According to the World Health Organization, 350 million people worldwide suffer from some sort of depression, and depression is a leading cause of disability. Many, if not most patients suffering from cancer, experience anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, many of the commonly used antidepressants are often not effective for individuals, and there is even a risk that these drugs can worsen depression, and even cause suicidal ideation.

The objective of a recent trial was to test whether supplementation with over-the-counter magnesium improved symptoms of depression. What is particularly exciting about this study is that magnesium was effective in improving scores in patients who were already using pharmacologic antidepressants. It would be interesting to see a study comparing magnesium to SSRIs, but that study will of course never receive funding. The conclusions stated, “Effects were observed within two weeks. Magnesium is effective for mild-to-moderate depression in adults. It works quickly and is well tolerated without the need for close monitoring for toxicity.”

Cancer patients who are using opiates commonly suffer from constipation, so the use of magnesium can also help with constipation and depression/anxiety simultaneously. Although in this study, the investigators used magnesium chloride, I prefer to use magnesium glycinate, magnesium malate, or magnesium L-threonate for patients because of the calming effect of these on the CNS.