Background: Epidemiological evidence on the effects of magnesium on blood pressure is inconsistent. Metabolic and experimental studies suggest that magnesium may have a role in the regulation of blood pressure.
Objectives: To evaluate the effects of magnesium supplementation as treatment for primary hypertension in adults.
Search strategy: We searched the Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, EMBASE, Science Citation Index, ISI Proceedings, ClinicalTrials.gov, Current Controlled Trials, CAB abstracts, and reference lists of systematic reviews, meta-analyses and randomised controlled trials (RCTs) included in the review.
Selection criteria: Inclusion criteria were: 1) RCTs of a parallel or crossover design comparing oral magnesium supplementation with placebo, no treatment, or usual care; 2) treatment and follow-up >/=8 weeks; 3) participants over 18 years old, with raised systolic blood pressure (SBP) >/=140 mmHg or diastolic blood pressure (DBP) >/=85 mmHg; 4) SBP and DBP reported at end of follow-up. We excluded trials where: participants were pregnant; received antihypertensive medication which changed during the study; or magnesium supplementation was combined with other interventions.
Data collection and analysis: Two reviewers independently abstracted data and assessed trial quality. Disagreements were resolved by discussion or a third reviewer. Random effects meta-analyses and sensitivity analyses were conducted.
Main results: Twelve RCTs (n=545) with eight to 26 weeks follow-up met our inclusion criteria. The results of the individual trials were heterogeneous. Combining all trials, participants receiving magnesium supplements as compared to control did not significantly reduce SBP (mean difference: -1.3 mmHg, 95% CI: -4.0 to 1.5, I(2)=67%), but did statistically significantly reduce DBP (mean difference: -2.2 mmHg, 95% CI: -3.4 to -0.9, I(2)=47%). Sensitivity analyses excluding poor quality trials yielded similar results. Sub-group analyses and meta-regression indicated that heterogeneity between trials could not be explained by dose of magnesium, baseline blood pressure or the proportion of males among the participants.
Authors' conclusions: In view of the poor quality of included trials and the heterogeneity between trials, the evidence in favour of a causal association between magnesium supplementation and blood pressure reduction is weak and is probably due to bias. This is because poor quality studies generally tend to over-estimate the effects of treatment. Larger, longer duration and better quality double-blind placebo controlled trials are needed to assess the effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure and cardiovascular outcomes.