Some 25 years ago, many of my patients were working for an IT company that required them to travel frequently. Seeing how exhausted they would be from flying across time zones, I suggested they try melatonin, which was then starting to be touted as a jet lag aid. While melatonin seemed to help some patients, I also noticed that its sleep-inducing effects varied greatly.
Over the years, I’ve learned that the benefits of melatonin extend far beyond sleep. Researchers today are examining the role of melatonin in cancer medicine, brain and immune health. In addition, there is a growing body of research that shows a strong synergy between melatonin and my specialty, omega-3 fatty acids. These studies indicate that melatonin and omega-3s increase the benefits of one another and may also work together to fight aging.
Melatonin is a ubiquitous, multi-purpose molecule. Secreted by the brain’s pineal gland in response to darkness, melatonin is most famous for its role in regulating our sleep cycle.
Melatonin, however, is also found in the intestinal tract, liver and retina, as well as in many types of foods we eat. And beyond its sleep benefits, researchers have demonstrated that melatonin works as an anti-inflammatory agent and powerful antioxidant.
As an antioxidant, melatonin is a natural scavenger of free radicals, or unstable molecules that damage the cells in our bodies. Because of its ability to fight free radicals, melatonin has been found to protect against oxidative stress, which is associated with a range of conditions, including heart disease, cancer, and premature aging.
Neuroscientists in particular are fascinated with melatonin’s ability to protect fatty acids from lipid peroxidation, or a process in which free radicals attack and damage the fatty acids. Because the brain is rich in fatty acids and consumes large quantities of oxygen compared to other organs, it is especially vulnerable to oxidative stress. Today, several studies report that low levels of serum or CSF melatonin may be associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, melatonin directly inhibits the secretion and deposition of the beta amyloid protein and reduces intracellular neurotangles, both biomarkers of Alzheimer’s Disease (1).
Melatonin’s antioxidant function has the potential for other applications as well. Some studies indicate that melatonin may also protect omega-3s from lipid peroxidation. Omega-3s, which are known for their anti-aging benefits independent of melatonin, are highly susceptible to lipid peroxidation, or in more colloquial terms, turning rancid. And if an omega-3 molecule becomes damaged for instance by exposure oxygen, it’s prevented from carrying out its functions in the cell. That’s why melatonin’s ability to shield these vulnerable fatty acids from damage could be a useful way to maintain the safety and efficacy of omega-3 foods and supplements.
Many foods we eat naturally contain melatonin, including fish, eggs, nuts, and extra virgin olive oil. However, the melatonin concentration can vary dramatically from species to species, and depending on how the food was processed.
Aside from protecting omega-3s from lipid peroxidation, melatonin also seems to promote the absorption of these fatty acids in the body. Studies show that, when taken together, melatonin increases the levels of the EPA omega-3 fatty acid in the brain, thus improving the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio (2). This is also significant since scientists note the benefits of EPA for specific cell types involved in reducing neuroinflammation.
Intriguingly, omega-3 fatty acids also appear to be helpful for the body’s production of melatonin. Because omega-3s make up a part of the pineal gland, some scientists believe that the pineal gland may actually be synergistically regulated by the omega-3 molecules (3).
Melatonin and omega-3 may also work together to fight aging via supporting the mitochondria. The mitochondrion functions as the cell’s powerhouse, providing the energy our cells need to function. It is also connected with cellular aging (4). If we can improve mitochondrial functioning and prevent damage to these important cell structures, it’s believed that we can delay the onset of age-related chronic diseases (5).
Both melatonin and omega-3 appear to come together to protect the mitochondria from damage. Research reveals that the omega-3 fatty acid DHA is important for optimal mitochondrial function (6). Similarly, studies have discovered that melatonin exhibits “a protective effect on mitochondrial function” (7), and can even restore mitochondrial function (8).
While scientists are still trying to understand the intricacies of whether mitochondrial damage is a cause or symptom of aging, it is clear that omega-3 and melatonin are crucial for optimal mitochondrial functioning. Take a look at the mitochondrion, an intricate labyrinth of membrane surface. Omega-3s make up a significant portion of this membrane. It is here that the omega-3 molecules meet melatonin during energy creation, directly on the inside surface of the membrane.
Over 24,000 scientific articles and studies have been published about melatonin to date. Many of these studies describe how chronic diseases are often accompanied by melatonin imbalances. For instance, in Europe, melatonin is becoming a popular treatment for children with autism and ADHD for this reason.
Researchers have also looked at other population targets. For instance, because the body’s production of melatonin decreases over time, starting around age 40, there is particular interest in how melatonin can support middle aged and older individuals.
Finally, many scientists are raising the alarm that exposure to light via smartphones and electronic devices at night interferes with the body’s production of melatonin. This is why, in a world of increasing dependency on electronics and light pollution, being aware of our melatonin intake is more important than ever before.
Some people wonder about the safety of melatonin, especially due to its association as a sleep aid. It is important to understand that melatonin is a sleep regulator, helping to improve sleep quality and reduce daytime tiredness. It is not a sleeping pill, and is generally regarded as safe (GRAS) by the FDA.
Reviews examining melatonin have found that this substance has an extraordinary safety record. Animal and human studies show that short-term use of melatonin is safe, even in extreme doses. No studies have found that melatonin supplementation causes serious or lasting adverse effects, although a few minor ones (e.g. dizziness, vivid dreams, headache, nausea, and sleepiness) have been reported (9).
How much melatonin a person needs can vary significantly from one person to the next, depending on factors like age, genetics, lifestyle and diet.
Currently, Omega Restore™ is the only product on the market which harnesses the power of both omega-3s and melatonin. We discovered that adding melatonin directly into our omega-3 oil, as opposed to taking melatonin as a separate pill, made a big difference in the effect. We are still uncertain as to why this is, but believe it could be related to the oil’s increased contact with the mucus membrane in the mouth and upper gastro-intestinal tract.
Online, Omega Restore is available with 2, 3, 5, and 9 mg of melatonin. And for those considering trying it, we recommend starting with 2 mg and increasing the dosage until you feel a positive difference in your sleep quality and daytime energy.
We feel passionate that Omega Restore can be a powerful tool for many people concerned with aging and the effects of oxidative stress. Over the coming months, we’ll be sharing relevant research and some incredible stories from real users of this wonder supplement. Who knows? Your own story may be one of them!
1. Tan DX, Xu B, Zhou X, Reiter RJ. Pineal Calcification, Melatonin Production, Aging, Associated Health Consequences and Rejuvenation of the Pineal Gland. Molecules. 2018;23(2):301. Jan 31, 2018.
2. Sergio A. Rosales-Corral, Gabriela Lopez-Armas, Jose Cruz-Ramos, et al. Alterations in Lipid Levels of Mitochondrial Membranes Induced by Amyloid-ß: A Protective Role of Melatonin. International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, vol. 2012, Article ID 459806, 14 pages, 2012.
3. Catalá A. The Function of Very Long Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in the Pineal Gland. Biochimica et Biophysica Act, Feb; 1801(2):95-9, 2010.
4. Newcastle University. Mitochondria Shown to Trigger Cell Aging: Batteries of the Cells Shown to be Essential for Aging. ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 February 2016.
5. Ana Bratic, Nils-Göran Larsson. The Role of Mitochondria in Aging. The Journal of Clinical Investigation. 123(3): 951-957, 2013.
6. Stanley WC, Khairallah RJ, Dabkowski ER. Update on Lipids and Mitochondrial Function: Impact of Dietary N-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care. 15(2):122-126, 2012.
7. Guo XH, Li YH, Zhao YS, Zhai YZ, Zhang LC. Anti‑Aging Effects of Melatonin on the Myocardial Mitochondria of Rats and Associated Mechanisms. Molecular Medicine Reports. 15(1): 403-410, 2017.
8. Cesarini E, Cerioni L, Canonico B, et al. Melatonin Protects Hippocampal HT22 Cells from the Effects of Serum Deprivation Specifically Targeting Mitochondria. PLoS One. 13(8):e0203001, Aug 2018.
9. Andersen LP, Gögenur I, Rosenberg J, Reiter RJ. The Safety of Melatonin in Humans. Clinical Drug Investigation. 36(3):169-75, 2016.