Melatonin is a wonder hormone that is far too underrated in terms of its dynamic effects on our health. It can control everything from our sleep/wake cycles to our reproduction, weight, mood and even strong anti-aging and anti-tumor effects. Melatonin is found in many foods such as mustard, goji berries, almonds, sunflower seeds, cardamom, fennel, coriander and cherries. However, it also easily absorbed through quality supplementation in therapeutic doses.
Melatonin is found in animals, plants, and microbes. It is a natural hormone segregated by the body and melatonin levels generally increase in the dark at night. In part, your body clock controls how much melatonin your body makes. Normally, melatonin levels begin to rise in the mid- to late evening, remain high for most of the night, and then drop in the early morning hours.
Light affects how much melatonin your body produces. During the shorter days of the winter months, your body may produce melatonin either earlier or later in the day than usual. This change can lead to symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or winter depression.
“In patients who had SAD, the duration of melatonin secretion became longer in winter and shorter in summer, just as it occurs in other mammals,” lead author Dr. Thomas A. Wehr, a research psychiatrist at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland, stated. “That could be controlling this panoply of changes that occurs in people when they get depressed in the winter.”
Natural melatonin levels slowly drop with age. Some older adults make very small amounts of it or none at all.
Low Levels of Melatonin Associated With Increased Cancer Risk
Recent research has suggested that low melatonin levels in the body may be linked to a higher risk of certain types of cancer. For example, a few studies have found that women who work night shifts for many years (and therefore would be expected to have lower levels of melatonin) seem to have a slightly higher risk of breast and colorectal cancer.
Melatonin has been shown to slow or stop the growth of several types of cancer cells and even treat cancer. Some of the studies have suggested that melatonin may extend survival and improve quality of life for patients with certain types of untreatable cancers such as advanced lung cancer and melanoma. Some studies reported that a small number of cancers went into total or partial remission
Peer-reviewed and published research has shown melatonin offers particularly strong protection against reproductive cancers. Cells throughout your body — even cancer cells — have melatonin receptors. So when melatonin makes its nightly rounds, cell division slows. When this hormone latches onto a breast cancer cell, it has been found to counteract estrogen’s tendency to stimulate cell growth.
In fact, melatonin has a calming effect on several reproductive hormones, which may explain why it seems to protect against sex hormone-driven cancers, including ovarian, endometrial, breast, prostate and testicular cancers. GreenMedInfo lists twenty studies demonstrating exactly how melatonin exerts its protective effects against breast cancer.
But melatonin’s anti-cancer effects don’t stop there. While causing cancer cells to self-destruct, melatonin also boosts your production of immune stimulating substances such as interleukin-2, which helps identify and attack the mutated cells that lead to cancer. The greatest area of melatonin research to date has to do with breast cancer. Some of the more impressive studies include the following:
- The journal Epidemiology reported increased breast cancer risk among women who work predominantly night shifts
- Women who live in neighborhoods with large amounts of nighttime illumination are more likely to get breast cancer than those who live in areas where nocturnal darkness prevails, according to an Israeli study
- From participants in the Nurses’ Health Study, it was found that nurses who work nights had 36 percent higher rates of breast cancer.
- Blind women, whose eyes cannot detect light and so have robust production of melatonin, have lower-than-average breast cancer rates
- When the body of epidemiological studies are considered in their totality, women who work night shift are found to have breast cancer rates 60 percent above normal, even when other factors such as differences in diet are accounted for.
Stimulates Beige Fat
Spanish scientists have discovered that melatonin consumption helps control weight gain because it stimulates the appearance of ‘beige fat’, a type of fat cell that burns calories in vivo instead of storing them. White adipose tissue stores calories leading to weight gain whereas ‘beige fat’ (also known as ‘good or thinning fat’) helps regulate body weight control, hence its metabolic benefits.
In the Journal of Pineal Research, scientists from the University of Granada Institute for Neuroscience, the Hospital Carlos III, Madrid, and the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio (USA) have revealed, for the first time, the previously unknown enigma of why melatonin has metabolic benefits in treating diabetes and hyperlipidemia.
In earlier publications, the researchers analysed the effects of melatonin on obesity, dyslipidemia, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes mellitus associated with obesity in young obese diabetic Zucker rats–an experimental model of metabolic syndrome.
In view of their most recent results, it seems the key lies in the fact that chronic melatonin consumption not only induces the appearance of ‘beige fat’ in obese diabetic rats, but also increases its presence in thin animals used as a control group. ‘Beige fat’ cells are found in scattered lentil-sized deposits beneath the inguinal skin in obese diabetic Zucker rats.
These findings, together with the pharmacologically safe profile of melatonin, mean it is a potentially useful tool both in its own right and to complement the treatment of obesity. Sleeping in the dark and consuming these foodstuffs could help control weight gain and prevent cardiovascular diseases associated with obesity and dyslipidemia.
The study–coordinated by University of Granada lecturer Ahmad Agil–showed that chronic administration of melatonin sensitizes the thermogenic effect of exposure to cold, heightens the thermogenic effect of exercise and, therefore, constitutes excellent therapy against obesity. The fact is that one of the key differences between ‘beige fat’, which appears when administering melatonin, and ‘white fat’, is that ‘beige fat’ cell mitochondria express levels of UCP1 protein, responsible for burning calories and generating heat.
Melatonin has been found to promote health in many other ways:
- Melatonin can protect against heart disease. It’s been shown to increase “good” (HDL) cholesterol and play a role in lowering blood pressure. Melatonin can also protect your heart during a heart attack.
- There is increasing evidence that melatonin secretion is related to migraine and headache disorders, Dr. Mario F. P. Peres, of Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, in Sao Paulo, and colleagues note in the medical journal Neurology. After 3 months of melatonin supplementation, subjects experience a 50 percent reduction in headache frequency.
- Melatonin is highly beneficial in those with diabetes. It protects the pancreatic cells, slowing down the progression of this disease. It also has very strong anti-oxidant properties reducing the damage to kidneys, eyes and circulation that is common in those with diabetes.
- Melatonin protects against Alzheimer’s disease and slows down progression in the early stages of the disease. This is due to its strong anti-oxidant properties along with its ability to readily cross the blood-brain barrier.
- Melatonin may help prevent osteoporosis. While further research is needed, early studies suggest that melatonin may prevent bone loss and increase new bone formation.
- Those who struggle to lose weight may benefit from melatonin. Lack of sleep causes an increase in appetite through disruption of your appetite hormones resulting in the consumption of more food in those who are sleep-deprived.
Why Quality Supplementation is Important
Some reports show that around age 6, melatonin secretions from the pineal gland begin to decrease due to the increased intake of food as we grow (melatonin is thought to be found in all foods). But the melatonin in foods may not be enough to replace the needs in the body, so it is highly recommended to use dietary supplementation as a means of receiving additional melatonin.
There is relatively good evidence that melatonin supplements can influence sleep and fatigue and can help with jet lag and some sleep problems.Melatonin is a well tolerated, non-habit-forming agent which does not produce grogginess. Some research shows that melatonin affects not only how quickly people fall asleep but also the duration and quality of sleep.
More evidence is coming forward showing that melatonin, when taken as a supplement, can stop or slow the spread of cancer, make the immune system stronger, or slow down the aging process.
In most cases, melatonin supplementation is safe in both low doses for short-term and long-term use.
How much and what kind of melatonin should you take?
Life Choice uses the purest source of melatonin in the world. They only use 100% DMF (drug master file) patented pharmaceutical grade raw material; paying 700% more for their raw material than can be purchased without a patent. Why? The reasons are two-fold: first, the material is clinically researched, and secondly, the quality is consistently high with each order. Small batch manufacturing and the selection of raw materials create the difference that your body will notice.
Recommended dosage for adults in 5ml-15ml per day.
Dave Mihalovic is a Naturopathic Doctor who specializes in vaccine research, cancer prevention and a natural approach to treatment.