The Melatonin Miracle

by Walter Pierpaoli and William Regelson with Carol Colman, Simon and Schuster, 1995

Reviewed by Paul Lowinger

 

Among alternative health books, you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince so I was pleased to find this plausible if overwrought story about melatonin and aging.

This is a new explanation which locates an Aging Clock in the pineal, a small gland at the base of the brain whose hormone, melatonin regulates the aging of the body's cells. The production of melatonin falls in the mid forties when the pineal begins to shrink and this is when immune function decreases and cancer, aging and degenerative disease begin.

Human sexual activity depends on melatonin so the decline in sexuality with aging can be reversed by taking melatonin. It is the master hormone which affects the endocrine glands including the pituitary, gonads, thyroid and the adrenals. This is based on studies of old mice who received pineal gland transplants from young mice. The old mice now had plenty of melatonin. Their fur was sleeker and thicker; their cataracts began to clear; the atrophy of their ovaries and testes was reversed and they resumed the more frequent sexual activity of young mice. Such rejuvenation extended these life of the mice by 30%, the equivalent of 105 human years!

How far are the authors from the mainstream of medicine? There is no theory of the pineal as an Aging Clock in current medical texts where the pineal and melatonin are described entirely in terms of their effect on sleep and the day/night cycle. According to this conventional view, the pineal does not control the other endocrine glands and melatonin does not have a role in sexuality, cancer, aging or the immune system.

The reader who wants to take melatonin will find a (plan for its use but there is a warning to consult with your physician. My use of melatonin was approved by my doctor although I am on medication at age 71. Melatonin has few side effects and the authors reject the idea that it should be limited to prescription use.

If you want final answers, you won't find them in here because the crucial human studies with control groups are in the future. So why read this book? Because it is an adventure story about how a new theory by physician-scientists begins to challenge orthodox medical theory.

This book redirects the tortuous and uncertain flow of information from research laboratories, drug companies and doctor's offices to the public. We are curious and impatient consumers who want as many facts as we can get so we can make our own decision.