21 May 2020
Lack of evidence supporting oral magnesium for asthma
Published online 21 February 2019
Larger studies are needed to verify the effectiveness of oral magnesium as a bronchodilator and anti-inflammatory agent in managing chronic asthma.
Oral magnesium supplements do not provide major conclusive benefits to chronic asthmatics, according to a meta-analysis of previously published papers.
Affecting around 300 million people worldwide, asthma is generally treated with inhalations of beta-agonists and corticosteroids. Recently, this inflammatory disease has been associated with low levels of magnesium in the diet and blood. However, while the use of intravenous and inhaled magnesium in severe acute asthma is well established and recommended, its oral administration is not included in treatment guidelines.
“Magnesium’s anti-inflammatory and bronchodilating properties may be beneficial for asthma,” explains Mazen Saleh Ferwana of King Saud bin Abdul-Aziz University for Health Sciences in Saudi Arabia. “We were interested in investigating whether the scientific literature provides any evidence that oral magnesium can complement or reduce the need for conventional therapy.”
Ferwana and a team of researchers conducted a meta-analysis of eight randomized controlled trials that compared the use of oral magnesium supplements to a placebo and standard asthma treatment in more than 900 adults and children above the age of six who had mild-to-moderate asthma.
They found that oral magnesium intake improved forced expiratory volume in the first second (FEV1), a lung function test used to monitor asthma, after eight weeks of therapy. However, there was no significant improvement in FEV1 at other follow-up times, nor were there any other indicators of improvement.
The team concludes that, until future evidence emerges, oral magnesium cannot be recommended as an adjuvant to standard treatment for people with mild-to-moderate asthma.
“One of the trials reported an improvement in symptoms after six months, but large-scale trials are needed to confirm this,” says Ferwana. “We hope that this study will spark further interest in the topic.”
Abuabat, F. et al. The role of oral magnesium supplements for the management of stable bronchial asthma: a systematic review and meta-analysis. npj Prim. Care Respir. Med. 29, 4 (2019).