Published: November 29, 2013Updated: 07:47 April 5, 2014
Our bodies rely on magnesium for more than 300 metabolic functions.
Winter possesses its own stark beauty, but those who occasionally suffer from depression tend to dread this time of year. While many strategies exist to boost energy and mood during this period of limited sunlight, making sure you’re getting enough magnesium may also be helpful.
Our bodies rely on magnesium for more than 300 metabolic functions. This mineral helps maintain immunity, bone strength, and a steady heart rhythm. Magnesium also supports muscle and nerve function, regulates blood sugar levels and blood pressure, and enhances energy. Recent studies also indicate this mineral can act like an antidepressant.
The Mood Mineral
Research shows that people with major depression have less magnesium in their bloodstream than those who aren’t depressed. While certain antidepressants can significantly increase magnesium levels in those who suffer from major depression, people can also experience relief from depressive symptoms by simply taking magnesium.
In one small trial, elderly depressed patients with Type 2 diabetes and magnesium deficiency were randomly assigned to receive either a magnesium chloride solution or an antidepressant over the course of 12 weeks. The magnesium solution proved as effective for treating depression as the antidepressant. Additionally, magnesium levels in the blood samples of the group taking this mineral were significantly higher than those taking the antidepressant.
Always discuss magnesium with a healthcare provider if you’re considering using supplements to help with depression. Some forms and dosages may cause abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Also, those with kidney disease may not be able to excrete excess amounts of the mineral so should avoid taking supplements unless prescribed by a health care provider.
A large, recent Norwegian study of people from 46 to 74 found that those who ate fewer foods containing magnesium experienced more depression. Green vegetables such as spinach and peas are good food sources of magnesium. Beans, soybeans, almonds, cashews, peanut butter, yogurt, and whole, unrefined grains also provide significant amounts of the mineral.
Despite all the food sources containing magnesium, many adult Americans still don’t get enough of it in their diet. Other possible reasons for low magnesium levels include overactive stress hormones or too much dietary calcium. While symptoms of outright magnesium deficiency are rare, people with low magnesium levels may not have enough to protect against cardiovascular disease and immune problems.
Seniors are especially susceptible to deficiencies as gastrointestinal disorders and impaired digestive absorption can lower magnesium levels. The elderly are also more likely to be drugs—diuretics, antibiotics, and meds used to treat cancer—that lower magnesium further.