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Melatoninin is for more than jet lag–Research indicates it may influence MS symptoms, and improve body composition

Melatoninin is for more than jet lag–Research indicates it may influence MS symptoms, and improve body composition

Melatonin and MS

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system where immune T-cells mistakenly attack the protective sheath around nerve pathways, scrambling signals between the brain and the body. Because MS relapses can occur with seasonal changes, doctors suspected a link to sunlight and vitamin D levels.

In this study, researchers found that 139 people with MS relapses had significantly fewer symptoms during the fall and winter. Doctors analyzed several factors including environment, respiratory health, sun exposure, and vitamin D. The one factor with a consistent link to MS symptoms was melatonin, which the body produces at higher levels in the fall and winter.

Continuing in the lab, melatonin influenced two kinds of white blood cells: "killer" T cells that attack, and "regulatory" T cells that shut them off. Doctors said melatonin has a protective effect, dampening the immune response by keeping killer T cells at bay. It is too early to recommend people with MS take melatonin, but more research is under way.

Reference: Cell; 2015, Vol. 162, No. 6, 1338-52

Postmenopausal women lose fat mass

Melatonin regulates the sleep/wake cycle but may also have a positive effect on body weight and energy metabolism. In this study, 81 postmenopausal women took 1 mg or 3 mg of melatonin nightly, or a placebo. After one year, women who had taken either dose of melatonin had lost an average 6.9 percent more fat mass than placebo. Lean muscle mass in the melatonin group also increased by 2.6 percent. Adiponectin, a protein in fat cells that regulates lipid metabolism, increased 21 percent more than placebo.

Reference: Clinical Endocrinology; September, 2015, Published Online

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