Oral magnesium is not an effective asthma treatment

Despite low magnesium levels being linked to asthma cases, new research shows that oral magnesium supplements have no effect on the condition

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There is no evidence that oral magnesium supplements can help treat asthma, according to an analysis by KAIMRC doctors, despite the utility of intravenous magnesium in controlling asthma.

Asthma afflicts roughly 235 million people around the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). While most cases are relatively mild and easily controlled, complications can make the condition life-threatening. Roughly 300,000 deaths are attributed to asthma each year.

Studies have shown a connection between asthma and low magnesium levels, though the mechanism linking them remains unclear. Low levels of dietary magnesium may be involved in the development of asthma, and people with asthma have been found to have lower magnesium levels than those without the condition, especially in cases where an asthmatic person has reported to the emergency department due to complications.

These findings have led to the use of intravenous or inhaled magnesium to treat asthma. While these treatments help manage the condition, it’s not known whether oral magnesium supplements have a similar effect. To find out, a team of researchers at KAIMRC carried out a meta-analysis of studies testing the use of oral magnesium to control chronic asthma.

The researchers identified eight trials which met their criteria for analysis. The trials were carried out in Hungary, the UK, the US, Brazil, Iran, and Russia, and comprised 917 participants, including children and adults.

The analysis showed that magnesium supplements didn't cause patients to improve their performance in a lung responsiveness test or in the amount of breath they could exhale at once — two markers of asthma. Based on this, the researchers conclude that there is no reason to recommend magnesium supplements as a treatment for patients with mild to moderate asthma. However, they note that the outcome of ongoing registered trials may alter their conclusions.

The conclusions are also tempered by shortcomings in the trials. For example, the sample sizes were relatively small and some trials were missing important data. The trials also did not always clearly divide patients based on the magnesium dose or the treatment making it difficult to carry out a precise analysis.

Given these caveats, future work may provide evidence supporting the use of oral magnesium for asthma treatment. Currently, however, the researchers conclude that oral magnesium cannot be recommended for mild to moderate cases of asthma.

References

  1. Abuabat, F. et al The role of oral magnesium supplements for the management of stable bronchial asthma: a systematic review and meta-analysis. NPJ Primary Care Respiratory Medicine 29 (2019) | article

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