Melatonin pharmacological blood levels increase total antioxidant capacity in critically ill patients

Giovanni Mistraletti, Rita Paroni, Michele Umbrello, Lara D’Amato, Giovanni Sabbatini, Martina Taverna, Paolo Formenti, Elena Finati, Gaia Favero, Francesca Bonomini, Rita Rezzani, Russel J. Reiter, Gaetano Iapichino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


In this study, the aim was to test the biochemical effects of melatonin supplementation in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) patients, since their blood levels are decreased. Sixty-four patients were enrolled in the study. From the evening of the 3rd ICU day, patients were randomized to receive oral melatonin (3 mg, group M) or placebo (group P) twice daily, at 20:00 and 24:00, until discharged. Blood was taken (at 00:00 and 14:00), on the 3rd ICU day to assess basal nocturnal melatonin values, and then during the treatment period on the 4th and 8th ICU days. Melatonin, total antioxidant capacity, and oxidative stress were evaluated in serum. Melatonin circadian rhythm before treatment was similar in the two groups, with a partial preservation of the cycle. Four hours from the 1st administration (4th ICU day, 00:00), melatonin levels increased to 2514 (982.3; 7148) pg·mL−1 in group M vs. 20.3 (14.7; 62.3) pg·mL−1 in group P (p < 0.001). After five treatment days (8th ICU day), melatonin absorption showed a repetitive trend in group M, while in group P nocturnal secretion (00:00) was impaired: 20 (11.5; 34.5) pg·mL−1 vs. 33.8 (25.0; 62.2) on the 3rd day (p = 0.029). Immediately from the beginning of treatment, the total antioxidant capacity was significantly higher in melatonin treated subjects at 00:00; a significant correlation was found between total antioxidant capacity and blood melatonin values (ρ = 0.328; p < 0.001). The proposed enteral administration protocol was adequate, even in the early phase, to enhance melatonin blood levels and to protect the patients from oxidative stress. The antioxidant effect of melatonin could play a meaningful role in the care and well-being of these patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number759
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2017


  • Antioxidants
  • Critical illness
  • Dietary supplements
  • Melatonin
  • Oxidative stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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