Melatonin is naturally occurring substance, present inmicrobes, plants and animals, including the humans. In humans and other mammalsmelatonin is secreted by the pineal gland, located in the brain. Bone marrowcells, lymphocytes and epithelial cells can also secret this hormone. This substanceis well known as the “hormone of darkness”, because it is secreted during thedark part of the day. Even in animals active during the night time, this hormone is still secreted in the darkness.
There are several biological functions of this substance. Thelevel of melatonin varies throughout the day, which in turn causes circadianrhythm of some biological functions in humans. Melatonin is also found topossess powerful antioxidant properties and to protect the DNA in humanbody. It plays an significant part in anti-aging and scientistshave noticed that melatonin does actually decrease with age, supporting thetheory of its function.
Some of the products containing melatonin have been usedsince 1990s as dietary supplements. While these supplements are available as OTC(over the counter) in the United States, in Europe and many other countries allover the world patients need prescription for them. One of these productscalled Circadin is approved to be prescribed to patients suffering frominsomnia in Israel and some European countries.
Certain groups of people should avoid melatonin supplementsbecause of the lack of data on humans. Children, pregnant women andbreastfeeding moms should never use any of the supplements that weren’t studiedthoroughly and properly. Couples trying to conceive a child should also avoidmelatonin supplements. If you suffer from severe allergies, HIV or cancermelatonin supplement mustn’t be your choice either.
Can You Elevate Melatonin in Humans?
Studies performed on animals have proved that certain food,rich in melatonin, is able to raise the level of this hormone in their brain. Testingon chicken and rats proved that eating some food can affect the level ofmelatonin present in their bodies. The problem with the studies is that theseare research on animals, not on actual people. Scientists found walnuts to besome of the food which can increase melatonin in animals and thus they believeit can be translated to human body, as well. They can’t say what quantities youhave to take to experience the same benefits as the animals from the study butthey consider these natural sources of melatonin much safer option thanmelatonin supplements.