Research conducted by The Spanish Ageing Research Network, headed by Dario Acuna Castroviejo of the University of Granada in Spain, has found that orally administered melatonin can help delay the effects of aging in mice.
Dr Acuna Castroviejo, of the University of Granada's Institute of Biotechnology, and his colleagues gave mice genetically engineered to age more rapidly as well as normal mice small amounts of melatonin beginning at five months of age when the animals begin to stop producing adequate levels of the hormone.
" We proved that the first signs of ageing in animal tissues start at the age of five months [in mice] equivalent to 30 human years of age due to an increase in free radicals (oxygen and nitrogen), which cause an inflammatory reaction, explained Dr Acuna Castroviejo, who has coauthored a number of studies on melatonin and aging published in the Journal of Pineal Research.
It was discovered that melatonin neutralized aging-associated oxidative stress and inflammation, and delayed their effects. The researchers hope that the finding will be applicable to humans, and aid in the prevention of age-related diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson's disease.
Melatonin is found in small quantities in onions, cherries, bananas, corn, oats, rice, mint, lemon verbena, sage, thyme, and red wine. While melatonin is widely available in the United States as an over the counter nutritional supplement, Dr Acuna Castroviejo noted that melatonin is not currently approved by the Spanish Ministry of Health. "While the substance becomes legalised, humans should try to increase melatonin consumption through food," he recommends.