Brain Talks: Fighting to remember ~ Phytomelatonin & Alzheimer’s Disease ~ (Part 2)

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. Last month for Brain Talks, and part 1 of this series, I discussed the benefits of melatonin in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, and beyond just that of a sleep hormone. To see that article, follow THIS LINK.

Today, in 2 part. we’ll discuss phytomelatonin (plant based melatonin) and safe supplement sources. Once again, for an in depth explanation into melatonin, benefits of melatonin and effects of melatonin deficiency, see part 1 HERE.

Why you should avoid synthetic

melatonin supplements…

  • Looking for a supplement from a reputable company of good quality is important.
  • As a dietary supplement, synthetic melatonin is unregulated by the FDA. Therefore, actual levels of melatonin, as well as any contaminants, go unchecked.
  • The amount of actual melatonin in supplements is questionable. One study reviewed 31 different brands of Melatonin supplements. The results indicated the actual amount of melatonin in the supplement, differed by a range of -83% to +478% from the amount listed on the label. This makes accurate dosages difficult to determine.
  • Up to 14 contaminants have been found, such as formaldehyde or phthalimide, which is used in pesticides. These are created as a result of the production of synthetic melatonin.
  • Poorly made supplements can cause problems. In 1993, 37 people died and over 1500 were injured from an incurable disease called Eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS).
  • This has led scientists to search for healthy alternatives.

What is phytomelatonin?

Phytomelatonin is plant-based melatonin. The molecular structure of phytomelatonin, N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine, is identical to animal based melatonin (ABM). When scientists realized the many health benefits of melatonin, they began to explore other sources of this powerful hormone. In 1993, plant-based melatonin was first discovered in ivy morning glory and tomatoes . Until that time, melatonin was thought to be a product of the pineal gland in animals only. Over the next few years, melatonin was discovered in tobacco, as well as several edible plants. Since then, several more studies have proven the presence of melatonin in many plant varieties, establishing the fact that melatonin is present in all living beings, with the exception of the potato, which contains no detectable melatonin.

In general, research into the levels of phytomelatonin in plants discovered a wide variety of concentrations. Overall, nuts and seeds, contain the highest concentration of phytomelatonin and fruits contain the lowest. Scientists believe this variation exists due to melatonin’s capacity as an antioxidant and the high levels of oxidizable fats in nuts and seeds.

Best food sources of Phytomelatonin

The table below contains a list of common foods high in phytomelatonin, with the amount measured in picograms per gram (pg/g) of either fresh weight (fw) or dry weight (dw).

Is phytomelatonin a healthy alternative?

Though it is still difficult to find supplements of good quality, phytomelatonin is beginning to emerge into the market. Whole food supplements are the preferred source, such as tart cherries, which most commonly comes as a juice. The question remains: will consuming phytomelatonin foods or supplements, such as tart cherry juice, affect melatonin levels in the body or improve sleep quality?

Research does indicate that consuming foods high in phytomelatonin will increase melatonin levels in the body. One randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled, crossover study, tested the ability of tart cherry juice (TCJ) concentrate to boost urinary melatonin levels. For seven days, 20 volunteers consumed either TCJ concentrate or the placebo . The TCJ concentrate showed significantly elevated melatonin levels .

Another such study looked at whether TCJ enhanced sleep quality in elderly individuals with insomnia. This was a randomized, double blind, crossover study, in which 15 elderly adults received both the treatment and placebo for 2 weeks, with a 2 week washout period. The tart cherry juice group saw significant improvements in all areas of sleep quality.

While more research is needed, these small studies show the potential of phytomelatonin, through tart cherry supplements, to boost melatonin levels and improve sleep quality

Best whole food melatonin supplements

Access to multiple sources of supplements is important for quality control and price comparison. The recommended dosages, up to twice per day, are 240 milliliters of tart cherry juice, 30 ml of tart cherry juice concentrate or 2 tart cherry extract capsules. Below is a list of phytomelatonin supplements. You can follow the links for information on cost.

Who should use caution when taking melatonin and phytomelatonin supplements?

For the most part, melatonin and phytomelatonin supplements are considered by researchers to be safe. However, there are certain individuals who should use caution when taking melatonin or phytomelatonin. The table below contains a list of counter-indications for melatonin supplementation.

Closing thoughts

As a wellness educator and nutrition nut, I always advocate for whole foods over synthetic supplements. While I believe that synthetic supplements do have their place, in terms of disease treatments and deficiencies, the over all healthy person does not need supplements.

The human body was just not meant to handle these synthetic supplements. One of my professors at Hawthorn, a microbiologist at UCLA, once told me “you only absorb 10% of the nutrients in synthetic supplements”. You are ALWAYS better off with the whole food version of a nutrient. This is why I devoted a large majority of my master’s thesis to this concept. That is why, here in this article, I push whole food melatonin supplements over the synthetic counterparts.

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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