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Take a Merlot pill?


Melatonin may be found in grapes

MILAN, Italy, June 16 (UPI) — Scientists in Italy say they have discovered that the grapes used in popular red wines may contain high levels of the sleep hormone melatonin.

Melatonin is naturally secreted by the pineal gland in the brain, especially at night, and it tells the body when it is time to sleep, according to researcher Iriti Marcello at the University of Milan.

Hey, hey, what do you say:

Until recently, melatonin was thought to be exclusively produced by mammals, but has recently been discovered in plants.

Excuse me, but we’ve known for decades that melatonin is produced by all vertebrates, many, many invertebrates, some protists (including sea kelp), and, yes many plants. Bananas are famous for their high melatonin content.

Iriti’s study, published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, discovered high levels of melatonin in Nebbolo, Merlot, Cabernet Savignon, Sangiovesse and Croatina grape varieties.

“The melatonin content in wine could help regulate the circadian rhythm — sleep-wake patterns — just like the melatonin produced by the pineal gland in mammals,” says Marcello.

However, Richard Wurtman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says he is unconvinced and believes further research is needed to determine whether the compounds discovered are melatonin — or something very similar.

Wonder why Wurtman said this? I’d need to look at the paper – why is it considered to be iffy. Melatonin assays are pain in the behind to do, but they work.

Anyone, whatever benefits melatonin may have to put one to sleep in the evening probably require imbibing vast quantities of wine which also contains alcohol which fragments sleep (or eating a few pounds of grapes not selected for table use) – thus countering the effects of melatonin. Cute idea, anyway.


  1. #1 razib
    June 16, 2006

    merlot is rank.

  2. #2 coturnix
    June 16, 2006

    I am no big fan of merlot, either. Burgundy for me, please. Or Argentinian Malbec.

  3. #3 Abel Pharmboy
    June 17, 2006

    I concur with your “so what?” Praveen Saxena’s group at the University of Guelph showed almost 10 years ago that the anti-migraine herb, feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), and others have considerable amounts of melatonin. As melatonin dysfunction has been implicated in migraine, supplementation might have a conceivable benefit and one Brazilian study has shown prophylactic efficacy with 3 mg/day.

    Melatonin biology is a bit over my head (or at least over my pineal) but I do know that some melatonin receptor agonists and antagonists can bind some 5-HT receptor subtypes, including the 5-HT(1D) subtype where triptan migraine drugs act.

    Interesting that merlot would have melatonin since many migraine sufferers report sensitivity to red wines, but that’s probably due more to tyramine, acetaldehyde, and long chain alcohols. But enriching merlot with more melatonin might make it more palatable.

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