There has been little research about melatonin's effects on cardiovascular disease, but a recent study in The Lancet (Vol. 345, Jun. 3, 1995, page 1408) by scientists at the Institute for Cardiovascular Diagnosis And Therapy in Salzburg, Austria produced some eye-opening findings.
They looked at nightly melatonin levels in the serum of two groups of subjects: 2 women and 13 men with documented coronary heart disease (mean age 54) and 2 healthy women and 8 healthy men (mean age 53). They measured serum melatonin levels in these subjects, both in the afternoon and at night.
Differences In Melatonin LevelsMelatonin was not detectable in either group during the afternoon. At night, when melatonin does its work, however, the results were very different. The scientists found that melatonin levels in the coronary disease patients was five times lower than in healthy subjects!
They speculated that, since melatonin reduces noradrenaline, which may inflict damage in arterial walls, the lack of melatonin in individuals with coronary heart disease fails to keep their noradrenaline levels in check. It would be interesting to determine if individuals who suffer heart attacks have depleted melatonin levels before their heart attack, or if their depleted melatonin levels are a consequence of their heart attack.
What's very clear, however, is that replenishing the depleted melatonin levels in coronary heart disease patients could be a very effective therapy, and that maintaining youthful melatonin levels could be an effective way of preventing heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular diseases.
The Austrian scientists agree about this in their conclusion to their paper:
"Because melatonin concentrations can be increased by oral administration of melatonin, it would be easy to treat patients with coronary heart disease with melatonin to study effects on the development of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease."
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