Did you know…
- One person in the United States develops Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) every 65 seconds.
- Alzheimer’s disease, the sixth leading cause of death.
- 5.8 million Americans are living with AD, with this number expected to reach 14 million by the year 2050.
- Deaths from AD increased by 145 percent between 2000 to 2017
- Approximately one in three seniors (65 years or older) die from AD or some form of dementia, more than breast and prostate cancer combined.
- There is currently NO EFFECTIVE TREATMENT for this devastating disease.
For more information on Alzheimer’s disease, see this Brain Talks article: A Beginner’s Guide to Alzheimer’s Disease.
Part of my master’s thesis was showing the benefits of melatonin, in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Today, I’m going to share a bit of that information with all of you. There’s a lot of information, so, I’ve decided to break this into a 2 part series. This article discusses melatonin. In part 2, we’ll discuss phytomelatonin (plant based melatonin) and safe supplement sources.
What is melatonin?
Before I get to phytomelatonin, it’s important to know about melatonin. You have more than likely heard of this hormone as a key to healthy sleep, which is very true. However, It’s far more important to the body than a sleep hormone, which is what I discovered in my thesis research.
Melatonin, N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine, is a neurotransmitter produced by the pineal gland. Other melatonin producing sites can be found in the retina and throughout the digestive system. However, melatonin produced in the pineal gland is known to be more powerful and concentrated than is produced elsewhere in the body.
Pineal produced melatonin is also the substance used to regulate the circadian rhythm and internal body clock.
The primary function of melatonin is regulation of the daily light/dark cycles within the body. This light-dark cycle, or circadian clock, controls the production of melatonin. Melatonin is produced from tryptophan, which is converted into serotonin. Through a light-dependent process, part of that serotonin is sent to the pineal gland, where it is converted into melatonin.
Melatonin is then slowly released in the evening, as darkness approaches. This release increases throughout the night, reaching a peak between 2:00 and 4:00 a.m.
In my previous Brain Talks article, I discussed Alzheimer’s disease and possible causes. Here’s a reminder of five main lifestyle causes:
- Chronic inflammation
- Insulin resistance
- Brain supporting nutrient deficiencies
Benefits of Melatonin
As I discovered in my research, Melatonin is a wonder hormone. Here are just some of the wonderful things it does in relation to the 5 causes of Alzheimer’s disease:
- Melatonin is a potent anti-inflammatory agent, especially in regard to age-related neuroinflammation, as is seen in Alzheimer’s disease.
- Melatonin down regulates or stops the of proinflammatory process. (slows it down)
- These age-related anti-inflammatory effects of melatonin also extend to other parts of the body including the liver, pancreas and lungs.
- The most important benefit of Melatonin in relation to Alzheimer’s is: Melatonin also inhibits the secretion of amyloid plaque, seen in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
- Melatonin decreases insulin secretion.
- Insulin is made in the pancreas. Melatonin receptors, known as MT-1 and MT-2, are present on pancreatic cells.
- Melatonin stops insulin from being produced. Melatonin activates these MT-1 and MT-2 receptors, which stop two insulin stimulating messengers, cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) and cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP).
- Melatonin is known as “the regulator of regulators.”
- One function of melatonin is to regulate the levels of all other hormones.
- Melatonin maintains homeostasis or balance throughout the body by fine tuning the levels of other hormones.
- Melatonin is known to directly regulate the production of thyroid hormones.
- Melatonin is also known to boost production of BDNF – Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor, which stimulates the growth of new neurons. As you might imagine, this is important for Alzheimer’s disease.
TOXINS AND OXIDATION
- Melatonin is a powerful and effective of antioxidant and anti-toxin agent.
- Melatonin directs free-radical scavenging throughout the body.
- The many protective benefits of melatonin include: the reduction of free-radicals, the regulation of immune responses, reduction of toxic substances and protection for the liver.
Melatonin production decreases with age: a 10 year old produces thirty to fifty percent more melatonin than a 60 year old. Research indicates that individuals with Alzheimer’s disease have lower melatonin levels than peers of the same age. This deficit is seen by Alzheimers researchers as a contributing factor in the development of the disease. Some other causes of Melatonin deficiency include:
- A malfunctioning circadian clock
- There is some evidence that Electro-Magnetic Fields (EMF) affect melatonin production
- Zinc and Magnesium deficiency – these minerals are needed in the production and secretion of melatonin.
- Some drugs inhibit production including: caffeine, NSAIDS (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs), Beta blockers
What happens when you’re Melatonin deficient?
- Sleep disturbances
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Increased risk of cancer
- Insulin resistance
- Type 2 diabetes
- Alzheimer disease
- Parkinson disease
- Restless legs
- Sleep problems/insomnia
- Moodiness or depression
- Intestinal problems
- Increased aging
As you can see, melatonin is much more than just a sleep hormone. It is a master hormone, a regulator of regulators. It controls other hormones, levels of inflammation, Alzheimer’s causing amyloid plaque to name just a few. In the next issue of Brain Talks, I’ll touch on phytomelatonin, which is plant based melatonin and safe sources of this whole food supplement.
We covered a lot of science in today’s article. Let me know if you have any questions.
Until next time, Namaste my friends!
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