The Health Benefits of Melatonin
Melatonin is a hormone. Produced naturally in the body Melatonin plays a significant number of roles in the maintenance of good health. Melatonin is secreted by the pineal gland, located in the centre of the brain. It is well known for its ability to regulate the circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle) and it regulates the regenerative deep stages of sleep. Â There are many more benefits derived from melatonin, that many of us are unaware of, which will be highlighted herein.
- Strengthens immune system
- Reduces migraine headaches
- Multiple sclerosis
- Protects bone mass
The Circadian Rhythm ( Sleep-Wake Cycle) and its influence on our health
Melatonin levels are highest as the day moves into night. Located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the brain (SCN), which is part of the hypothalamus, one will find the Biological Clock. Based on signals of light and darkness, the SCN communicates with the pineal gland telling it when to secrete melatonin and when to turn it off.Those of us who work nights or have social lives which prevent us from seeing much daylight are doing our bodies a great injustice, for it disrupts melatoninâ€™s natural production. To avoid sunlight altogether, exposing oneself to artificial lighting only, is dangerous for oneâ€™s health and should be prevented as much as possible. In fact at night, even turning on the light to avoid stumbling when nature calls disrupt melatonin production. Rather, a red light should be installed to illuminate the passageway between oneâ€™s bed and the bathroom, since red and orange wavelengths do not suppress melatonin production.
In this digital age, people are using their computers and phones with frequency and doing so at night must be avoided for it suppresses melatonin production keeping you awake for longer. Even having an alarm clock with a blue LED screen will stunt melatonin production.
The Immune System
Melatonin and Cancer
- Evidence points to melatonin being a valuable adjunct to the treatment of cancer for it helps protect the body against the damaging effects of radiation therapy.
- Melatonin is in and of itself cytotoxic. It has the potential to induce tumour cell death. It boosts production of interleukin-2 which helps identify and attack mutated cells that lead to cancer.
- Melatonin slows the spread of cancer by inhibiting the development of new tumour blood vessels.
- Retards cancer progression by activating the cytokine system, which helps inhibit tumour growth, and by stimulating the cytotoxic activity of macrophages and monocytes
- Antioxidant â€“ limits oxidative damage to DNA
- Inhibits tumour growth by counteracting oestrogen. Counteracts oestrogenâ€™s tendency to stimulate cell growth.
- Melatonin is proactive in its protection of sex hormone-driven cancers, including ovarian, endometrial, prostate, testicular and breast cancers12
Breast Cancer and Melatonin Levels
- The journal Epidemiology concluded increased breast cancer risk to women working predominantly night shifts
- Women living in highly illuminated neighbourhoods have a higher risk for breast cancer; according to an Israeli study.
- Participants of the Nursesâ€™ Health Study indicated that nurses who worked the night shift had 36 percent higher rates of breast cancer
- Blind women studied, had a significant production of melatonin due to the fact their eyes cannot detect light. Their breast cancer risk is much lower than the average rates.
Lung Cancer Improved with Melatonin
In conjunction with the 2014 American Society of Clinical Oncology Meeting, these results showed:
- Participants treated with melatonin at night receivedÂ a tumour response over 29 percent
- In comparison, those treated in the morning had a response rate of just under 8 percent.
- 10.5 percent was the response of placebo recipients.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Recent research indicates that light therapy may also be preferable for major depression, outperforming Prozac in many instances. The reason this works so well has to do with the fact that bright light helps reset the biological clock.
Supplementing with melatonin also works, but not to the degree that bright light during the daytime can offer. Light may also provide therapeutic benefits similar to antidepressants by regulating neurotransmitter function.
Multiple Sclerosis and Melatonin Levels
Recent research indicates that a drop in autumn and winter relapses have a potential link to peak melatonin levels which occurs during the darker months.
Conversely, spikes in relapses that occur during spring and summer may be related to decreased melatonin levels.
The study was led by neuroscientist Mauricio Farez at the Dr RaĂşl Carrea Institute for Neurological Research. There were 139 participants in the study., all MS patients living in Buenos Aires.
Thirty-two percent of them experienced a reduction in relapses during fall and winter. This was also compared to spring and summer.
The Scientific American reported:
Patients with MS will have fewerÂ flare-ups during warmer, brighter months due to increased sunlight exposure and Vitamin D (anti- inflammatory properties) This study indicates that relapses do increase in the spring and summer which says that there are other environmental factors to consider such as melatonin levels.
To test their hypothesis:
- The study used mice with autoimmune encephalomyelitis (the animal model of MS)
- Treatment of daily melatonin injections
- Resulting in reduced symptoms and harmful T cells, which are pro-inflammatory.
- Regulatory T cells were increased.
Melatonin is found to protect bone mass
The first group received melatonin treatment for ten weeks.
The second group was left untreated.
The rat femurs were then collected and analysed. What they discovered was that the rats treated with melatonin had a higher bone volume and thickness than the untreated control group. Bone tissues were examined using microscopes and confirmed the increase of bone volume in the melatonin-treated rats. The melatonin-treated rats also exhibited a higher bone stiffness withstanding greater tension than the untreated rats.
- How Melatonin May Benefit Depression, Autoimmune Disorders â€¦ (n.d.). Retrieved from
- Bonmati-Carrion, Maria Angeles et al. â€śProtecting the Melatonin Rhythm through Circadian Healthy Light Exposure.â€ť Ed. Andrzej Slominski. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 15.12 (2014): 23448â€“23500. PMC. Web. 23 June 2016.
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- Rondanelli, Mariangela et al. â€śUpdate on the Role of Melatonin in the Prevention of Cancer Tumorigenesis and in the Management of Cancer Correlates, such as Sleep-Wake and Mood Disturbances: Review and Remarks.â€ť Ageing Clinical and Experimental Research 25.5 (2013): 499â€“510. PMC. Web. 23 June 2016.
- Epidemiology. 1998 Sep;9(5):490-4. Reduced cancer incidence among the blind.
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- Liu, Jie, Fang Huang, and Hong-Wen He. â€śMelatonin Effects on Hard Tissues: Bone and Tooth.â€ť International Journal of Molecular Sciences 14.5 (2013): 10063â€“10074. PMC. Web. 23 June 2016.
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- Hill, Steven M. et al. â€śMelatonin: An Inhibitor of Breast Cancer.â€ť Endocrine-related cancer 22.3 (2015): R183â€“R204. PMC. Web. 23 June 2016.
- Blask, David E. et al. â€śCIRCADIAN REGULATION METABOLIC SIGNALING MECHANISMS OF HUMAN BREAST CANCER GROWTH BY THE NOCTURNAL MELATONIN SIGNAL AND THE CONSEQUENCES OF ITS DISRUPTION BY LIGHT AT NIGHT.â€ť Journal of pineal research 51.3 (2011): 259â€“269. PMC. Web. 23 June 2016.
- Lin, Gu-Jiun et al. â€śModulation by Melatonin of the Pathogenesis of Inflammatory Autoimmune Diseases.â€ť International Journal of Molecular Sciences 14.6 (2013): 11742â€“11766. PMC. Web. 23 June 2016.
- deHaro, Dawn et al. â€śRegulation of L1 Expression and Retrotransposition by Melatonin and Its Receptor: Implications for Cancer Risk Associated with Light Exposure at Night.â€ť Nucleic Acids Research 42.12 (2014): 7694â€“7707. PMC. Web. 23 June 2016.
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Disruption of melatonin circadian rhythm production is related to multiple sclerosis severity: A preliminary study.