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Questions and Answers about Melatonin
Montmorency tart cherries contain
significant quantities of melatonin.
That was the surprising discovery
made recently at the University of Texas
Health Science Center in San Antonio. Dr.
Russel Reiter, who has been studying melatonin
for more than 30 years, headed up the
research team. "Tart cherries, specifically the
Montmorency variety, contain an extremely
significant quantity of melatonin, enough to
produce positive results in the body," says
Dr. Reiter. Here’s more information.
What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced
in the pineal gland at the base of
the brain. Melatonin influences the sleep
process and because it is an antioxidant, it
can help the body destroy free radicals,
which cause aging and cell death.
The pineal gland, where melatonin is
produced in the body, helps regulate hormones
and circadian rhythms (daily metabolic
balance). The pineal gland functions
as a biological clock by secreting
melatonin at night.
Melatonin levels are low
during the day. At sunset, less
available light signals the
brain to release melatonin.
This rise continues
between 2 and 3
a.m. If the timing
of the melatonin
to aging, stress,
or jet lag, many
mental functions are
adversely affected. The ability to think clearly,
remember key facts, and make sound
decisions can be profoundly hampered by
these upsets in the biological clock.
The highest quantities of melatonin are
found in tart cherries, particularly the
Montmorency variety. However, other foods
such as milk, peanuts, turkey, chicken or
almonds contain tryptophan, which raises
brain serotonin that in turn can be converted
to melatonin. Other foods, such as
bananas, also contain melatonin but not in
significant levels to be effective.
Does melatonin have
any side effects?
Individuals who take melatonin supplements
need to exercise caution, in that an
overabundance of melatonin in the blood
can cause insomnia and nightmares rather
than peaceful sleep. Researchers point out
that the maximal effective sleep-inducing
dose to be 0.1 to 0.3 milligrams (mg). The
amount found in tart cherries provides a
significant amount to positively affect sleep.
However, dosages sold in over-the-counter
supplements are a minimum
of 2-3 mg and sometimes
much higher. These levels
are at least ten times
the maximal effective