MELATONIN SUPPLEMENTS SUBJECTED TO LIBEL
Over the past month or so, I have seen no less than 6 headlines in my news feed, to do with the dangers of taking Melatonin Supplements.
This one, a diatribe about an article from NCCIH (a branch of the NIH, the National Institute of Health), came in on the 3rd of Feb.
I didn’t save the others.
“Using Melatonin Supplements for sleep is on the rise, study says, despite potential health harms”
DATED February 1, 2022, it totaled 669 words. It was a letter, not an in-depth research paper.
Titled “Trends in Use of Melatonin Supplements Among US Adults, 1999-2018”, the “study”, published in the medical journal JAMA, found that by 2018 Americans were taking more than twice the amount of Melatonin which they took a decade earlier.
It says that Melatonin has been linked to headache, dizziness, nausea, stomach cramps, drowsiness, confusion or disorientation, irritability and mild anxiety, depression and tremors, as well as abnormally low blood pressure.
Further, it says that Melatonin also interacts with common medications and can trigger allergies.
THE PROBLEM WITH THE HEADLINE
The tone of the headline implies that Melatonin is a dangerous substance and should be avoided. In my view it is ill-considered, unreasonable, irresponsible hyperbole, designed to inflate the rare and minor side effects of Melatonin supplements and label them “DANGEROUS”.
So the question arises: why the repeated attacks, discrediting Melatonin supplementation?
Is it simply a routine newsfeed ploy with the object of garnering readership, for profit?
Or is it perhaps, a deliberate, sinister effort to discourage sales of a natural supplement in favour of truly dangerous, addictive, synthetic sleeping pills?
Remember: Melatonin is a normal, natural body chemical, vitally necessary to all plants and animals.
It is in our foods (all foods).
Our bodies need it and most of us over age 50 are deficient.
It is not primarily a “sleep hormone”: it is a vital antioxidant which we need for brain detoxification, mitochondrial support, immune system regulation and cancer prevention.
It may be fair to counsel restraint and advocate caution, but repeated online vilification of Melatonin supplements is suspicious, to say the least.
I suggest that my readers should instead, see my page on Melatonin, or read
the best article
I have seen on the subject (#15, in the list of references appended to the page). save you some time, here is the title of my preferred article (actually, it’s a chapter of a book):
An Overview of Melatonin as an Antioxidant Molecule: A Biochemical Approach
Written By Aysun Hacışevki and Burcu Baba, in the edited volume “MELATONIN”,
Edited by Cristina Manuela Drăgoi and Alina Crenguţa Nicolae, Nov. 5th, 2018,
DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.7942, com/chapters/62672
Here is the abstract: I have modified the punctuation for clarity, but have not changed the words.
Melatonin is an endogenous hormone derived from tryptophan that is mainly released from the pineal gland in the dark.
Melatonin regulates many biological functions such as sleep, circadian rhythm, immunity, and reproduction.
Melatonin has free radical scavenger, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects. It scavenges reactive oxygen and nitrogen species and increases antioxidant defenses, thus it prevents tissue damage and blocks transcriptional factors of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
Due to its small size and amphiphilic nature, it increases the efficacy of mitochondrial electron transport chain and reduces electron leakage.
Melatonin prevents degenerative changes in the central nervous system in models of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and reduces free radical damage to DNA (which may lead to cancer and many other situations).
Consequently, melatonin has beneficial effects including stimulation of antioxidant enzymes and inhibition of lipid peroxidation, so it contributes to protection from oxidative damage.
I looked up a number of recent articles on the subject: none of them is against Melatonin use, although they all include the “LEGALESE” phrasing which indemnifies the writer against lawsuits.
For example, this “CYA”: “there’s not enough information yet about possible side effects to have a clear picture of overall safety. Short-term use of melatonin supplements appears to be safe for most people, but information on the long-term safety of supplementing with melatonin is lacking”.
“The Bottom Line:
Melatonin supplements haven’t been linked to any serious side effects, even at very high doses. However, most experts agree that more research on its long-term safety is needed.
Thus, sensitive individuals, such as children and pregnant or breastfeeding women, should consult their doctors before taking it. Even so, melatonin has an excellent safety profile and appears to be an effective sleep aid. If you often experience poor sleep, it may be worth trying.”
Healthline’s other site says:
“The bottom line:
Melatonin may improve sleep, eye health, seasonal depression, HGH levels and GERD.
Doses of 0.5–10 mg per day appear to be effective, though it’s best to follow label recommendations.
Melatonin is safe and associated with minimal side effects, but may interact with some medications. It’s currently not recommended for children.“
The NIH (US National Institute of Health)
A 2015 review on the safety of melatonin supplements indicated that only mild side effects were reported in various short-term studies of adults, surgical patients, and critically ill patients.
Some of the mild side effects that were reported in the studies included Headache, Dizziness, Nausea, Sleepiness.
The possible long-term side effects of melatonin use are unclear.
“Less is more:” take 1 to 3 milligrams two hours before bedtime.
To ease jet lag, try taking melatonin two hours before your bedtime at your destination, starting a few days before your trip”
“If melatonin for sleep isn’t helping after a week or two, stop using it.
And if your sleep problems continue, talk with your health care provider.
If melatonin does seem to help, it’s safe for most people to take nightly for one to two months. After that, stop and see how your sleep is,”
Even the Mayo Clinic, which usually objects to people taking supplements,
“Melatonin is generally safe for short-term use. Unlike with many sleep medications, with melatonin you are unlikely to become dependent, have a diminished response after repeated use (habituation), or experience a hangover effect.”
MY BOTTOM LINE:
Melatonin has hormonal and nonhormonal functions.
It helps Allopregnanolone put us to sleep.
It controls the circadian rhythm, is a powerful antioxidant, protects membrane lipids and nuclear DNA from oxidative damage, boosts the immune system, is anti-cancer and does many other “jobs” for the body.
WE LOSE MELATONIN PRODUCTION PROGRESSIVELY AS WE AGE.
We end up with deficiency of our best, necessary, natural antioxidant.
It makes good sense to supplement it and 10mg per 24 hours is a “good guess” dose.
Its half-life is only 20-50 minutes, so I fail to understand why it would cause morning drowsiness. It is best taken at night because it asssists Allopregnanolne with brain maintenance and repair, during sleep.
IF YOU CAN’T GET TO SLEEP, the first thought is, are you deficient in MAGNESIUM, or the sleep hormone (Allopregnanolone) precursor, PROGESTERONE.
The second thought is, are you anxious due to low DHEA, Testosterone and/or Oestrogen.
The third: is your problem confusion/anxiety/poor cognition from intracellular hypothyroidism.
In other words, first assess the reason for your insomnia, including careful tests.
Then correct any hormone, vitamin or mineral imbalances.
Then decide whether you need Magnesium, or Progesterone, or T3, or DHEA, or Melatonin or whatever and take a appropriate restorative supplements, as necessary.
Thus the author of the offending article is right, in a way; but shouting “BEWARE MELATONIN” is the wrong way to go about solving the ubiquitous problem of insomnia!
(1) Our various low-hormone-origin debilities are not “curable”. Our hormones all reduce progressively from age 26 and once you have reached the stage of symptomatic deficiency, you need to restore the levels on an ongoing basis.
(2) With specific regard to Melatonin Supplements, 1-5 mg is as good as it gets for sleep, but my suggestion is 10mg every night if you are over 60-YO, for its other, very necessary functions.