From left to right: Dr. Richard Hansler, Mr. Vilnis Kubulins and Dr. Edward Carome.

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Supplementing with Melatonin


Very likely the most effective way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease is to maximize natural melatonin and avoid disruption of the circadian rhythm. However, there is a wide range in the amount of melatonin produced by different people, and it may also become reduced when growing older. For these reasons some people will want to supplement their own melatonin with melatonin taken by mouth or by eating foods that contain it.

The first question that needs to be considered is whether it is safe. In a review paper from the University of Adelaide, South Australia (PMID25643981), the reasons for questioning the safety for children are raised as follows:

(i) it is not registered for use in children anywhere in the world; (ii) it has not undergone the formal safety testing expected for a new drug, especially long-term safety in children; (iii) it is known to have profound effects on the reproductive systems of rodents, sheep, and primates, as well as effects on the cardiovascular, immune, and metabolic systems; and (iv) there is the potential for important interactions with drugs sometimes prescribed for children.

Dr. Resell Reiter, who literally wrote the book on melatonin (Melatonin, Bantam Books, 1995), has enumerated hundreds of diseases and conditions where melatonin is beneficial. He does not mention conditions where it is damaging. However, it is a powerful substance and, if used at the wrong time of day or season of the year, might have unexpected effects. For example, I described at one time that natural fertility increases as the nights are increasing in length (longer flow of melatonin) and suggested that putting on our orange glasses a few minutes earlier each night might improve chances of conceiving. A few months later I received a letter thanking me and saying it had worked for this couple. Taking melatonin by mouth a little earlier each night might have a similar effect, which might or might not bring joy, depending on the circumstances.

In searching for “contraindications for melatonin,” I did not find any results pointing out problems. When used as a sleeping aid, next-day drowsiness is a complaint, and headaches are sometimes mentioned.

The biggest question is whether any melatonin taken by mouth will end up in the brain. The answer would seem to be yes. While many of the studies described in chapter 1 were about internally produced melatonin, many also reported on having used oral melatonin.

This raises the question of whether some of the melatonin agonists (drugs having a chemical structure nearly identical to melatonin and having similar effects on the body) might be more effective than melatonin. Since people haven’t figured out how to make money by doing clinical trials of melatonin (or using orange glasses to maximize it), there is hope the agonist makers might carry out clinical trials. Since their drugs are patented, they can charge a lot if they can show their drug reduces the risk of MCI, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. The oldest one is Circadin and may actually be melatonin, where the patent is on how it is released slowly. It is described by the maker as follows:


Circadin, a novel prolonged release formulation, is able to mimic the internal melatonin secretion profile by releasing melatonin gradually over 8–10 hours from the time it’s is being swallowed.

In well-controlled clinical trials in thousands of insomnia patients, Circadin has been proven to help patients to fall asleep easily and have a good night’s sleep, allowing them to wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the next day.

Circadin is the first sleep agent to demonstrate improvements in next-day functioning and quality of life and is the only licensed medication containing melatonin.

Because of its proven efficacy and long-term safety, Circadin is the only sleep drug approved for treatment for up to 13 weeks, without being restricted to several days as other insomnia drugs.

Because Circadin makes melatonin available in the blood stream in a manner similar to the way it is produced by the pineal gland, it may be a valid way to reduce the risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Other melatonin agonists are romelteon, agomelatine, tasimelteon (Hetlioz), and TIK-301. For the past couple of years, Vanda Corporation has been marketing Hetlioz to totally blind people. The internal clock of a blind person does not get reset by light but can be reset by a small dose of melatonin at the same time every day, typically an hour before bedtime. Since actual melatonin is cheap and readily available but can’t be prescribed by a doctor (and paid for by Medicare or other health insurance), Vanda is ripping off blind people (in my judgment). Vanda does have to pay for their research and all their advertising, so I can’t really condemn them. Maybe they will do other clinical trials to prove the benefits of maximizing melatonin for preventing breast cancer or obesity or dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.


Food Sources of Melatonin

The following is from the Natural Society.

There are several foods, however, that can naturally increase melatonin production, eliminating the need for a supplement. According to GreenMedInfo, researchers with Thailand’s Khon Kaen University found that some tropical fruits have significant effects on melatonin production. The scientists gave study subjects a variety of fruits and then measured the amount of melatonin circulating throughout the body by looking at 6-sulfatoxymelatonin (aMT6s).

The researchers found pineapples, bananas, and oranges were able to increase melatonin presence significantly. Pineapples increased the presence of aMT6s over 266% while bananas increased levels by 180%. Oranges were able to increase melatonin by approximately 47%.

While supplements are often thought of as the natural alternative to prescription drugs, they are made to mimic those things we find naturally in foods. In other words, they too are a poor substitute for good nutrition and some supplement manufacturers (though not all) are in the business to make money, not with noble intentions of increasing the collective health.

Overview of Some Melatonin-Boosting Foods:

  •                                                                                                 Pineapples
  •                                                                                   Bananas
  •                                                                     Oranges
  •                                                              Oats
  •                                            Sweet corn
  •                                     Rice
  •                    Tomatoes
  •          Barley

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