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” (June 2005), and “Let There Be Dark—and Melatonin” (March 2006).Melatonin Is Exceptionally Versatile If melatonin supplementation were helpful only with sleep disorders, it would still be a fine thing. Human clinical trials with this versatile hormone have also provided evidence for its beneficial effects in treating a variety of cancers, as well as cluster headaches, anxiety, and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).Does A cause B, or is their association just a coincidence? OK, what about the fact that we eat and drink all kinds of stuff every day, and we show signs of aging as the years go by? Some things are, after all, better for us than others.For example, we comb our hair every day, and eventually it turns gray. Perhaps some foods—French fries and sugary colas, say—do cause aging, in a sense. Better Health = Antiaging = Life Enhancement You see, it’s getting confusing already, and we’re just talking about ordinary food. Doesn’t that usually depend on our age to begin with?
When darkness falls, the absence of light sends signals that cause melatonin output to rise sharply (about 2 hours later), making us feel sleepy.With artificial illumination available 24/7, darkness has become almost a luxury in our fast-paced, highly artificial lifestyle, which tends to override the natural circadian rhythms that evolution designed us for.That can be seriously detrimental to our health in many ways—but supplementation with melatonin can be helpful.**It’s important to realize that melatonin, although it has some sedating properties, does not act as a sleeping pill, but rather as a chronobiotic, a regulator of circadian rhythms.When the same “associative interference” technique was used, but with a day-long period of wakefulness instead of overnight sleep, the researchers found that the declarative memories were highly susceptible to degradation.Thus, sleep appears to provide a tangible memory benefit that persists throughout the subsequent waking day.Most of the information that follows is from two recent review papers, one by scientists in China International Opinion Is Hopeful So, what picture emerges from all this?Chances are, you’ve formed a positive opinion regarding melatonin’s potential for preventing and perhaps treating Alzheimer’s disease—it would be hard not to.Well, then, what about the really good foods—broccoli and green tea, say? What happens when we talk about less common things, such as nutritional supplements? Such questions plague scientists, who seek knowledge and understanding.And what if, as is usually the case, the nutrients in question are endogenous compounds (those made naturally within ourselves), and we alter their normal levels and the delicate chemical balance between them and their cellular surroundings? Most consumers, however, simply seek better health, whether they understand the reasons or not.Melatonin levels peak during the night and fall off by daybreak, when we awake to start a new day.At least, that’s the way it used to be, before Thomas Edison came along and changed everything.