Life Extension Update Exclusive
Melatonin improves SAD patients
In a report to appear online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, researchers at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) show that the hormone melatonin effectively treats seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression that occurs during winter months when sunlight is reduced. The disorder is currently treated with bright light exposure.
Alfred Lewy, MD, PhD, who is OHSU School of Medicine’s Richard H. Phillips Professor of Biological Psychiatry, senior vice chairman of psychiatry, and director of the Sleep and Mood Disorders Lab, and who has pioneered research in circadian rhythm disturbances, led the current study. Dr Lewy’s team sought to determine whether depression results from a misalignment of circadian rhythms with the sleep/wake cycle that occurs during winter. Circadian rhythms can be tracked to the later dawn or earlier dusk of the winter months.
Dr Lewy’s team compared melatonin’s effect when taken during the morning than melatonin taken in the afternoon. Sixty-eight patients with seasonal effective disorder received low-dose melatonin or a placebo during morning or afternoon for three weeks.
After several years of research, the team concluded that, similar to jet lag, circadian misalignment is a major factor in seasonal affective disorder. Melatonin worked best if taken in the afternoon or evening in the majority of patients who were phase-delayed “night-owl” types, while another group of “morning lark” phase-advanced patients responded better to melatonin if it was taken in the morning. The dose of melatonin taken was low enough not to cause day-time drowsiness.
Although low-dose, sustained-release melatonin may be effective for SAD, “People in the phase-advanced subgroup should use these treatments at different times of the day than the typically phase-delayed type of patient," explained Dr. Lewy.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Many people may feel sad or down during the winter months, when the days are shorter and temperatures drop. For some people, this condition goes beyond the winter “blahs” and develops into a subtype of clinical depression that lasts throughout the late fall and winter months. This condition is known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. The term SAD was introduced in 1984 and has since been included in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
SAD is characterized by recurring, cyclic bouts of depression, increased appetite, and an increased need for sleep (Ford K 1992; Magnusson A et al 2003). It contrasts with most depressive disorders, which are characterized by sleep disturbances and diminished appetite (Magnusson A et al 2005). Besides mild depression, typical symptoms of SAD include anxiety, decreased activity, social withdrawal, increased sleep duration, increased appetite, weight gain, and carbohydrate craving (Rosenthal NE et al 1984; Sher L 2001).
If bright light therapy is recommended, and your insurance covers it, it is an effective method of relieving the depression and lethargy associated with SAD. Tryptophan has been shown to enhance the effectiveness of light therapy. In addition, a number of nutrients may help relieve SAD. These include:
- Melatonin —2 milligrams (mg) around 15 to 30 minutes before bedtime
- Tryptophan —500 to 2000 mg at night on an empty stomach or with a protein-free snack (carbohydrates may increase absorption)
- 5-HTP —50 to 200 mg taken at night on an empty stomach or with a protein-free snack (carbohydrates may increase absorption)
- Vitamin B6 —250 mg daily taken early in the day. Do not take vitamin B6 within six hours of taking 5-HTP because it may cause the conversion of 5-HTP to serotonin in the blood before it crosses the blood-brain barrier.
- SAMe —200 mg daily
- Magnesium —160 to 500 mg at bedtime
- St. John’s wort —300 to 900 mg daily on an empty stomach
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) —700 mg and 500 mg, respectively, daily.
Melatonin Timed Release 300 Microgram Capsules
Melatonin keeps our circadian cycle in tune as it communicates with the body’s cells. Not only does this hormone work to maintain cell health, it appears to regulate a system of self-repair and regeneration. When this hard-working hormone is diminished, our biological functions are impaired.
Many people use melatonin to help improve sleep. Some research has found that melatonin increases the speed of falling asleep and adds to the quality of sleep in about 60% of people who use it.
Life Extension Foundation’s Melatonin 300 mcg Timed Release product is a mild melatonin supplement that promotes restful sleep because of its time-release formulation. Because the ingredients are released gradually throughout the night, sleep is sustained so you get a good night’s rest.
Melatonin Timed Release 750 Microgram Capsules
Melatonin releases from the pineal gland, reaching its peak at night to help maintain tissues in a youthful state of health. Secretion of melatonin declines significantly with age, as the pineal gland becomes calcified.
Life Extension Magazine
May 2006 issue now online!
On the cover: Novel strategy to restore brain cell function, by Russell Martin
Butterbur extract: Effective, drug-free allergy relief, by Russell Martin
The ten most important blood tests, by Penny Baron
New blood test better predicts heart attack risk, by William Davis, MD, FACC
Nutritional strategies for preventing age-related vision loss, by Edward Rosick, DO, MPH, MS
As we see it: Hidden cardiac risk factors, by William Faloon
All about supplements: Soy, a promising role in cancer prevention and management, by Leslie J. Farer
In the news: Resveratrol extends life span in vertebrate; Garlic improves impaired endothelial function; CoQ10 protects against amyloid beta peptides; Green tea may prevent skin cancer; Weight, inactivity tied to women’s cardiovascular risk; CRP may predict lung cancer risk in smokers; Omega-3 fatty acids boost bone health.
Wellness Profile: Mark Hyman, MD, by Kelli Miller Stacy
May 2006 abstracts: butterbur, rosmarinic extract, macular degeneration, cataracts, lipoproteins, soy