Melatonin, your Nighttime Mitochondrial Repair Tool

June 19, 2022

Melatonin, Your Night Time Mitochondrial Repair Tool

You thought melatonin was your "sleep hormone" that you made every night. Well, that was how it was discovered. And that is still true. But did you know that it is much, much more? Both plants and animals make it in mitochondria and chloroplasts where melatonin plays a primary role in protecting the electron transport chain from OH molecules, which are incredibly toxic. In fact, melatonin plays a more important role in anti-oxidant function than vitamin C or E, and as opposed to those two vitamins, it doesn't deplete glutathione.

You can actually call melatonin your mitochondrial repair hormone. You can call it your uncoupling hormone. Or you can call it your heat production hormone. All three of those monikers are true when you understand the role of mitochondria in your body. At night, when you fall asleep, your mitochondria have a chance to slow down and repair themselves, getting themselves back into tip-top shape. They can clean up the damage from all the extra calories they had to burn during the day and petition the nucleus to send them out some extra repair proteins.

Now, that has huge implications for cancer. Cancer is essentially a "broken mitochondria disease", if you subscribe to Seyfried's description. Seyfried made CT scans of mitochondria in cancer and showed that the inner membranes of mitochondria are all disrupted and broken. Those mitochondria can't make ATP, so the cancer cell has to invade other cells to get food. Melatonin repairs that initial damage that starts cancer cells down that journey. Folks with decreased melatonin from shift work have more cancer. And, with over 3,000 published studies on melatonin and cancer, there is increasing evidence that the scale is tipped in the direction of benefit of taking melatonin if you have any cancer. Life Extension just published a nice review of melatonin's benefits that lists some of those benefits.

It is in the repair of your mitochondria that melatonin probably plays its most important role. That repair process happens during the night when you are asleep. So sleep and melatonin are associated together, but they aren't the whole show. It is the process of uncoupling the production of energy, making heat instead of ATP, that allows mitochondria to take a deep breath and regenerate themselves.

We will explore this topic in the weeks to come. Repairing your mitochondria, uncoupling, ketosis, weight loss, cancer therapy, and brain health are all tied up in this topic. Rather than overwhelming, let's just bite off one little chew at a time.

And that is melatonin, a miracle-working hormone that you likely need more of. It is your sleep hormone, but so much more. You probably need to gradually raise your dose if you aren't on any. And consider eating those foods that come power-packed with melatonin naturally built-in: pistachios and mushrooms for starters.

www.What will Work for me. I love pistachios. Mushrooms are showing up in farmer's markets all over the place now. I'm trying to get into the habit of eating them in my eggs, my salads, or in just about every stew or casserole I make. I've been advocating for 10 mg of melatonin at bedtime for years. I'm going to raise that for anyone with cancer. William Falloon now advocates up to 50 mg a day with pretty good evidence for its safety. Your blood level of melatonin when you were a tiny tot was 200 pg/ml and drops by an order of magnitude over your lifetime.

References: Clinical Nutrition, Nutrients, Seyfried, Chirurgia, Life Extension, Cells, Int J Mol Sci, JCEM

Pop Quiz

1. What is melatonin? Answer: Trick question. It was discovered as your sleep hormone, with which it is related, but probably should be known as your mitochondrial repair hormone.

2. How does melatonin keep your mitochondria safe? Answer: Complex answer. It is your best antioxidant, protecting your glutathione levels. And it activates decoupling proteins, letting the steam out of your metabolic kettle.

3. Name a disease for which broken, disordered mitochondria is central to the pathophysiology? Answer: Cancer

4. Can melatonin help prevent cancer? Answer: Yes

5. What happens to my melatonin as I age? Answer: You have less than 10% of what you used to have as an infant.