Background: Anxiety related conditions are the most common affective disorders present in the general population with a lifetime prevalence of over 15%. Magnesium (Mg) status is associated with subjective anxiety, leading to the proposition that Mg supplementation may attenuate anxiety symptoms. This systematic review examines the available evidence for the efficacy of Mg supplementation in the alleviation of subjective measures of anxiety and stress. Methods: A systematic search of interventions with Mg alone or in combination (up to 5 additional ingredients) was performed in May 2016. Ovid Medline, PsychInfo, Embase, CINAHL and Cochrane databases were searched using equivalent search terms. A grey literature review of relevant sources was also undertaken. Results: 18 studies were included in the review. All reviewed studies recruited samples based upon an existing vulnerability to anxiety: mildly anxious, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), postpartum status, and hypertension. Four/eight studies in anxious samples, four/seven studies in PMS samples, and one/two studies in hypertensive samples reported positive effects of Mg on subjective anxiety outcomes. Mg had no effect on postpartum anxiety. No study administered a validated measure of subjective stress as an outcome. Conclusions: Existing evidence is suggestive of a beneficial effect of Mg on subjective anxiety in anxiety vulnerable samples. However, the quality of the existing evidence is poor. Well-designed randomised controlled trials are required to further confirm the efficacy of Mg supplementation.
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