Being one of the millions of people who suffer from insomnia (in my case chronic), I began using the neurohormone melatonin about a year and a half ago-with great success. I was therefore quite pleased to recently receive a copy of Dr. Ray Sahelian's "Melatonin: Nature's Sleeping Pill" and to have discovered that melatonin is much more than a safe and natural sleep aid. While Dr. Sahelian does cover the sleep-aid aspect of this pineal hormone, it is his coverage of the other uses of melatonin that makes this book a must-have addition to any life extension library.
Amongst the lesser known applications of melatonin is its use as an antioxidant. While many antioxidants are unable to enter cells, this proves not to be the case with melatonin, which permeates all parts of cells. Another study found that melatonin inhibits DNA damage when DNA is exposed to a cancer causing agent. This robust activity as an antioxidant and free radical scavenger makes the use of melatonin worthwhile to millions, whether or not they suffer from insomnia.
As I noted above, melatonin is a hormone that is naturally secreted by the pea-sized pineal gland located deep in the center of the brain. With advancing age, the pineal secretes less and less melatonin. This age-related decline in melatonin production may be why older people have trouble sleeping. Decreased melatonin levels mean less scavenging of free radicals in the brain which in turn could intensify the oxidation of neurons and the loss of neurotransmitters. The decline of the pineal gland has become a central focus of aging research and has lead to speculation that melatonin supplementation may well be a practical approach to enhancing life span and well-being.
There is a chapter entitled "Melatonin and the Future" which gives the reader a glimpse of other avenues of melatonin research that hold great promise-such as the use of melatonin to treat swollen prostate glands, lower cholesterol, and treat cancer. And to think that in the 1970s, the pineal gland was thought to be an unimportant vestigial organ serving no significant purpose!
While Dr. Sahelian has done a superb job of sifting through numerous scientific papers and studies, he has kept his explanations straightforward and easily understandable to lay readers without scientific backgrounds. Dr. Sahelian's proficiency for translating scientific issues into simple-but-accurate explanations helps to make Melatonin: Nature's Sleeping Pill very user friendly.
Another aspect of this book worth notice is Dr. Sahelian's discussion of the controversy surrounding the use of melatonin. Dr. Sahelian writes of concerns raised by the esteemed MIT medical researcher Dr. Richard Wurtman in a letter that he wrote when melatonin was being covered by the national media. Dr. Wurtman cautioned consumers not to self-medicate and expressed his hope that melatonin would soon become approved as a drug. As was pointed out in The Wall Street Journal, Dr. Wurtman's cautions must be taken with a grain of salt (or perhaps an entire shaker full!) due to his involvement with a small pharmaceutical company that owns the rights to a patent application for melatonin. Given melatonin's generic status and its over-the-counter availability in most health food stores in the United States, the only way that Dr. Wurtman and his company will see any money is if melatonin were to be removed from the market and made a prescription-only drug. This is just another example of Dr. Wurtman decrying the dangers of a particular nutrient while failing to admit his vested interest. My pet name for Dr. Wurtman is Dr. Conflict-of-Interest.
Is melatonin dangerous? This is a question that Dr. Sahelian takes very seriously. As part of his research for the book, he conducted numerous surveys via the Inter-net asking users of melatonin to share their experiences and observations. Some of these reports are included in the book's appendix.
All in all, Melatonin: Nature's Sleeping Pill is a solid, well written book-a genuine must-have for anyone using this hormone. In the words of Dr. Earl Mindell, "Don't go to bed without this book."
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