extremely high doses. A Word From Verywell While the current research shows promise, further research is still needed to explore the use of magnesium as a tool to prevent, alleviate, or treat depression. Even though more research is needed, you can make sure that you are getting the magnesium you need by eating a healthy, nutritious diet that includes magnesium-rich foods. If you are concerned that you might have a magnesium deficiency or are experiencing symptoms of depression, be sure to talk to your doctor. If you or a loved one are struggling with depression, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. Can Nutrient Deficiency Cause Depression? 9 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Kirkland AE, Sarlo GL, Holton KF. The role of magnesium in neurological disorders. Nutrients. 2018;10(6):730. doi:10.3390/nu10060730 Rechenberg K. Nutritional interventions in clinical depression. Clinical Psychological Science. 2016;4(1):144-162. doi:10.1177/2167702614566815 Tarleton EK, Littenberg B. Magnesium intake and depression in adults. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. 2015;28(2):249-256. doi:10.3122/jabfm.2015.02.140176 Tarleton EK, Littenberg B, MacLean CD, Kennedy AG, Daley C. Role of magnesium supplementation in the treatment of depression: A randomized clinical trial. Song Y, ed. PLoS ONE. 2017;12(6):e0180067. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0180067 Tarleton EK, Kennedy AG, Rose GL, Crocker A, Littenberg B. The association between serum magnesium levels and depression in an adult primary care population. Nutrients. 2019;11(7):1475. doi:10.3390/nu11071475 Guo W, Nazim H, Liang Z, Yang D. Magnesium deficiency in plants: An urgent problem. The Crop Journal. 2016;4(2):83-91. doi:10.1016/j.cj.2015.11.003 Cuciureanu MD, Vink R. Magnesium and stress. In: Vink R, Nechifor M, editors. Magnesium in the Central Nervous System [Internet]. Adelaide (AU): University of Adelaide Press. National Institutes of Health. Magnesium. Cleveland Clinic. Magnesium rich food. By Kendra Cherry Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? 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