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Melatonin,  Could it be the The Supermolecule The World Ignores!?

- By Roger Coghill, MA (Cantab) C Biol MI Biol MA(Environ Mgt) Director, Coghill Research Laboratories, Pontypool South Wales

How fast our world is changing! Tsunamis, hurricanes, snowfalls, droughts are only a few of the grim but obvious reminders of rapid global change. But underlying these are more insidious changes, invisible, silent yet equally pernicious: the dramatic and persistent growth in our use of electromagnetic energy. My granny could remember days before radio, just as I can remember days before TV, and that long-gone era of the copper boiler and the mangle, the 78 rpm vinyl record, and super-8 cine camera. Our increasing consumption of electricity results from the invention of a myriad of new electric appliances, instruments, and systems, including the laptop I am using to write this and the cellphone in my pocket.

"Cancer now affects one in three, with breast cancer affecting one in nine women Close quotes"

Concomitant with this convenient improvement in lifestyle have come increased cancer mortality, sleep disorders, and impoverished immune competence. Cancer now affects one in three, with breast cancer affecting one in nine women. Cardiovascular disease, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis and myalgic encephalomyelitis are all modern disorders. And all have been associated with exposure to electromagnetic fields ("EMFs").

Many scientists believe that these afflictions are connected with exposure to the weak but ubiquitous EMF and radiations inevitably accompanying our new electro-technologies. Ever since 1979, when Nancy Wertheimer and Ed Leeper found doubled incidence of childhood leukaemia in the Denver homes nearest pole-mounted electricity transformers, there has been a steady stream of studies reporting similar effects. A handful of negative studies, by contrast, (funded unsurprisingly by the UK and US power utilities), were later found to be seriously flawed in their design.

Finally, this year, a major study of all British children living near powerlines confirmed yet again that EMF is associated with a nearly doubled cancer level. The International Agency for Cancer Research ("IARC") has belatedly classified EMF as a possible human carcinogen, but only the magnetic component: - they don't know what to say about the electric component also coming from powerlines. More disturbingly, however, over half our exposure to EMF comes from appliances within the home, so those living far from such lines are also at risk. At last a new Dept of Health initiative, "SAGE", has assembled a committee of experts (of which I am a member) to devise precautionary measures to minimize exposure to power frequency electric and magnetic fields.

"The adverse effects of EMF exposure also extend to the higher
frequenciesClose quote

The adverse effects of EMF exposure, catalogued in over a hundred studies now, also extend to the higher frequencies. Folk unable to sleep after the installation of a nearby cellphone mast are finding some relief by enveloping their bedrooms in expensive screening, but what about during the day? Some put faith in curious buttons attached to their cellphone, or the small army of claimed electroprotective devices now on the market, but these are hardly underpinned by scientific evaluation.

Fescue To The Rescue

By contrast, there is strong evidence that a hormone we make ourselves in the brain's pineal gland, and is also present in some plants like tall fescue, may provide an answer to the problem of electro pollution. It is called melatonin, and was hardly discovered until well after WW2. It seems likely that the adverse effects of EMFs are connected with free radical formation. Free radicals are an inevitable by-product of many life processes, and to mop them up our body makes natural antioxidants such as catalase, superoxide dismutase and glutathione. At night, when most cell repair takes place and more free radicals are thereby created, we supplement these with a far more powerful antioxidant, melatonin, - five times more powerful in fact than vitamin C and twice as strong as vitamin E because it can penetrate every cell in our body.

It seems that exposure to EMFs inhibits this nocturnal synthesis of melatonin, thereby increasing the likelihood of cancer. Less than ten years ago scientists showed that plant-derived melatonin could be equally used by organisms to quench free radicals, and by 2004 a review of melatonin's radio-protective qualities was referencing over 400 studies, so great was the scientific interest in the discovery. Even better news was that there are virtually no side effects, "The safest molecule of all time" was the verdict of a vice-president of Eli Lilly.

"Even better news was that there are virtually no side effects"

Today there are at least 20,000 studies on melatonin in scientific literature. Nevertheless, its benefits are still little appreciated by the public, who are vaguely aware that it helps with jet lag. But few realize that women with breast cancer have only a tenth of normal melatonin levels, or that most women have higher levels of the hormone than men, and also live longer.

Lessons From The Animals

In one animal study, when melatonin was added to the experimental rats' drinking water they lived 12 percent longer. In another curious experiment, old rats endowed with pineal transplants from young rats lived significantly longer. Cows grazing near radio masts near Bern, Switzerland were found to have less melatonin than they should. One enterprising UK firm has turned this finding around and sells Night Time Milk, collected at four in the morning, since the cows, like ourselves, produce more melatonin at night than during the day. Scientists have also found that as we age we synthesize less and less of the hormone; anyone over 50 should seriously consider melatonin as a regular dietary supplement.

Sleep improvement is another benefit: you will fall asleep quicker, and sleep deeper if you take melatonin before retiring for the night. This is an important advantage for the nigh 30 percent of us with sleep disturbance problems, since, unlike many proprietary sleeping pills, there are no dangerous or addictive side effects: melatonin is arguably the safest bio-molecule of all time.

Melatonin And Cancer

"Melatonin is the most powerful natural antioxidant we make naturally in our bodies"

But the most important of melatonin's many virtues is its vital role in the prevention and treatment of cancer. As the most powerful natural antioxidant we make naturally in our bodies, melatonin can mop up free radicals five times more effectively than vitamin C and twice as well as tocopherol (Vitamin E). Melatonin can enter every cell in our body.
The UK Government Ban On Being Healthy

What has been the politico-medical response to this astounding supermolecule? Why to ban it of course! It interferes with the pharma companies' growing market for sleeping pills. Since it cannot be patented and the synthetic versions are incredibly easy to make (Nestle even found it was an unwanted by-product of chocolate manufacture), few pharmaceutical companies are prepared to research its benefits, so most of the research has been conducted within Universities. Consequently in Britain you cannot buy melatonin over the counter (OTC), as you can in some other parts of the world like Poland and the US. The ban is fatuous: those in the know simply order it from the US via the Internet.

Paradoxically you can legally buy its precursor tryptophan in Britain, (though in limited amounts, in the same way as vitamin C is now dose-limited). Tryptophan was recently liberated for OTC sale again after a long period of its suppression on the false grounds that it might be toxic, - a daft idea arising from one bad batch which caused minor adverse effects some decades ago.

In our lab we probably know more about melatonin than most others in the UK. The first thing we discovered was that synthetic melatonin pills at pharmacological levels (in milligram doses) do not retain their efficacy for long. They may be fine for jet lag, but after a while their ability to improve sleep wears off. By contrast at physiological levels (in micro or even nanogram doses) melatonin's effects remain beneficial indefinitely.
"Melatonin reduced the nasty side effects of this intervention, especially in childhood leukemia's"

Next we reviewed the literature and found that melatonin as made by plants could be used just like the melatonin made in our bodies. From this we developed a product called Asphalia based on edible plants with high melatonin content, and have recently filed a UK patent application to protect the invention, now on the OTC market, provided we do not include the word melatonin on the pack or mention its name in articles like this! Furthermore as an adjuvant during chemotherapy we found that melatonin reduced the nasty side effects of this intervention, especially in childhood leukemia's. The 75 year-old Cancer Act (1931) prevents anyone from making any claims that this supermolecule is even beneficial in cancer treatment however.

Nevertheless the scientific evidence is prodigious. A trawl of internet databases produced some 950 studies from around the world reporting melatonin's use in cancer prevention and treatment.

Clearly there are grounds for not only giving precautionary advice (including organic melatonin supplementation at physiological doses) regarding EMF exposures (particularly the less well researched but more insidious E-fields), but also there is an urgent need to investigate further melatonin's twin radio-protective and oncostatic roles. Without the promise of any lucrative (i.e. patentable) rewards for this research, however, the prospect of pharmaceutical industry attention remains distant.

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