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How to use Melatonin for Brain Health?

Let’s use the context of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) to further understand how melatonin promotes brain health. 

Start with BDNF

Lack of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a type of protein, is said to be one of the causes for Alzheimer’s.

BDNF is important because it ensures neuronal survival and growth, and serves as a neurotransmitter modulator, primarily in the cortex and hippocampus of the brain.

Without BDNF, beta-amyloid plaques and tau tangles would form – both of which are made of “bad proteins” that disrupt proper synaptic function. Hence, cognitive function is impaired as a result of low BDNF!

Chronic inflammation further compromises BDNF

Chronic inflammation is another key characteristic of Alzheimer’s. When beta-amyloid plaques and hyperphosphorylated tau tangles are deposited in the brain, it starts to power the process of chronic inflammation in the brain.

These ‘“bad proteins” start the chronic activation of microglia – the immune cells in the brain – which produces inflammatory cytokines like IL1beta, IL6 and TNF-alpha.

These cytokines reduce the production of BDNF, leading to a vicious cycle. 

Melatonin comes to the rescue!

Here’s where melatonin enters as the superhero supplement. Melatonin binds to MT1 and MT2 receptors, activating the cAMP-PKA pathway, thereby blocking the action of cytokines. In this way, melatonin contributes to increased production of BDNF.

TLDR: Melatonin prevents inflammation in brain cells, thereby indirectly preventing brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

The Melatonin Controversy: Safe Supplement or Hormonal Hazard?

Dosage

In general, we find recommended adult dosages to be between 1 mg to 5 mg of melatonin, taken 30 minutes to 1 hour before bedtime. Some people even take up to 10 mg. However, higher doses do not mean higher effectiveness. Each person metabolizes substances differently, impacting how melatonin is processed in the body. 

On average, a human produces close to 0.1 mg of melatonin daily. So far, the lowest dosage that has proven to be effective is around 0.3 mg. Many product websites recommend starting from 0.3 mg and working up to a maximum of 5 mg as needed. 

There is not much proof on why 0.3 mg is the lowest yet safest dosage. Some possible determinants of ideal dosage include:

    • the rate at which the pineal gland secretes melatonin;

    • the rate of release of melatonin from the pill; and perhaps even 

    • the rate at which melatonin travels from the small intestine to the SCN cells in the brain.

Safety Concerns

Melatonin is generally safe for short-term usage. 

The reason most often given for why a hormone supplement like melatonin shouldn’t be taken long-term, especially in the form of larger doses, is because it may impair the body’s natural melatonin production, causing the body to become dependent on exogenous hormones. 

This could mean that in the long run, a person may not be able to fall asleep naturally anymore without the help of melatonin supplements!

Age is an important factor to consider as well. While it may not be suitable for young children or middle-aged adults, melatonin supplements are proven to be effective for the older generation. 

For example, individuals aged 65 or older may want to consider taking melatonin supplements, to help fight against the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Choice of Melatonin Supplements 

This is where we do the work so you don’t have to. There are so many different types of melatonin supplements selling on Amazon. We compare prices, pros and cons, and include melatonin capsules, gummies and even sublinguals! Here are the 9 Best Melatonin Supplements To Choose From!