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March 2013

Melatonin May Reduce Oxidative Stress in MS

Melatonin supplementation may help reduce damage from oxidative stress in people who have secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS), a study reports.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disorder that affects nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. Multiple sclerosis is widely believed to be an autoimmune disease, a condition in which the immune system attacks components of the body as if they are foreign. SPMS is a common later phase of the disease in which symptoms worsen over time. This is thought to be due to the disappearance of nerve fibers that were injured earlier due to MS.

Oxidative stress is characterized by an excess of free radical groups, creating a potentially unstable cellular environment. Oxidative stress is linked to tissue damage, accelerated aging and degenerative disease. Oxidative stress can result from exposure to alcohol, medications, poor nutrition, and trauma.

Previous research has shown that melatonin may have protective effects on the brain. In the current study, Polish researchers set out to identify the potential role of melatonin in reducing oxidative stress for people with SPMS.

The team recruited 16 subjects with SPMS who were given 10 milligrams of melatonin daily for 30 days. A total of 13 age-matched, healthy people were used as a control. The scientists looked for cellular damage caused by malondialdehyde (MDA), a compound that serves as a marker for oxidative stress. They also studied the activities of enzymes known to have antioxidant effects.

The results showed that in the red blood cells of SPMS subjects, melatonin supplementation resulted in a significant increase in antioxidant enzymes. Supplementing with melatonin led to a significant decrease in MDA levels, which suggests lower oxidative stress.

The researchers concluded that melatonin supplementation may be helpful in reducing oxidative stress in people with progressive MS.

Melatonin is a hormone produced in the brain by the pineal gland. The synthesis and release of melatonin are stimulated by darkness and suppressed by light, suggesting the involvement of melatonin in circadian rhythm and regulation of diverse body functions. Levels of melatonin in the blood are highest prior to bedtime. Synthetic melatonin supplements have been used for a variety of medical conditions, most notably for disorders related to sleep.

For more information about melatonin, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements database.


  1. Miller E, Walczak A, Majsterek I, et al. Melatonin reduces oxidative stress in the erythrocytes of multiple sclerosis patients with secondary progressive clinical course. J Neuroimmunol. 2013 Mar 18. pii: S0165-5728(13)00050-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jneuroim.2013.02.012. [Epub ahead of print] 
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 

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