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Melatonin Makes Bones Stronger

By Will Block

M elatonin is a naturally-occurring hormone made by your brain’s pineal gland and elsewhere in your body. Yet with age, our needs go up while production goes down (See Fig. 1). From the thousands of scientific papers written about this amazing hormone, we know that supplementing with melatonin can help promote better sleep, avoid jet lag, maintain memory function, enhance immune function, and increase antioxidant protection. In a new study, melatonin has been found to make bones stronger in old rats.1 This suggests a possible avenue for the prevention of osteoporosis, in humans as well as in rats.

Melatonin Regulates Bone Mass

Figure 1. Age-related decrease of melatonin in humans (Nair, et al, 1986).
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While previous studies have shown that melatonin is a positive regulator of bone mass, its potential effects on bone mass in an elderly population have not previously been investigated. The aim of the new study was to assess the effects of dietary melatonin supplementation on mass buildup and biomechanical properties of old rat femora—the bone in the leg extending from the pelvis to the knee—the longest, largest, and strongest bone in the body.

Melatonin Strengthens Bones

Bones are built up during the daytime by cells known as osteoblasts, and broken down by osteoclasts at night. As we get older, we sleep less. And so the activity of the cells that break down the bones exceeds those that build bones. By giving old rats melatonin supplements to regulate their circadian rhythms, the researchers found the rats had bones that were denser, less brittle and more flexible.

Melatonin Ups Bone Volume and Musculoskeletal Health

Twenty 22-months-old male Wistar rats (the equivalent of 60 year-old humans) were divided into 2 randomly assigned groups. The first group was treated for 10 weeks (the human equivalent of six years) with melatonin, whereas the second group was left untreated (controls). Rat femurs were collected and analyzed. The rats treated with melatonin had higher bone volume, bone number, (a biomarker reflective of musculoskeletal health), trabecular thickness, and cortical thickness in comparison to the control group. Also, an increase of bone volume was confirmed in melatonin-treated rats.

Melatonin Reverses Age-Related Bone Deterioration

Figure 2. Mechanical analyses of femurs retrieved from aged rats treated with melatonin or those left with no treatment (control). Rats treated with melatonin demonstrated higher bone stiffness, flexural modulus and ultimate force compared to control.
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Consistent with these findings, melatonin-treated rats demonstrated higher bone stiffness, enhanced flexibility (flexural modulus) and significant increases in the absolute maximum load that the bones could bear without failing, compared to controls. According to the researchers, these compelling results are the first evidence that dietary melatonin supplementation can exert beneficial effects against age-related bone loss in old rats; improving the microstructure and biomechanical properties of aged bones.

The Ideal Amount Is Individual

Back in 2006, a meta-analysis2 found that melatonin treatment significantly reduced sleep onset latency by 3.9 min; increased sleep efficiency to 3.1%; and increased sleep duration by 13.7 min. This indicated that melatonin was beneficial for insomnia, particularly in aged individuals. Also interesting were the wide variety of dose levels used, in the range of 0.3 mg to a as high as 10 mg, with two of the studies using amounts as high as 50 and 80 mg. This indicates that the amount is entirely individual, and might best be discovered by trying a little more, or a little less, until you get the sleep enhancement results you’re looking for.

Enhanced bone density and improved sleep are just two of the many benefits of melatonin, which should motivate us all to incorporate this extraordinary hormone into our supplement regimens.

References

  1. Tresguerres IF, Tamimi F, Eimar H, Barralet J, Prieto S, Torres J, Calvo-Guirado JL, Fernández-Tresguerres JA. Melatonin dietary supplement as an anti-aging therapy for age-related bone loss. Rejuvenation Res. 2014 Mar 11. [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Brzezinski A, Vangel MG, Wurtman RJ, Norrie G, Zhdanova I, Ben-Shushan A, Ford I. Effects of exogenous melatonin on sleep: a meta-analysis. Sleep Med Rev. 2005 Feb;9(1):41-50.


Will Block is the publisher and editorial director of Life Enhancement magazine.

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