Melatonin More Than A Sleeping Aid

Melatonin has been available to the public in the US since 1992. It is usually used as a sleeping aid or for jet lag related sleeping problems. However, in the last decade much more data about melatonin has come out that has proven that melatonin is a major hormone. The pineal gland contains another brain hormone, serotonin, which is converted into melatonin within that gland. Melatonin is a key hormone that regulates the sleep/wake cycle. It works in concert with cortisol, which has the highest level in the morning while melatonin has its highest level in the evening and during the night. Melatonin also regulates the menstrual cycle and determines when women get into menopause.

Lately new information has come to the forefront showing that there are connections to Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, stroke size and recovery from strokes. Even traumatic brain injury can be minimized when enough melatonin is present. In addition melatonin is an important anti-oxidant.

Finally, there is evidence that melatonin helps to determine how well we age.

In the following I like to review some of the evidence for all of these claims.

1. Melatonin as a hormone

Melatonin levels were found to be very low in breast cancer and prostate cancer patients. It has been determined that the immune cells have melatonin hormone receptors and need melatonin for stimulation. Because of the immune stimulatory effect of melatonin, it is often given as a cancer adjuvant treatment to other cancer treating modalities. Ref. 1 describes that melatonin regulates the female hormones (LH, FSH), which then determine when a woman has her menstrual period and also when she eventually enters menopause. The pineal gland is the master gland for the diurnal hormone rhythms.

Melatonin More Than A Sleeping Aid

Melatonin More Than A Sleeping Aid

2. Melatonin levels decline with age

Melatonin levels in both men and women decline as we age. This figure shows that the highest melatonin levels are reached by the age of 10; by the age of 40 only 15% of the youthful levels remain while by the age of 55 only 5% or less of the original youthful levels are left. This explains why older people are more prone to infections (missing immune stimulation) and why the sleep pattern in older people is changed (shorter periods of sleep, less restful sleep). Ref. 1 points out that with insulin resistance (from diabetes or due to excessive sugar and starch consumption) cortisol levels are chronically elevated, which in turn inhibits melatonin production.

3. Melatonin protects from neurodegenerative diseases

A newer application of melatonin is as a preventative in the neurological field, particularly in the area of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and the prevention of strokes. With respect to Alzheimer’s disease studies have shown that patients with Alzheimer’s have much lower melatonin blood levels when compared to age matched normal controls. In ischemic stroke patients it was found that stroke patients had much lower melatonin levels when compared to normal age-matched controls. Other studies have shown that pineal gland calcification was associated with low melatonin levels and a high risk for ischemic stroke. This risk was even higher when the patients had high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol/triglycerides. When a stroke has occurred, it is important that the free radicals are removed as quickly as possible, which is where the antioxidant properties of melatonin fit into a rehabilitative program. The presence of melatonin enhances brain plasticity. However instead of using melatonin after a stroke, it is much better to use melatonin regularly before a possible stroke, as this gives a better chance reducing the size of the stroke. This in turn will lead to a faster and more complete recovery after a stroke.

Another important disease of the elderly is Parkinson’s disease. Melatonin helps to prevent oxidative damage to the dopamine producing cells in the basal ganglia thus preventing Parkinson’s disease. As with Alzheimer’s disease, there is a correlation of low melatonin levels and this neurodegenerative disease, which goes beyond the age-related reduction of melatonin levels. In experimental Parkinson’s disease models in mice melatonin was highly effective in preventing deterioration of Parkinson’s disease.

4. Melatonin may extend life

The combination of being a free radical scavenger, an immunostimulant and an integral key hormone allow melatonin to have beneficial effects in the aging process. When melatonin supplements are given, the stimulation of the immune system can cut down infection rates in the elderly, prevent and mitigate degenerative diseases of the brain (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s), re-establish sleep/waking rhythms and help reduce arthritis.


Melatonin is a widely used sleep aid. As it is practically absent in people beyond the age of 55, it makes sense to supplement with melatonin in that patient group. However, there are side effects particularly in people on blood thinners as coumadin competes with melatonin in getting eliminated through the cytochrome P450 liver enzyme system. This will result in longer bleeding times in patients on blood thinners who also take melatonin supplements. It is important that patients discuss this with their doctors. However, given all of the benefits described above, for the vast majority of the baby boomers melatonin supplementation would be very beneficial. Doses as a sleep aid vary between 1mg and 5mg at bedtime for most people. Cancer patients require higher doses (10 to 20 mg per day).

More information on melatonin, which is at the center of the circadian hormone rhythm as the key hormone switching from day to night and welcoming the day by switching its secretion from the pineal gland off in the morning: https://www.askdrray.com/how-to-cope-with-time-switches/


1. Datis Kharrazian: “Why isn’t my brain working?” Copyright 2013, Elephant Press, Carlsbad, CA, USA (pages 306-310).

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014


Mechanical Heart As Transplant Alternative

The device called HeartMate II (see image) is comparable in size and weight to a D-size battery, and it is the latest development to assist the left side of the heart. Older models were pulsating in nature, whereas the HeartMate II produces a continuous flow of blood. As a result of this, recipients of the device no longer have a discernible pulse, nor can their blood pressures be taken with the cuff around the arm. The leg muscles can naturally produce a surrogate pulse, and in the three years of human testing there have not been any problems related to the lack of pulse. It has been implanted at selected American test sites, and recently a 65 year old male patient has become the first Canadian to be implanted with the device at McGill University Health Center. Dr. Renzo Cecere, the heart surgeon involved, is very enthusiastic with the outcome. The patient made an exemplary recovery and stated that he feels more alive than he has in years, which is impressive, as in the past he could hardly take a step. He suffered of end stage left ventricular failure, and at this point only patients with this condition can enroll in the HeartMate II clinical trials.
Dr.Cecere foresees the device being appropriate for many Canadians. The longevity of the “mechanical heart” (it is good for 10 years) will make it a true alternative to a heart transplant. Some patients cannot receive a transplant because of age or medical conditions. Patients with a history of cancer would be the ones who could not be treated successfully with a heart transplant. The anti-rejection drugs that have to be taken on an ongoing basis produce immunosuppression, and this can revive a cancer in remission.

Mechanical Heart As Transplant Alternative

Mechanical Heart As Transplant Alternative

So far the biggest known risk factors are bleeding, as patients have to take small amounts of blood thinners. Another risk is infection.
At this point the cost for the HeartMate II amounts to about $100, 000, and it does not have the Health Canada approval for general use yet.

More information about congestive heart failure: http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/heart-disease/congestive-heart-failure/

Reference: National Review of Medicine, January 15, 2007, page 36-37

Comment Nov. 15, 2012: The device was approved by the FDA in April of 2008.

Last edited November 2, 2014


Blood Clots Related To Air Travel

Extended air travel and sitting in the narrow seat of a plane has been blamed for the risk of deep vein thromboses (DVT). The formation of a blood clot in the leg veins is not only an inconvenience that causes severe leg swelling. It cannot be ignored, as untreated it may progress to an embolus, a clot that travels in the blood stream to lung or brain. Pulmonary embolism can kill! The affected patient needs treatment with blood thinners to dissolve the clot.
Pamphlets in planes encourage the traveler to move legs, feet and toes to counteract a stagnant blood flow in the leg veins. It remains a good practice for any traveler to get up and move about on lengthy flights. Some individuals are more susceptible than others to develop blood clots. It has been known for a while that the use of oral contraceptives is associated with a risk of clotting.
Dutch researchers under the leadership of Dr. Frits Rosendaal of Leiden Medical Center in the Netherlands recently published some of their findings.

They examined, whether sitting for extended periods in narrow spaces would be the main risk for the formation of DVT. The volunteers were 15 individuals with no known risk factors for DVT. The group also had 11 women, who were carrying the factor V gene (a known risk for blood clotting), 15 women who were taking oral contraceptives, and another group of 15 women who had the factor V Leiden and were taking oral contraceptives. The entire group was taken on an 8-hour flight aboard a chartered 757 jet. Blood samples were taken before, during and after the flight. Several weeks later the same people sat through a movie marathon at a cinema, where the seats had the same legroom as the plane. Blood work was done as with the previous setting on the plane. No one was allowed to drink alcohol, take aspirin or wear compression stockings during the experiments. The test persons were asked to remain seated as much as possible, both during the flight and at the movies.
Finally the group was monitored for 8 hours while they went about their normal day-to-day routines.
The results showed that 17% of the entire group had early signs of possible clotting in their blood after the flight. After the movie marathon only 3% showed the same signs. The rates dropped to 1% during normal everyday routines. As predictable, the group with the factor V gene who were also taking oral contraceptives was at the highest risk.

Blood Clots Related To Air Travel

Blood Clots Related To Air Travel

As a result of these findings, the researchers believe, that sitting is not the only risk for the development of blood clots. The combination of low cabin pressure and low oxygen levels in jet travel may increase the risk for DVT in susceptible individuals.

More on blood clots: http://nethealthbook.com/lung-disease/pulmonary-emboli/

Reference: The Medical Post, March 28,2006, page 50

Last edited Oct. 31, 2014