To a skeptical world, it was announced in 1995, through the publication of a book called the Melatonin Miracle, that the center of the brain contains an aging clock, the pineal gland, which through its messenger, authors Professor Pierpaoli and Dr. Regelson suggested that aging is a precise, genetically-determined and species-dependent neuroendocrine program in the pineal network – namely in the neural structures of the brain and the peripheral nervous system – that regulates the circadian synchronized, rhythmic and oscillatory synthesis nd secretion of all hormones, neuropeptides and any other endogenous molecules. Backed by the results of abundant research on mice, whose pathology and biorhythms mirror our own, the authors claimed in effect to have found the key of life – not ‘ life eternal ’, but life enjoyed considerably beyond our allotted threescore and ten and, crucially, in vigorous good health, free of the diseases associated with aging. So sure were they of their findings that they found many willing volunteers to prove their theory. One such person, was Pierpaoli’s 80 year old mother-in-law, then suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Now 103 she has long been completely cured, is in sterling health and remains a darling of the Italian / Swiss media.
Initially, in some quarters, there was scepticism, even hostility to their hypothesis, but in the intervening years numerous studies have confirmed many of their findings as well as shed ever more extensive light on the role of the pineal gland and melatonin. Indeed at the 2010 Stromboli Conference on Aging and Cancer in Italy, one in six eminent speakers from around the world concentrated their presentations on the pineal gland and / or melatonin, an extraordinary ratio given the sheer breadth of anti-aging science.
‘Shed light’ is an apt term as the pineal gland, a pea-sized structure at the center of the brain, that works with the hypothalamus gland to control our sleep/wake cycles. Day/night signals are received by the pineal via the retina along a pathway known as retinohypothalamic tract. At night, in darkness, the pineal gland produces melatonin, which causes heart rate to slow and body temperature to drop – physiological conditions that allow for deep restful sleep. As we age, the amount of melatonin produced by the pineal lessens, resulting in sleep disturbances. However, it might be said this is the least of our problems. like a conductor of an orchestra, the pineal, through its baton melatonin, regulates all the other hormone regulators – the pituitary, the thymus, the thyroid, etc. As the pineal conductor ages, the messages get feebler and confused; eventually they are non-existent. This signals to the orchestra to eventually stop playing. As our immune system is under the control of hormones this is nothing less than disastrous. Thus as we wind down reproductively (andropause and menopause) so does our immune system, paving the way for senescence and the gate crashing diseases of aging.
Turning this scenario on it head, if the pineal does not age, we cannot possibly age. Or at least the aging process will never again be as we have seen and experienced it until now . under such conditions of perfect immunological and hormonal balance we would be disease-free. This does not mean that all diseases can be cured with melatonin, but they can be largely prevented. And if unfortunately they have appeared, melatonin taken before bedtime can reset the central clock, and hence delay and even arrest the course of the disease, be it a neurodegenerative disease such as Parkinson or multiple sclerosis, or cardiovascular diseases and cancer. To Pierpaoli and others, this holistic concept of medicine has now found its biological evidence.
Melatonin cannot be considered a classic hormone, although it is so named. It does not possess any of the qualities of the classic hormones like growth hormone, cortisol, oestrogens, thyroid hormones, etc. nor is it a drug and it is not itself a cure for any disease. Melatonin is ubiquitous in nature, cells, plants, animals, tissues and any living organisms. Milk, vegetables, cereals, rice, meat, etc., contain variable amounts of melatonin. In nature, ubiquity denotes significant importance.
Supplemental melatonin could be theoretically replaced by...