The Role and the Effect of Magnesium in Mental Disorders: A Systematic Review

Nutrients. 2020 Jun 3;12(6):1661. doi: 10.3390/nu12061661.


Introduction: Magnesium is an essential cation involved in many functions within the central nervous system, including transmission and intracellular signal transduction. Several studies have shown its usefulness in neurological and psychiatric diseases. Furthermore, it seems that magnesium levels are lowered in the course of several mental disorders, especially depression.

Objectives: In this study, we wish to evaluate the presence of a relationship between the levels of magnesium and the presence of psychiatric pathology as well as the effectiveness of magnesium as a therapeutic supplementation.

Methods: A systematic search of scientific records concerning magnesium in psychiatric disorders published from 2010 up to March 2020 was performed. We collected a total of 32 articles: 18 on Depressive Disorders (DD), four on Anxiety Disorders (AD), four on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), three on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), one on Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), one on Schizophrenia (SCZ) and one on Eating Disorders (ED).

Results: Twelve studies highlighted mainly positive results in depressive symptoms. Seven showed a significant correlation between reduced plasma magnesium values and depression measured with psychometric scales. Two papers reported improved depressive symptoms after magnesium intake, two in association with antidepressants, compared to controls. No significant association between magnesium serum levels and panic or Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) patients, in two distinct papers, was found. In two other papers, a reduced Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A) score in depressed patients correlated with higher levels of magnesium and beneficial levels of magnesium in stressed patients was found. Two papers reported low levels of magnesium in association with ADHD. Only one of three papers showed lower levels of magnesium in ASD. ED and SCZ reported a variation in magnesium levels in some aspects of the disease.

Conclusion: The results are not univocal, both in terms of the plasma levels and of therapeutic effects. However, from the available evidence, it emerged that supplementation with magnesium could be beneficial. Therefore, it is necessary to design ad hoc clinical trials to evaluate the efficacy of magnesium alone or together with other drugs (antidepressants) in order to establish the correct use of this cation with potential therapeutic effects.

Keywords: Obsessive-compulsive Disorder; anxiety disorder; autism; bipolar disorder; depression; eating disorder; magnesium; mental disorders; schizophrenia.

Publication types

  • Review