BACKGROUND: Magnesium (Mg) deficiency is common among alcoholics. Earlier research suggests that Mg treatment may help to normalize elevated enzyme activities and some other clinically relevant parameters among alcoholics but the evidence is weak.

METHODS: The effect of Mg was studied in a randomized, parallel group, double-blind trial. The patients were first treated for alcohol withdrawal symptoms and then received for 8 weeks either 500 mg of Mg divided into two tablets or matching placebo. Measurements were made at the beginning and in the end of the Mg treatment period. The primary outcome was serum gamma-glutamyltransferase (S-GGT) activity; secondary outcomes included aspartate-aminotransferase (S-AST) and alanine-aminotransferase (S-ALT) activity.

RESULTS: The number of randomized patients (completers) was 64 (27) in the treatment and 54 (31) in the control group. In intention-to-treat-analyses and in most analyses of study completers, there were no significant differences between the Mg-treated and placebo groups in the outcome variables. When baseline serum Mg level, coffee intake, and the number of unused Mg tablets were controlled for in a multivariate regression model, after-treatment serum Mg levels were found to be higher among the Mg-treated group than in the placebo group (t-test 3.334, df = 53, p = 0.002). After controlling for age, body weight, baseline alcohol intake, subsequent change in alcohol intake and baseline S-AST, the after-treatment S-AST levels were found to be lower among the Mg-treated group than in the placebo group (t-test 2.061, df = 49, p = 0.045).

CONCLUSION: Mg treatment may speed up the S-AST decrease in compliant patients. This might decrease the risk of death from alcoholic liver disease.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov ID NCT00325299.

Poikolainen K, Alho H
Subst Abuse Treat Prev Policy 2008;3:1
PMID: 18218147