Tourette's syndrome, or TS, is a neurological and psychological disorder with onset in childhood, though symptoms may last into adulthood. In 1885, French neurologist Gilles de la Tourette discovered the disorder after noticing that many of his patients presented with a distinct cluster of symptoms involving verbal and motor tics. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders describes a tic as "a sudden, rapid, recurrent, nonrhythmic, stereotyped motor movement or vocalization." Patients with TS experience tics to varying degrees, but they disrupt daily life. Given the serious nature of TS, scientists are interested in how various minerals such as magnesium play a role.
Magnesium and Children
In 2008, researchers in Spain looked at the effectiveness of using magnesium and vitamin B6 to treat Tourette's syndrome in children ages 7 to 14. They treated the children and measured the frequency of tics. The results, which were published in the journal "Clinical Medicine," showed that with the magnesium and vitamin B6 ingestion, tics were significantly diminished. The scientists postulate that these nutrients may be added to a TS treatment regimen since they are quite safe and have no known side effects.
Studying TS in Children
Building on research conducted in 2008, scientists in Spain decided to conduct a full experimental study comparing changes in tic frequency between a placebo group and treatment group ingesting magnesium and vitamin B6. They also examined social changes related to family life and mental health of the child to look at the psychosocial implications of a tic disorder. Their results, which were published in 2009 in the journal "Trials", revealed that though difficult to study experimentally because of rarity, TS is improved with collateral treatment of magnesium and vitamin B6.
The Biochemisty of Magnesium and TS
Though clinical studies reveal potential for magnesium as a viable treatment for Tourette's syndrome, it is important to understand the underlying chemistry of why this may be true. In 2002, a study published in the journal "Medication Hypotheses" explains that magnesium deficiency causes the body to have limited access to compounds related to the absorption of vitamin B6 and other essential chemicals and nutrients related to neuronal communication. The researchers continue to state that magnesium deficiency may also be the reason why TS patients are more likely to have other disorders, including anxiety, mood disorders, restless leg syndrome and migraine headaches, since magnesium has been implicated in these diseases.
Putting It All Together
At the time of this publication in July 2011, the FDA has not recognized magnesium as a valid treatment for Tourette's syndrome. However, clinical research suggests that when paired with vitamin B6, it may be a reasonable addition to a comprehensive treatment plan. Individuals interested in adding vitamin supplements should check with a doctor prior to making any changes. Though multivitamins may be safe in general, some minerals may interact negatively with medications and impact other disorders.