Science Update

New review shows melatonin supplementation may be a promising adjunct for liver disease

Chronic liver diseases are a worldwide problem, with inflammation, oxidative stress, and mitochondrial dysfunction being the main mechanisms for the progression of disease. According to a new review published three days ago in Nutrients, researchers demonstrate that melatonin may be promising in the prevention and treatment of a variety of liver diseases.

Melatonin is an indoleamine whose main role is in the regulation of the neuro-immuno-endocrine system found in all microorganisms. It often used to support sleep or for its antioxidant properties in cancer; however, more and more studies are demonstrating its wide-reaching benefits.

After childhood and specifically in the elderly, melatonin secretion decreases and may be related to chronic diseases, so increasing dietary intake or supplementation may be important for these individuals.

The most common alterations in liver disease are a result of fibrosis, inflammation, steatosis and carcinogenesis. Liver fibrosis is a reversible process and regression of diseases at this stage is an important strategy in preventing disease progression.

Melatonin supplementation at 10 mg/day has been shown to significantly increase plasma melatonin levels and reduce liver enzymes, demonstrating its benefits in human liver diseases.

Researchers have shown that melatonin supplementation can improve hepatic mitochondrial function, reduce oxidative stress, and improve mitochondrial function. Melatonin in the hepatocytes plays a protective role on mitochondrial dysfunction and helps to inactivate fibrogenesis. As a result, melatonin reduces damage, organ dysfunction, and inflammatory responses.

Other nutritional supplements that may be beneficial for liver health are probiotics and fish oil. Probiotics have been shown to reduce liver fat and improve liver enzymes. Probiotics are likely most effective by preventing bacterial translocation and reducing the effects of the intestinal microbiota on the liver. Fish oil supplementation exerts anti-inflammatory actions and restores insulin sensitivity, which is important since many liver diseases are associated with obesity and diabetes.

It is also essential to encourage a restricted carbohydrate diet and adequate exercise to support weight loss in these patients. Individuals with an established disease have higher nutrient demands than what could be obtained from the diet alone and, therefore, dietary supplements including fish oil, probiotics, melatonin, and other antioxidants should be considered to mitigate the pathogenesis of disease.

By Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN, CNS


Source: Bonomini F, Borsani E, et al. Dietary Melatonin Supplementation Could Be a Promising Preventing/Therapeutic Approach for a Variety of Liver Diseases. Nutrients 2018, 10(9), 1135.