Background: Oral magnesium supplementation is commonly used to support a low magnesium diet. This investigation set out to determine whether magnesium in a cream could be absorbed transdermally in humans to improve magnesium status.
Methods and findings: In this single blind, parallel designed pilot study, n = 25 participants (aged 34.3+/-14.8y, height 171.5+/-11cm, weight 75.9 +/-14 Kg) were randomly assigned to either a 56mg/day magnesium cream or placebo cream group for two weeks. Magnesium serum and 24hour urinary excretion were measured at baseline and at 14 days intervention. Food diaries were recorded for 8 days during this period. Mg test and placebo groups' serum and urinary Mg did not differ at baseline. After the Mg2+ cream intervention there was a clinically relevant increase in serum magnesium (0.82 to 0.89 mmol/l,p = 0.29) that was not seen in the placebo group (0.77 to 0.79 mmol/L), but was only statistically significant (p = 0.02)) in a subgroup of non-athletes. Magnesium urinary excretion increased from baseline slightly in the Mg2+ group but with no statistical significance (p = 0.48). The Mg2+ group showed an 8.54% increase in serum Mg2+ and a 9.1% increase in urinary Mg2+ while these figures for the placebo group were smaller, i.e. +2.6% for serum Mg2+ and -32% for urinary Mg2+. In the placebo group, both serum and urine concentrations showed no statistically significant change after the application of the placebo cream.
Conclusion: No previous studies have looked at transdermal absorbency of Mg2+ in human subjects. In this pilot study, transdermal delivery of 56 mg Mg/day (a low dose compared with commercial transdermal Mg2+ products available) showed a larger percentage rise in both serum and urinary markers from pre to post intervention compared with subjects using the placebo cream, but statistical significance was achieved only for serum Mg2+ in a subgroup of non-athletes. Future studies should look at higher dosage of magnesium cream for longer durations.
Trial registration: ISRCTN registry ID No. ISRTN15136969.