New research involving magnesium’s role in treating depression has emerged recently. Magnesium compounds play an important role in homeopathy as a remedy for several mental health problems. Information on magnesium sulfate’s beneficial potential for patients with agitated depression was first published almost 100 years ago. Even though magnesium’s role as an antidepressant is still not fully comprehended, several pre-clinical and clinical studies confirm the safety profile of magnesium preparations, rendering it as a significant element for curing depression.
Magnesium is a cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems that regulate different biochemical reactions in the body, including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control and blood pressure regulation. It’s a contributor to the structural development of bones and is required for the synthesis of DNA, RNA and the antioxidant glutathione. Furthermore, magnesium also plays a role in the active transport of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes, which is important for nerve impulse conduction, muscle contraction and a normal heart rhythm.
According to National Institutes of Health (NIH), the current Dietary Recommendation Allowance (RDA) for adults is between 320 and 420 mg daily. However, the average intake of a U.S. citizen is only 250 mg per day.
A study by the Institute of Pharmacology Polish Academy of Sciences in 2013 revealed the presence of several neuromuscular and psychiatric symptoms, including different types of depression, in the case of a magnesium deficiency.
The study elaborated that magnesium is widely connected with brain biochemistry as well as the fluidity of the neuronal membrane. Thus, a variety of neuromuscular and psychiatric symptoms such as agitation, headaches, seizures, vertigo, anxiety, insomnia, nervous fits, fatigue, confusion, hallucinations and depression were observed in magnesium deficiency. However, all of them were noted to be reversible through the restoration of normal brain magnesium levels. The scope of antidepressant-like effects of magnesium still needs to be explored further to be fully understood.
In another study, experimentally induced magnesium deficiency resulted in depression-like behavior in rodents, which was effectively redeemed by the use of antidepressants.
The study further discussed the evidence, gathered by Nechifor et al., of a rise in the levels of erythrocyte magnesium in extremely and moderately depressed people compared to those with slight depression and otherwise, healthy individuals. A positive correlation was discovered between the levels of erythrocyte magnesium and depression.
Furthermore, the diet of depressed people seemed to be strongly characterized by impoverishment of magnesium. Jacka et al. discovered an inverse relationship between magnesium intake and depressive symptoms in community-dwelling adults. However, it was highly debatable if the diet of those individuals was a consequence of their mental disorder instead.
Apart from malnutrition, low magnesium levels in the body may occur due to defects in its absorption or as a result of its renal loss such as in cases of diabetes and alcoholism. Immense emotional stress and stressful activities increase magnesium release as well.
Eby and Eby in 2006 observed the efficacy of magnesium supplementation in patients with postpartum and major depression. Magnesium treatment also improved symptoms of depression in chronic fatigue syndrome and in women with premenstrual syndrome.
Randomized clinical trials performed by Barragan-Rodriguez et al. depicted a 12-week oral administration of magnesium chloride to elderly depressives with hypomagnesemia and type 2 diabetes to exert therapeutic effects. However, the degree to which magnesium alone may decrease the intensity of depression symptoms is still debated.
Moreover, magnesium is known to regulate the activity of NMDA and GABA receptors that play an important role in subsiding a hippocampal kindling and the release of adrenocorticotropic hormone. It also interacts with the limbic-hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, frequently deregulated in individuals battling depression.
Magnesium ions also regulate calcium ion flow in neuronal calcium channels, helping to regulate neuronal nitric oxide production. In case of a magnesium deficiency, such neuronal requirements may not be met, causing neuronal damage which translates into depression. Magnesium ion neuronal deficits can be a result of stress hormones, excessive dietary calcium and dietary deficiencies of magnesium. In regards to case histories, magnesium was found usually effective for treatment of depression in general use. Related and accompanying mental illnesses in these case histories including traumatic brain injury, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, irritability, insomnia, substance abuse, hypersensitivity to calcium, short-term memory loss and IQ loss were also noted to improve.
The possibility of magnesium deficiency being a chief cause of major depression and related mental health problems including addiction is enormously important for the protection of public health and should be highly considered for further research.
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