Medicine

Mislabeled melatonin gummies could pose a risk to children

Researchers said the actual amount of melatonin in the products they studied ranged from 74% to 347% of what was indicated on the label.

The label for a bottle of melatonin pills.
Patrick Sison/AP
SMS

A new report published in the Journal of American Medicine Association indicated calls involving children's melatonin ingestions to poison control centers increased 530% from 2012 to 2021. 

One possible reason for the increase is that popular melatonin gummies could be mislabeled, the research noted. 

Researchers at the University of Mississippi and Cambridge Health Alliance analyzed 25 different kinds of melatonin gummies. It found that 22 of the 25 products were mislabeled. The actual amount of melatonin ranged from 74% to 347% of what was indicated on the label, the researchers noted. 

And despite the Food and Drug Administration prohibiting CBD from being added to food products, five of the products had CBD listed as an ingredient.

The study says consuming melatonin gummies as directed could expose children to between 40 and 130 times higher quantities of melatonin than the label says. 

"Given these findings, clinicians should advise parents that pediatric use of melatonin gummies may result in ingestion of unpredictable quantities of melatonin and CBD," the researchers wrote.

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Prior to the pandemic, the researchers estimated that 1.3% of children were given melatonin for sleep, stress or relaxation. This use, however, increased despite a lack of reliable evidence that melatonin is effective, the study noted. 

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health said that melatonin may help certain sleep conditions among children. The agency notes it is unclear whether the benefits outweigh the risks. 

“There are uncertainties about what dose to use and when to give it, the effects of melatonin use over long periods of time, and whether melatonin’s benefits outweigh its possible risks. Because melatonin is a hormone, it’s possible that melatonin supplements could affect hormonal development, including puberty, menstrual cycles, and overproduction of the hormone prolactin, but we don’t know for sure," the agency said.

According to the research published in JAMA, melatonin ingestions among children accounted for 27,795 emergency department and clinic visits; 4,097 hospitalizations; 287 intensive care unit admissions; and two deaths from 2012 through 2021.