How Melatonin Can Slow Aging

How Melatonin Can Slow Aging

If you’re interested in maintaining your youth for as long as possible, you should familiarize yourself with melatonin.  A hormone that is best known for its role in promoting sleep, melatonin has significant anti-aging effects and may play a role in all of the following:

  • Preventing Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders
  • Reducing obesity risk and the loss of bone and muscle that occurs with aging
  • Lowering risk of serious diseases including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer

Scientists identified the role melatonin plays in aging due to how it impacts “clock” genes that synchronize our biorhythms. Melatonin regulates our daily rhythm, inducing sleep at night in response to darkness but it also impacts the rhythm of life. For example, changes in melatonin tell the body to enter puberty and begin the aging process. Around middle age when humans are too old to reproduce effectively, we begin to produce far lower levels of melatonin. The reduction in melatonin is a signal to our other physiological systems that it’s time to break down and for the aging process to begin.

Testosterone, estrogen, and growth hormone drop, removing the protective effect these hormones have and resulting in an increase in body fat and decrease in muscle and bone mass. The stress hormone cortisol increases, leading to a decrease in immunity so that we are more susceptible to sickness and disease. Melatonin also has an antioxidant effect, helping to defuse free radicals, which harm cells and DNA, causing aging and inflammation.

Here are some recent studies showing benefits of melatonin for countering the aging process:

Melatonin supplementation helped older women improve bone density and lower body fat by 7% compared to a placebo group that had no changes.

Animal studies have shown melatonin use can reduce the progression of Alzheimer’s. In addition to helping to prevent dangerous plaques from forming in the brain, scientists theorize that melatonin reduces brain aging by slowing the loss of brain neurons.

A decline in immune function is linked to increased risk of cancer. Melatonin stimulates the production of natural killer cells that protect against cancer. Melatonin is also protective against breast cancer, helping to counter the tumor producing effects of estrogen on breast cells.

A reduction in blood sugar control and an increase in insulin levels are a hallmark of aging in people who become less active. Melatonin may help counter the inflammatory effect of high blood sugar levels while helping to improve glucose tolerance.

Melatonin is part of a cascade of hormones involved in satiety and hunger. Research suggests that people with lower levels of melatonin have high levels of cortisol and ghrelin—two hormones that trigger food intake and may predispose people to obesity.

Interested in taking melatonin?

Melatonin is a safe supplement to take at night before bed. It shouldn’t be taken during the day because this can impair biorhythms.

Most studies show benefits from supplementing from as little as 0.3 mg up to 6 mg a night. Higher doses have been tested and show no negative effects, but it’s reasonable to go for the lowest dose that has a benefit.

Who Shouldn’t Take Melatonin?

If you are on medication, especially antidepressants, blood pressure medications, and blood thinners, you should talk with your doctor before taking melatonin. Women trying to get pregnant should also be sure to consult a physician.



Amstrup, et al. Reduced fat mass and increased lean mass in response to one year of melatonin treatment in postmenopausal women: A randomized placebo controlled trial. Clinical Endocrinology. 2015.

Amstrup, A., et al. The effect of melatonin treatment on postural stability, muscle strength, and quality of life and sleep in postmenopausal women: a randomized controlled trial. Nutrition Journal. 2015. 14:102.

Bondy, S., Sharman, E. Melatonin and the aging brain. Neurochemistry International. 2007. 50(4):571-80

Bonnefont-Rousselot, D., Collin, F. Melatonin: action as antioxidant and potential applications in human disease and aging. Toxicology. 2010. 278(1):55-67

Cardinali, D., et al. Melatonin and the immune system in aging. Neuroimmunomodulation. 2008. 15(4-6):272-8.

Gursoy, A., et al. Melatonin in aging women. Climacteric. 2015. 18(6):790-6.

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Sarlak, G., et al. Effects of melatonin on nervous system aging: neurogenesis and neurodegeneration. Journal of Pharmacological Sciences. 2013. 123(1):9-24.