Melatonin is an important neurohormone that plays a role in regulating the neuroendocrine system, controlling such essential functions as metabolism, sex drive, reproduction, appetite, sleep, balance, and muscular coordination. Melatonin also helps control the immune system in fighting off diseases triggered by bacteria, viruses, chemical pollutants, and excessive free radical activity.
Melatonin is normally released by the pituitary gland in response to environmental changes in light levels. The amount of melatonin circulating in the blood has been shown to rise and fall, being relatively low during daylight hours and rising substantially during darkness. Melatonin levels normally reach their peak sometime after midnight. One of the keys to maintaining good health is to maintain normal, youthful patterns of melatonin secretion and activity within the body. Unfortunately, the body’s supply of melatonin declines progressively with advancing age, which renders us increasingly vulnerable to physiological malfunctions such as sleep disorders and lethal diseases.
Studies at MIT have shown that melatonin can quickly and safely hasten slumber, and that it may also be effective in treating jet lag. Taking melatonin at appropriate sleep times allows the body to naturally adapt to altered day and night patterns. Another important function of melatonin appears to be to protect women against breast cancer. There is a correlation between the decline in the synthesis of melatonin with advancing age, and the progressive increase in the risk of breast cancer in women. Moreover, research studies have demonstrated that melatonin can prevent chemically induced mammary tumors in laboratory rats and can also inhibit the proliferation of human breast cancer cells in tissue culture.
Among the health benefits of taking low doses of melatonin on a nightly basis, which have been reported both by physicians and by those taking the hormone, have been improved sleep, increased sex drive, better resistance to viral infections, increased energy levels, and prevention of the side effects of jet lag and other types of time disorientation. Because of melatonin’s regulatory timing effects on the neuroendocrine and immune systems, which control virtually all our life functions, it is clearly associated with the aging process.
Deficiencies of melatonin have been implicated in such diseases as cirrhosis of the liver, Kline-felter’s syndrome, Cushing’s syndrome, and haemochromatosis, as well as the potentially dangerous side effects of excessive exposure to microwave radiation and electro-magnetic fields.
Evidence suggests that taking daily doses of supplemental melatonin, in the range of 3 to 9 milligrams per day, taken just before bedtime, can serve as a means of protection against breast cancer, other diseases, and the ravages of aging. Melatonin has been taken by thousands of people without any evidence of harmful side effects.
There are people who should not take melatonin. These include women seeking to become pregnant or who are already pregnant and people suffering from immune system cancers such as leukemia, Iymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, multiple myeloma, etc. Melatonin’s antineoplastic effect does not seem to effect prostate cancer, so we advise prostate cancer patients to avoid taking any more than 3 mg a night. For those suffering from metastasized prostate cancer which has become hormone refractory, melatonin/lnterleukin-2 could be beneficial, but there are no studies to rely on yet.