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Melatonin boosts symptoms of nighttime asthma, researchers find

September 22, 2003|Dianne Partie Lange

Some people with asthma should avoid taking the popular sleep remedy melatonin, researchers have concluded.

Scientists at the National Jewish Medical and Research Center and the University of Colorado had found that blood cells make more inflammation-promoting proteins when exposed to melatonin, a hormone that regulates the body's sleep-wake cycle. Because melatonin levels increase during the night, the Denver researchers looked for a relationship between melatonin secretion and lung function in people with asthma.

Seven subjects with nocturnal asthma -- those who were most troubled with coughing and shortness of breath during the night -- were compared with 13 people with non-nocturnal asthma and 11 healthy people. The researchers found that those with nocturnal asthma had higher melatonin levels and less airflow in their lungs.

"Worsening airflow equals worsening asthma ... and will likely increase symptoms," says lead author Dr. E. Rand Sutherland, an assistant professor of medicine at the research center.

This study was published in September's Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.


Dianne Partie Lange

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