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atural Medicine Research
 

Melatonin as an antioxidant

© Ray Sahelian MD

The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Natural Medicine Research by Ray Sahelian MD. View all columns in series
Ray Sahelian Evidence continues to accumulate regarding the antioxidant benefits of melatonin. In laboratory studies, melatonin has been found to stimulate natural antioxidant systems such as superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase, in addition to offering protection to the DNA present within cells. While these effects have been observed primarily using pharmacological (very large) doses of melatonin, in a small number of experiments melatonin has been found to have antioxidant properties in small, physiological doses as well. The ability of melatonin in inhibiting oxidative damage has been tested in a variety of neurological diseases where free radicals have been suspected as being in part causative of the condition. Thus, melatonin has been shown to reduce amyloid protein toxicity of Alzheimer's disease, to reduce oxidative damage in some types of Parkinson's disease, to reduce brain injury when exposed to low blood or oxygen flow, and to lower brain damage due to a variety of neural toxins. Since melatonin levels fal1 markedly in advanced age, the implication of these findings is that the loss of this antioxidant may contribute to the incidence or severity of some age-associated neurodegenerative diseases.

Comments: Until more is known about melatonin's long-term effects, my recommendations are to use small doses of this hormone for sleep in the range of 0.3 to 1 mg and not to exceed the use of this hormone more frequently than two or three nights a week. Many people become tolerant to the sleep inducing effects of melatonin when they use it too frequently. Unfortunately, we don't know at this time whether small amounts of melatonin used for sleep purposes provides any significant antioxidant protection. It's possible that larger amounts of melatonin offer more antioxidant protection but then we run the risk of unknown long-term side effects from high dosage use for prolonged periods.

Reiter RJ. Oxidative damage in the central nervous system: protection by melatonin. Prog Neurobiol 1998 Oct;56(3):359-84

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About The Author
Ray Sahelian, M.D., is a popular and respected physician who has been seen on numerous television programs including NBC Today, Dateline NBC, and CNN, and quoted by countless major magazines such as Newsweek He is the bestselling author of Mind Boosters, Natural Sex Boosters, and ...more
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