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New research: sleep hormone strengthens bones

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Posted May 13, 2015

It is well known that the risk of osteoporosis and hip fractures increases with age. But researchers from Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital may possibly have found a means that can in future prevent this deterioration of the bones. A research project shows that the sleep hormone melatonin, which is typically used to combat jet lag, can help to strengthen our bones.

A total of 81 women between the ages of 56-73 participated in the study. Over a one-year period, forty of the participants were given a melatonin supplement (either 1 or 3 mg) every evening, while the remainder were given a placebo.

“Our research shows that there was a difference in bone mineral density or BMD in the neck of the femur among the women who received melatonin, compared to those who received a placebo. In the group who were given melatonin, there was an overall increase in the calcium content in the neck of the femur of up to 2.3 per cent after a year. So there is plenty of evidence to suggest that melatonin has a potential effect when it comes to protecting our bones,” says Anne Kristine Amstrup, PhD student from Aarhus University and medical doctor at Aarhus University Hospital.

She has headed the research project, which has been carried out in collaboration with research colleagues from Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital. The results were recently presented to international researchers at the ECTS-IBMS 2015 conference in the Netherlands.

Major perspectives

The women did not only gain stronger bones. The melatonin supplement also turned out to have other positive effects on the body:

“The women in the test group also lost an average of approximately seven per cent body fat. They did not loose weight but there was a tendency towards increased muscle mass. And, of course, this is really good news if melatonin also benefits the body in this way,” says Anne Kristine Amstrup.

Each year, approximately 7,000 people over the age of 65 suffer hip fractures, which are often caused by osteoporosis. So any future medication against weakening bones would greatly benefit many people.

However, Anne Kristine Amstrup emphasises that a larger study ought to be conducted to determine how melatonin can best be used to strengthen bones, including doses and how to administer it, before specific recommendations about melatonin supplements for the elderly can be made.

Source: Aarhus University

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