Melatonin - Antiaging, Antioxidant and Anticancer Properties

by Dr. S on November 15th, 2009

Melatonin (n-acetyl-5-mehoxytryptophan) is a hormone synthesized from serotonin in the pineal gland located inside the brain, but is also found in other tissues. Tryptophan, an amino acid naturally found in foods like eggs, turkey, and dairy, can cross the blood-brain barrier where it is converted into serotonin, which can be further converted into Melatonin, however, melatonin can itself cross this barrier. Melatonin is referred to as the “hormone of darkness” because it is mainly secreted at night in the absence of light, and typically peaks between 2 and 4 AM. Its synthesis is inhibited by sunlight, and artificial light that night shift workers are generally exposed. Melatonin’s production is highest during childhood then slowly declines (with few exceptions) over a lifetime reaching very low levels - typically around 55 years of age and thereafter.

Researchers believe that it’s both the natural age-related decline and inhibition of melatonin synthesis by nighttime exposure to artificial light, that predisposes individuals to increased disease risk and accelerated aging. Conditions associated with melatonin deficiency are:

* Accelerated Aging
* Brain Degenerative Diseases (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s)
* Depression/Mood Disorders
* Increased Cancer Risk (Breast and Colorectal)
* Increased Cardiovascular and Stroke Disease Risk
* Insomnia

Although melatonin is commonly known for its sleep-inducing properties, many individuals are unaware of its other very important physiological functions including anti-aging, antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. Unlike other antioxidants like vitamin E (lipid only) and vitamin C (aqueous only), melatonin works in both lipid (fat) and aqueous (watery) parts of the cell neutralizing the damaging effects of free-radicals, highly disruptive chemicals that damage mitochondrial DNA, lipids and proteins through oxidative stress. It’s melatonin’s ability to work in both mediums, which makes it such a potent antioxidant.

Because melatonin declines throughout life, reaching very low levels in the elderly, many researchers believe that this decline contributes to aging and its related neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease (Elderly Alzheimer patients have half the amount of melatonin as elderly individuals not afflicted with this dreadful disease). Researchers believe that oxidation and amyloid plaque buildup are contributory factors in the development of Alzheimer’s, and that melatonin’s effectiveness is secondary to its free-radical scavenging properties and ability to inhibit amyloid plaque formation. Although melatonin supplementation has not proven beneficial in reversing advanced Alzheimer’s disease, it has preventative properties as an antioxidant and antiamyloidogenic that warrant its appropriate usage.

Melatonin’s anti-cancer properties are attributed to its antiproliferative, antioxidative and immunostimulatory effects. It is well known that breast cancer tissue contains higher levels of aromatase activity than normal breast tissue – aromatase is an enzyme responsible for converting testosterone into estradiol, a potent estrogen and breast cancer cell stimulator. There is evidence that melatonin protects against breast cancer by inhibiting aromatase expression. Studies show that women, who worked night-shifts resulting in less melatonin synthesis, had higher incidences of both breast and colorectal cancers.

Levels of melatonin can be assessed either through blood or saliva samples; however, collecting your saliva during the nighttime peak hours (2-4 AM) of synthesis is more practical. Knowing your level is important especially when considering supplementing this hormone, and supplementing with melatonin rather than its precursors is more practical and reliable, and should always be done under a qualified healthcare provider’s supervision. The dosage will vary based on particular needs and desired effects. Typically, taking 0.5 to 1mg at bedtime (time-released capsule) is sufficient for sleep inducement and for its other noted benefits.

Appendix D of my book discusses the importance of melatonin and other hormones, and offers a checklist of symptoms associated with their deficiencies or overproduction. A list of diagnostic labs offering both blood and saliva testing is also provided.

Dr. Sardone

Posted in not categorized    Tagged with melatonin, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, Alzheimer's disease, insomnia, stroke, cardiovascular disease, saliva testing, vitamin C, vitamin E, serotonin, tryptophan


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