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Magnesium for Mood, Depression, and Mental Health

Magnesium for Mood, Depression, and Mental Health

Magnesium may not be talked about quite as much as some other minerals, like iron or calcium, but it appears to play a significant role in mental health. In fact, making sure you get enough magnesium may be a key intervention for improving depression symptoms, bdoosting mood, and supporting optimal mental health. Furthermore, having low levels of magnesium in your body may be a predictor for mental health issues.

Link between magnesium and mental health 

Research suggests that magnesium deficiency may increase your risk for developing depression, or worsen pre-existing depression.1 In fact, depressive symptoms have been long observed among people with low levels of magnesium in the blood.

 Inadequate intake of magnesium may also increase risk for stress and anxiety. The link between magnesium deficiency and depression has been observed so long that some researchers have suggested that it’s a primary cause of major depression and related mental health problems.2,3

Magnesium and depression research

A 2017 study published in PLoS One examined whether supplementation with over-the-counter magnesium chloride could improve symptoms of depression. The authors examined the effects on 126 adults in outpatient primary care centers, who reported mild to moderate depression symptoms using the Patient Health Questionnaire-9. 

The participants were given 248 mg of elemental magnesium per day for 6 weeks followed by 6 weeks of no intervention, which served as the control for comparison.  They had bi-weekly phone calls with the researchers to assess changes in reported depression symptoms. 

At the end of the study, the authors were able to conclude that magnesium supplementation was effective in improving mild to moderate depression symptoms among adults. Furthermore, 61% of the participants said they would continue using magnesium to improve mood in the future.4 

A 2008 randomized, double blind, controlled trial supplemented 23 elderly patients with type 2 diabetes and hypomagnesemia with either 50 mL of a MgCl2 5% solution (equivalent to 450 mg of elemental Mg) or the antidepressant imipramine daily for 12 weeks. At the end, researchers were able to conclude that magnesium supplementation was just as effective as the antidepressant, and the depression scores between the two groups were identical.2

Additionally, a 1991 double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found that supplementation of 2 mL magnesium sulphate for 6 weeks was significantly more effective than placebo in improving energy levels and emotional reactions among people with chronic fatigue syndrome and atypical depression.5

Best sources of magnesium for mental health 

While there are plenty of magnesium-rich foods, most people don’t actually get enough of this critical nutrient today. In fact, between 10-30% of people worldwide - and around 70% of people in the United States alone - are likely deficient in magnesium.2,6,7 In many cases, magnesium supplements may be appropriate and recommended to treat low levels. 

Some of the best food sources of magnesium include nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, whole grains, soy foods, fish, leafy greens, flax seed, and oatmeal.7 Including a variety of these in your diet is a good way to meet the recommended amounts of magnesium. 

If you’re concerned that you don’t get enough magnesium through your diet, it’s also available over-the-counter in various supplemental forms. Speak with your healthcare provider to determine if magnesium supplementation is appropriate for you, as well as the best form and dosage for your needs. 

Yours in Health-

Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD

IVL’s Community Registered Dietitian


  1. Razzaque MS. Magnesium: Are We Consuming Enough?. Nutrients. 2018;10(12):1863. Published 2018 Dec 2. 
  2. Eby GA, Eby KL, Murk H. Magnesium and major depression. In: Vink R, Nechifor M, editors. Magnesium in the Central Nervous System [Internet]. Adelaide (AU): University of Adelaide Press; 2011. Available from: 
  3. Tarleton EK, Kennedy AG, Rose GL, Crocker A, Littenberg B. The Association between Serum Magnesium Levels and Depression in an Adult Primary Care Population. Nutrients. 2019;11(7):1475. Published 2019 Jun 28. 
  4. Tarleton EK, Littenberg B, MacLean CD, Kennedy AG, Daley C. Role of magnesium supplementation in the treatment of depression: A randomized clinical trial. PLoS One. 2017;12(6):e0180067. Published 2017 Jun 27. 
  5. Cox IM, Campbell MJ, Dowson D. Red blood cell magnesium and chronic fatigue syndrome. Lancet. 1991;337(8744):757-760. 
  6. DiNicolantonio JJ, O'Keefe JH, Wilson W. Subclinical magnesium deficiency: a principal driver of cardiovascular disease and a public health crisis [published correction appears in Open Heart. 2018 Apr 5;5(1):e000668corr1]. Open Heart. 2018;5(1):e000668. Published 2018 Jan 13. 
  7. Razzaque MS. Magnesium: Are We Consuming Enough?. Nutrients. 2018;10(12):1863. Published 2018 Dec 2.