Melatonin, All About
Source: Mercury Detoxification, by Dr. Mercola.
Melatonin: The pineal hormone that helps to regulate the sleep/wake cycle, melatonin is also an anti-oxidant. It is relatively unique among natural anti-oxidants in that it is a terminal antioxidant: once oxidized, it cannot be reduced36.
This characteristic means that melatonin cannot participate in destructive redox cycling, where an oxidized compound is reduced by oxidizing another compound. One study has found that neurons are protected from mercury damage by hormonal levels of melatonin37.
Melatonin is also concentrated in the mitochondria and protects them from oxidative damage.38 Aside from its anti-oxidant properties, melatonin helps to regulate the sleep/wake cycle, which is often seriously deranged in autistic children. Its long-term use in institutionalized children has established its safety39.
Doses of up to 0.1 mg/kg at bedtime should be adequate to help with sleep disturbances. Some clinicians have noted that smaller doses of melatonin (0.3 mg in adults) are just as effective for sleep and may cause fewer problems with nightmares and/or night terrors.
A sustained release form of melatonin is currently under development and should help with those children who awaken four to six hours after the dose of melatonin. 13
Source: Teflon,, by Dr. Mercola.
Nature attempts to protect itself from persistent fat soluble substances by converting them to water soluble substances, which can then be excreted through the kidney. If this strategy fails then they are stored in our fat.
In the case of persistent (or permanent) water soluble substances like fluoride or lead, the body will excrete as much as it can through the kidney and what it can't ends up largely in our bones.
However, in the case of both fluoride and lead other more sensitive organs like the brain and pineal gland may also have mechanisms which allow their accumulation.
Returning to organofluorine compounds, it is also interesting to note that there are two forms of fluoride found in human plasma: free (or inorganic) fluoride and bound fluoride.
According to Gary Whitford in his book, "The Metabolism and Toxicity of Fluoride" (Karger,1996), "perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA, octanoic acid fully saturated with 15 fluorine atoms)...(constitutes) about 20-30% of the nonionic fluoride in human plasma.
This surface-active agent, which is a component of plasticizers, lubricants, wetting agents, emulsifiers and other products, appear to enter the body through contact with or ingestion of commercial products. It has a very long half-life (approx. 1.5 years) in human males (Ubel et al., 1980)".
Thus the question raised by this new report in Nature is how many of the byproducts from heating Teflon are accumulating insidiously in our bodies like PFOA? Are any being passed onto the fetus? Will any of them turn out to be endocrine disrupters?
Source: The Truth About Saturated Fat, by Dr. Mercola.
The Wulzen Factor: Called the "antistiffness" factor, this compound is present in raw animal fat. Researcher Rosalind Wulzen discovered that this substance protects humans and animals from calcification of the joints-degenerative arthritis.
It also protects against hardening of the arteries, cataracts and calcification of the pineal gland.63 Calves fed pasteurized milk or skim milk develop joint stiffness and do not thrive.
Their symptoms are reversed when raw butterfat is added to the diet. Pasteurization destroys the Wulzen factor-it is present only in raw butter, cream and whole milk.
Melatonin and its precursors. If behavioral changes do not work, it may be possible to improve sleep by supplementing with the hormone melatonin. However, I would exercise extreme caution in using it, and only as a last resort, as it is a powerful hormone.
Ideally it is best to increase levels naturally with exposure to bright sunlight in the daytime (along with full spectrum fluorescent bulbs in the winter) and absolute complete darkness at night.
One should get blackout drapes so no light is coming in from the outside. One can also use one of melatonin's precursors, L-tryptophan or 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP).
L-tryptophan is the safest and my preference, but must be obtained by prescription only. However, don't be afraid or intimidated by its prescription status. It is just a simple amino acid.
You will want to avoid eating snacks, particularly grains and sugar, just before bed, as this will raise blood sugar and inhibit sleep. Later, when blood sugar drops too low (hypoglycemia), you might wake up and not be able to fall back asleep.
However, eating a high-protein snack along with a small piece of fruit several hours before bed may help you sleep. The protein can provide the L-tryptophan needed to produce melatonin and serotonin, and the fruit can help the tryptophan cross the blood-brain barrier.
Source: Sleep Tight with Melatonin, by Andy Coghlan.
People who are totally blind don't sleep too well at night. Their body clocks go awry because they can't sense any light, so they can't tell night from day. Now researchers have found a treatment: the anti-jet-lag hormone, melatonin.
"Light is the major time cue in humans," says Debra Skene of the University of Surrey in Guildford. In sighted people with normal body clocks, levels of melatonin in the blood peak at around 4 am.
In totally blind people, melatonin peaks at a different time each day. Their sleep suffers, so they often nap during the day to compensate for their disturbed nights.
Skene wondered if the body clock of completely blind people could be reset with daily doses of melatonin. In an experiment on seven totally blind volunteers with severe sleep disruption, she found that the melatonin treatment gave most a better night's sleep, with fewer daytime naps.
Later she found that the treatment only reset the clock if it was timed correctly in relation to the subject's own melatonin peak. "Melatonin can work, but we need to know the status of the clock before we begin treatment," she says.
Dr. Mercola's Comment
I don't normally advise individuals to take melatonin, but it is clearly useful for shift workers and those with jet lag.
However, it now appears that being blind may be another indication for using it. I would remain cautious of the dose however, and probably use a small dose, something like several hundred micrograms per night.
In most patients, I usually prefer to use L-tryptophan, which is an amino acid precursor to melatonin, in order to allow the body to manufacture it itself.
Winter Depression Linked With Melatonin Cycle
People with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) instinctively shift their melatonin levels with the seasons, paralleling the hibernation patterns of mammals.
This does not appear to be true for those who don't react to shorter days and longer nights with deepening depression.
In patients who had SAD, the duration of melatonin secretion became longer in winter and shorter in summer, just as it occurs in other mammals. That could be controlling this panoply of changes that occurs in people when they get depressed in the winter.
Seasonal affective disorder, or "winter depression," is a psychiatric disorder that strikes during winter months, when daylight hours are naturally shortened. The disorder in humans seems to mimic the behavior exhibited by hibernating animals, such as increased sleep and decreased activity.
Melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland in response to the darkness of nighttime, promotes sleep and helps regulate the body clock. Hibernation in mammals is triggered when the brain responds to the body's increase in melatonin production.
Prior research suggests that people with seasonal affective disorder are unable to use artificial light to readjust their body clock, but remain susceptible to the seasonal rhythms of shorter daylight hours during wintertime.
Healthy individuals were immune to shifts in the natural daylight, with their melatonin levels remaining stable throughout the seasons.
However, those with winter depression had a moderate decrease in the length of time they produced melatonin during the summertime.
The duration of active melatonin secretion was about 9 hours in the control group, whether in winter or summer. In the SAD group, active melatonin secretion was 9 hours in winter and 8.4 hours in summer.
Dr. Mercola's Comment
There are many reasons that people get sick in the time period described. I am convinced that lack of sunlight is one important variable. Adequate amounts of unfiltered sunlight is critical to good health.
We all need about one hour per day and most of us don't come close to that. Unfiltered sunshine is important. If you are wearing glasses or sitting in front of a window, some of the 1500 wavelengths present in sunshine will not reach your retina and nourish your brain.
These wavelengths are primarily ultraviolet which do provide health benefits and do not promote all the skin cancers that traditional medicine preaches, if they are taken in moderate amounts.
One of the ways that you can compensate for the lack of sunshine in the winter is through the use of full spectrum lights. It is VERY important to know that the only valid full spectrum lights are fluorescent lights.
Incandescent neodymium bulbs frequently advertised for under $10 are NOT full spectrum. They are color corrected and will NOT provide the same benefits.
The newer full spectrum bulbs are compact fluorescents and can screw in a normal fixture. They have an electronic ballast and have much less EMF radiation. They are costly though and typically run about $30-40 a bulb.
Over the years though they do return on the investment as they consume about 80% less electricity for the same amount of light.
If one factors in the health benefits it is a non-issue; the bulbs win hands down. I have used them over the past five years and they have provided an enormous benefit in my ability to tolerate the miserable cold and dark winter months.
I find that the least expensive solution for full spectrum light is to go to Home Depot to obtain the 4 foot full spectrum bulbs there for about $7.
These, of course, will require a fluorescent fixture. When you put the bulbs in the fixture it is important to remove the diffuser panel if it is a solid sheet of plastic, as it will filter many of the beneficial wavelengths.
You can replace it with no diffuser or one that has an open grill.
The lack of sunshine also mandates an earlier sleeping time. Ideally we should be in bed shortly after sunset. In the winter that is 4:00 PM. Most of us go to bed six or more hours later which tends to impair the adrenal glands and secondarily the immune system.
Other issues which can stress the immune system include the major increases in sugar consumption around the holidays and for most people an increase in emotional stress.
For example, people with few family and/or friends to share the holidays with, may feel even more alone and depressed. Also, some people may feel stressed out about having to cook and entertain large family get-togethers.
This theory would explain why children's increase in sickness was not as dramatic, since they wouldn't have the same emotional stresses.
In addition to the melatonin mentioned in the article, sunlight also provides vitamin D, which serves many vital functions as well.
Night time Magnetic Field Exposure Linked to Reduction in Melatonin
New evidence suggests that an increase in magnetic field strength in a woman's bedroom is associated with a reduction in melatonin production, according to a presentation at the American Cancer Society Science Writers Seminar.
The study is part of a research effort exploring hypothetical links between melatonin, estrogen, and breast cancer. Dr. Scott Davis of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, says that this study helps bridge a gap in electromagnetic field research.
Animal experiments show that magnetic fields suppress melatonin production and accelerate the growth of breast tumors. And small epidemiologic studies indicate that very strong magnetic fields, such as those experienced by power line workers, may increase the risk of male breast cancer.
Dr. Davis says that his work is "the first evidence in humans in a normal living environment, that would suggest that relatively small changes in magnetic fields do have an observable impact on lowering melatonin levels."
In a study funded by the Electric Power Research Institute, Dr. Davis and his colleagues measured magnetic field exposures of 199 women during a 3-day period, using portable magnetic field monitors worn during the day and stationary monitors that measured bedroom field and light exposure during the night.
The women were also interviewed and kept diaries during the study period. These data were compared to the concentration of 6-sulphatoxymelatonin in urine collected during the night. The researchers controlled for age, alcohol use, body mass index, and medications that are known to affect melatonin levels.
Dr. Davis says that a doubling of nighttime magnetic field exposure is associated with an average melatonin production decrease of about 8%. Tripling the nighttime magnetic field is linked to a 15% reduction in melatonin production.
Dr. Davis and his colleagues are now analyzing results from a parallel study of magnetic field exposure and breast cancer rates. If the patterns seen in this case-control study of breast cancer match those seen in the melatonin analysis, Dr. Davis and others say that the finding would strengthen the plausibility of a mechanism linking melatonin production to estrogen levels and thus breast cancer risk.
COMMENT: Melatonin is a very powerful hormone that can have profound effects on human physiology. That is why I rarely recommend it, even though it is available over the counter. It has been heavily promoted for its many benefits, including its powerful antioxidant and anti-cancer effects. However, I believe it probably works best when your own body produces it.
There are limited occasions when melatonin supplementation is helpful. The two I can think of are when one goes through multiple time zones (especially travelling east) and is hit with jet lag and for shift workers. For most other people, I believe that melatonin supplementation risks outweigh the benefits. The converse situation, which may even be more harmful, are circumstances that deplete melatonin production.
That is why EMF exposure can be so detrimental to health. It seems that EMF exposure has very clearly been documented now to decrease melatonin production. This can only lead to adverse health consequences. Issue #40 also reviewed some of the EMF issues.
Sleep Deprivation is Common
One in three people in the US sleeps for 6 hours or less per night, substantially less than the recommended 8 hours, according to a new survey. Indeed, the average man and woman gets 7 hours of sleep a night, and a lack of sleep leads 37% of people to report daytime sleepiness severe enough to interfere with daily activities.
That percentage increases to 52% for shift workers, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) telephone survey of 1,027 people conducted in late 1997 and early 1998.
The report was released March 25 to launch National Sleep Awareness Week (March 30 to April 5). "People have no idea how important sleep is to their lives.
Most of us need 8 hours of sound sleep to function at our best, and good health demands good sleep," said Roth, health and scientific advisor of NSF and director of the Sleep Disorders Research Center at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan.
The survey also found some popular misconceptions about sleep needs. For example, 42% of people believe that aging leads to a reduced need for sleep. But NSF experts say that while older adults may tend to waken more frequently during the night compared with their younger peers, the need for sleep does not decline with age.
The survey also showed that more than 70% of people believe the body can eventually adjust to working a night shift. But in fact, humans are "programmed" to feel most sleepy at night and most alert during daylight hours, according to the NSF.
The survey also found that many people experience sleeping problems, including 43% who suffer from insomnia and a similar amount who snore.
And sleep deprivation can be hazardous to health. About 57% of men and women and 80% of evening- or shift-workers say they have driven while drowsy sometime in the past year, and 23% say they have actually fallen asleep while driving.
About 1,500 people are killed annually by drivers who fall asleep at the wheel. More young people are killed every year by sleepy drivers than drunk drivers, according to the NSF.
COMMENT: Sleep is an essential nutrient that many of us short change. I have certainly been guilty of that in the past. However if you want to stay optimally healthy, it is wise to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night.
Listen to your body, as many of us need much more than 7 hours, perhaps as much as 9 hours every night. Exercise is one of the best things one can do to restore normal sleeping patterns. It is the most effective antidote I know of for people who suffer with insomnia.
Why Take Oral Hormones When Bright Light Might Work as Well?
Light exposure might serve some of the same functions for which people take testosterone and other androgens, according to researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine.
Researchers found that the levels of a pituitary hormone called luteinizing hormone (LH), which increases testosterone, are enhanced after exposure to bright light in the early morning.
The finding supports data that bright light can trigger ovulation in women, which is also controlled by LH, according to one of the study's authors, Daniel Kripke, M.D., UCSD professor of psychiatry.
The study involved 11 men between the ages of 19 and 30 years. They were exposed to bright light (1,000 lux) from 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. for five days and then to a placebo light for five days. The men's LH excretion was measured after the exposures.
Researchers found that LH levels increased 69.5 percent after bright light exposure in the early morning.
Levels of the hormone melatonin, which increases at night and is inhibited by light, were also measured. While animal studies have suggested that melatonin might restrain the effects of light on LH, the current study found no such association.
It has also been found in previous studies conducted by the Kripke group and others that bright light exposure helps alleviate the symptoms of depression, such as sexual dysfunction.
Depressive symptoms such as loss of libido and decreased sexual activity, which are also known side effects of newly developed antidepressant drugs, may be helped by bright light exposure, according to the study's authors.
Dr. Mercola's Comment:
In this exclusive interview with study author Daniel F. Kripke, M.D., UCSD professor of psychiatry, learn how bright light therapy could affect your life.
This natural therapy may be useful for a variety of health problems, from the symptoms of depression to irregular menstrual cycles. Also, find out why sleeping pills are not the answer for insomnia and why eight hours of sleep may be too much.
The following is from an e-interview we recently had with Dr. Daniel Kripke:
Your study found that bright light exposure can increase levels of a pituitary hormone that increases testosterone. What are the practical uses of this finding?
It is too early to say that any practical use has been demonstrated, but there are many potential practical applications. First, part of the antidepressant effect of light may be mediated by increasing testosterone.
Second, increases in testosterone could help with problems of low sexual desire. Third, increases in testosterone could help to preserve and build muscle strength.
You also mentioned that bright light might trigger ovulation in women. Could light therapy be useful for women who are trying to conceive?
We are quite sure that light at night can improve the regularity of women with long and irregular menstrual cycles. We are not yet certain if this is useful for women with infertility.
We know of two women who have tried light at night and have then had babies, but this is not sufficient proof that the light resolved the infertility.
Since bright light seems to offer some health benefits, do you believe that not getting enough light, such as during the darker, winter months, could lead to health problems?
It seems quite certain that insufficient light leads to depression and other health problems, but not just in winter. Even in San Diego, most people spend less than an hour a day outdoors in daylight, and therefore, much of the population gets very little bright light, even in the summer.
Your Web site, discusses bright light as a treatment for depression. When would this be an appropriate treatment?
In my view, just about anybody who is depressed should try bright light in addition to medications or psychotherapy. The only exception is that I do not recommend bright light for bipolar patients (with a history of mania) who are not taking a mood stabilizer. People with retinal problems should check with their eye doctor.
How does light therapy compare to other methods for treating depression, such as antidepressant drugs or counseling?
It is not yet clear if bright light is more effective than drugs or counseling (though it may be, particularly for winter depression). However, bright light certainly works faster. An important point is that bright light has very few side effects and can be added to antidepressant drugs and counseling to get a faster and more complete benefit.
Over a one-year period, bright light will cost less than Prozac or other modern antidepressants and less than psychotherapy.
Are There Side Effects of Light Therapy?
The most important risk of bright light therapy is triggering mania in patients who have had mania in the past. Although there may be some headache, eyestrain, or nausea, this will usually go away within a few hours if the amount of light is reduced.
This is a bit off topic, but I noticed on your Web site that you disagree with recommendations to get at least eight hours of sleep each night. Would you explain why you believe less sleep, like 6.5 or seven hours, may be more beneficial to health?
I have published results from the American Cancer Society's Cancer Prevention Studies--two studies of over 1 million Americans each. These studies showed that people who get six or seven hours of sleep live longer than people who get eight hours of sleep. A new study from Japan shows the same thing.
I cannot understand how anybody would recommend eight hours sleep or more when it is associated with higher mortality than six or seven hours.
Although our survival is the most important part of health, I think the data also suggest that six or seven hours of sleep may be just as compatible with health and success as eight hours. Are people who get eight hours sleep richer or happier? I do not see the evidence.
Also, could you touch on the dangers of sleeping pills, as outlined on your article: The Dark Side of Sleeping Pills?
Most experts recommend against long-term use of sleeping pills, though most usage is long-term. The reasons are that there is more evidence for risks such as addiction, impaired performance, driving accidents and falls, than there is for benefit.
In addition, my research shows that people who take sleeping pills have higher mortality than people with the same amount of sleep and the same amount of insomnia who do not take them.
There have been about 10 studies showing that people who take sleeping pills have higher mortality risk. Some of the mechanisms by which sleeping pills cause death are extremely well understood. For a doctor to prescribe chronic use of sleeping pills is like risking assisted suicide.