This Mineral Fights Depression—and It’s Cheaper and Safer Than Prescription Drugs

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A common over-the-counter supplement could be a key aid in the fight against depression, according to new findings.

Depression is a global epidemic with far-reaching implications. More than 350 million people around the world suffer from the mental illness, Science Daily reports, and many of those diagnosed turn to prescription medication, therapy, and other forms of treatment. Unfortunately, some of these medications and treatments remain out of the price range of some depression sufferers, so one researcher has discovered an everyday supplement that could be an affordable alternative.

Magnesium has long proven beneficial for bone health, energy, and even anxiety, and now thanks to Emily Tarleton, MS, RD, CD, a graduate student in Clinical and Translational Science and the bionutrition research manager in the University of Vermont’s Clinical Research Center, we can also add fighting depression to its list of health benefits. (Watch for these signs of magnesium deficiency.)

For a trial published in PLoS One, Tarleton and her colleagues looked at common over-the-counter oral magnesium tablets and how they could potentially treat mild-to-moderate depression. Over a six-week period, they gave 248 milligrams of magnesium daily to more than 100 adults diagnosed with mild-to-moderate depression. They evaluated the participants’ depression symptoms on a bi-weekly basis.

At the conclusion of the trial, researchers found that those taking the oral magnesium supplement saw an improvement in their depression and anxiety symptoms. In fact, some participants saw an improvement in symptoms in as little as two weeks. What’s more, based on the findings, it appears that magnesium is well tolerated, presenting little in the way of side effects in participants regardless of their age, gender, and use of any other medication.

Ultimately, Tarleton’s findings suggest that the effects of magnesium are just as beneficial for depression sufferers as prescription antidepressants such as Prozac. “This is the first randomized clinical trial looking at the effect of magnesium supplementation on symptoms of depression in U.S. adults,” Tarleton told Science Daily. “The results are very encouraging, given the great need for additional treatment options for depression, and our finding that magnesium supplementation provides a safe, fast, and inexpensive approach to controlling depressive symptoms.”

As promising as this study found magnesium to be for depression, it’s one of the few trials that has ever looked at the mood-altering benefits of the mineral. For that reason, Tarleton hopes to continue the study on a larger scale in the future. And as previous psychologists have noted, not all depression treatments will work for everyone, making it important to work with a medical professional on your treatment options.

Don’t miss these warning signs of depression, and additional affordable depression treatments available.