What else might melatonin treat?
Melatonin has also been shown to have potential to improve Parkinson’s disease, cluster headaches and sleep problems in kids with autism. There is likewise some evidence it helps people quit smoking, reduces anxiety before surgery, eases jet lag and decreases sunburn when applied in a cream form before going out in the sun.
One recent study found that voluntary exercise and daily intake of melatonin was able to produce a synergistic effect against brain deterioration in mice with three different mutations of Alzheimer’s disease (3xTg-AD). The mice were divided into a control group and three other groups that either received exercise alone, melatonin alone, or a combination of both. After six months, the mice that had the combination treatment showed significant improvement.
Researchers note, however, that this treatment cannot be easily transferred to humans because the disease develops over several years in people and by the time memory loss surfaces, the brain has already deteriorated.
Another study in rats looked at how melatonin helps in controlling weight, and found that not only did it control weight, but it did so without reducing intake of food. It also improved blood lipid profiles. Researchers studied young, diabetic obese rats, and found that the melatonin was helpful to young rats that had not yet developed metabolic disease or heart disease. Researchers concluded that melatonin could help prevent heart disease associated with obesity.
A third study looked at women undergoing IVF treatment, who had poor quality eggs. They were split into two groups - one group of 56 women received 3mg of melatonin before their next IVF cycle, and 59 women had a standard IVF cycle without melatonin. The team found that melatonin significantly improved the quality of eggs. Fifty percent of the eggs from the women who had taken melatonin could be successfully fertilized, while only 22.8 percent could be fertilized from the control group.
Are there any unsafe side effects?
Melatonin should be safe for most adults, but can cause some side effects, such as headaches, short-term feelings of depression, daytime sleepiness, dizziness, stomach cramps and irritability. Certain people should probably not take melatonin, such as pregnant or breast-feeding women, and those with high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and seizure disorders.
Some combinations of drugs could also have potentially harmful side effects. Sedatives should not be used with melatonin and women taking birth control pills should be careful, as taking both could cause too much melatonin in the body.
Bottom line: Since the FDA does not regulate melatonin supplements as they do prescription medications, they should be taken with a level of caution. Talk to your doctor to see if melatonin could work for your health needs.
n.p. (2011, December 24). “Melatonin.” Medline Plus. Retrieved from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/940.html