Melatonin is made from the amino acid tryptophan. This is the same base amino acid which the body also uses to make the brain chemical serotonin. Melatonin is made in the pineal gland, as well as in the retina, GI tract, and by WBCs. As melatonin production goes up, serotonin goes down. If an individual eats too much high glycemic index carbohydrates, they will make less melatonin and instead they will make more serotonin. Our body also needs adequate levels of all of the vitamin Bs in order to convert tryptophan into melatonin. Melatonin levels are highest and night and it is believed that it primarily does its work when we sleep.
What Can Melatonin Do For Me? Melatonin can:
• Improves the release of sex hormones
• Helps the immune system
• Acts as an antioxidant
• Blocks estrogen from binding to many receptor sites
• Decreases cortisol levels, hence helps to better balance the stress response
• Helps prevent cancer
• Improves mood
• Improves quality of sleep
• Stimulates the parathyroid gland
• Stimulates the production of growth hormone
• Helps protect the heart, reduce risk of heart attacks and stroke
• May help to slow down and mediate some of the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease
• May help to decrease the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease
• May slow down
• May help reduce the risk of developing both general degenerate diseases and neurodegenerative diseases
Melatonin and Aging
Lab trials suggest that melatonin replacement increases a chemical called SIRT1. SIRT1 is a longevity protein. SIRT1 is activated by caloric restriction.
Melatonin and The Heart
Individuals with Coronary Artery Disease tend to have low night time (nocturnal) blood levels melatonin. Melatonin has been shown to reduce loss of oxygen and hence prevent reoxygenation-induced damage in individuals with cardiac ischemia and/or exiting ischemic stroke problems. The likelihood of a second or new heart attacks is higher in individuals who have lower nocturnal melatonin levels when compared to individuals who have appropriate nocturnal levels of melatonin. Melatonin appears to be cardioprotective for three reasons, it is an excellent vasodilator, reduces free radicals scavengers, inhibits oxidation of LDL- cholesterol. Also, there appears to be an inverse relationship between melatonin levels and CRP levels after acute MI.
Melatonin and Alzheimer’s Disease
Some of the same symptoms seen when melatonin levels are low, are also common in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. They are: 1) disruption of circadian rhythm, 2) mood changes, 3) delirium. Also, Alzheimer’s is more common is individuals over 70 years of age and melatonin levels found in the cerebral spinal fluid in individuals over the age of 80 were only ½ the levels of younger individuals. Other studies suggest that individuals with Alzheimer’s disease have even lower levels and in some cases somewhere in the range of 1/5 those of the young healthy people. Studies have shown a benefit from melatonin replacement in patients with early Alzheimer’s disease. Melatonin supplementation has also been shown to decrease the damage caused by amyloid beta proteins and tau proteins. Melatonin appears to help guard
against a harmful effects of aluminum which has been shown to cause oxidative changes in the brain that are similar to Alzheimer’s disease. Finally, several studies show that melatonin replacement in animal models of Alzheimer’s disease helps to reduce learning and memory deficits. Finally, several studies also suggest that using melatonin in patients with Alzheimer’s disease improves sleep patterns, reduces sundowning, and slows the progression of cognitive loss.
Melatonin and Mild Cogitative Impairment
Several studies now also suggest that patients who were given melatonin supplementation (3-24 milligrams) for 15-16 months did much better on cognitive tests Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is impairment that precedes actual dementia and about 12% of people with MCI proceed to develop dementia each year.
Melatonin and Stroke
Low melatonin levels appear to increase the risk of stroke. The odds rise more than 2% for every 1 pg/ml decline in circulating melatonin blood levels. In individuals with a calcified pineal gland (the pineal gland is where melatonin is produced) the risk of developing a stroke increases by 35%. Melatonin supplementation has been shown to shrink the size of the area of infarction in patient’s after acute stroke. It is believed that this is due to melatonin’s ability to neutralize free radical production. Melatonin may also decrease the risk of heart attack and stoke because it can significantly lower circulating cholesterol levels and also decrease blood pressure. Melatonin also appears to have positive values in Closed Head Injuries and Traumatic Brain Injuries.
Causes of Melatonin Deficiency
• Heavy alcohol use and alcoholism
• Magnetic fields
• Tobacco, smoking or chewing
• Numerous medications including benzodiazepines
Symptoms of the Excess Melatonin
• Daytime sleepiness and/or fatigue
• Increase in cortisol which can lead to fat storage
• Intense dreaming and/or nightmares
• Suppression of serotonin which increases carbohydrate cravings
Causes of Excess Melatonin Production
Who Should Not Take Melatonin?
Melatonin should at least be used with great care in people with autoimmune diseases since it can stimulate the immune system. Also individuals who are depressed. It should not be used by pregnant and breast- feeding women, patients taking steroids, or anyone diagnosed with lymphoma or leukemia.
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