Magnesium Deficiency and Depression

weight lossMagnesium is an important trace mineral required for human and animals health. Magnesium is required in gram amounts in the diet of a typical human, but many individuals fail to achieve this intake. Further, high intakes of other minerals such as calcium can increase the requirement for calcium, as a ratio of close to 1:1 is required for the minerals. Evidence suggests that one of the consequences of a low magnesium intake is deterioration in mental health, particularly mood disorders such as depression and mood changes related to the menstrual cycle. A number of studies, particularly involving case studies of small groups of individuals have reported improvements in mood with magnesium supplements. The exact reason that magnesium deficiency lowers mood is not fully understood, however, some researchers have noted that the effects of magnesium are similar to the effects of lithium salts. Magnesium is known to have particular effects on neurotransmitter synthesis, transduction pathways and hormone levels.

magnesium nuts seeds

Magnesium can be found in high amounts in plant foods. Good sources of magnesium include nuts and seeds and green leafy vegetables. A high plant based diet therefore provides significant amounts of magnesium, and this may explain why high plant food diets are protective of mood disorders. For those with existing mood disorders who wish to use magnesium as a therapeutic agent, supplements of magnesium have been shown to be effective.

The contribution of magnesium deficiency to mood disorders has been investigated by researchers. For example, in one study, researchers investigated how magnesium deficiency may lead to the development of anxiety and depression. The researchers fed the mice a diet that contained only 10 % of their requirement for magnesium for a number of weeks and noted that this induced depression-like activity in their behaviour. The researchers also noted that inducing a partial magnesium deficiency also increased the anxious behaviour of the mice. When the researchers administered the mice the antidepressant drug desipramine or the antidepressant herb St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) there was an attenuation of the depressive behaviour, and in the case of St John’s wort, an attenuation of the anxious behaviour. Therefore magnesium deficiency appears to cause a depressive and anxious state of mood in animals, and this would appear to be reversed with the use of antidepressant and anxiolytics.

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Singewald, N., Sinner, C., Hetzenauer, A., Sartori, S. B. and Murck, H. 2004. Magnesium-deficient diet alters depression-and anxiety-related behavior in mice-influence of desipramine and Hypericum perforatum extract. Neuropharmacology. 47(8): 1189-1197

About Robert Barrington

Robert Barrington is a writer, nutritionist, lecturer and philosopher.
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