Melatonin and the skeleton
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- Amstrup, A.K., Sikjaer, T., Mosekilde, L. et al. Osteoporos Int (2013) 24: 2919. doi:10.1007/s00198-013-2404-8
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Melatonin may affect bone metabolism through bone anabolic as well as antiresorptive effects. An age-related decrease in peak melatonin levels at nighttime is well documented, which may increase bone resorption and bone loss in the elderly. In vitro, melatonin reduces oxidative stress on bone cells by acting as an antioxidant. Furthermore, melatonin improves bone formation by promoting differentiation of human mesenchymal stem cell (hMSC) into the osteoblastic cell linage. Bone resorption is reduced by increased synthesis of osteoprogeterin (OPG), a decoy receptor that prevents receptor activator of NK-κB ligand (RANKL) in binding to its receptor. Moreover, melatonin is believed to reduce the synthesis of RANKL preventing further bone resorption. In ovariectomized as well as nonovariectomized rodents, melatonin has shown beneficial effects on bone as assessed by biochemical bone turnover markers, DXA, and μCT scans. Furthermore, in pinealectomized animals, bone mineral density (BMD) is significantly decreased compared to controls, supporting the importance of sufficient melatonin levels. In humans, dysfunction of the melatonin signaling pathway may be involved in idiopathic scoliosis, and the increased fracture risk in nighttime workers may be related to changes in the circadian rhythm of melatonin. In the so-far only randomized study on melatonin treatment, no effects were, however, found on bone turnover markers. In conclusion, melatonin may have beneficial effects on the skeleton, but more studies on humans are warranted in order to find out whether supplementation with melatonin at bedtime may preserve bone mass and improve bone biomechanical competence.