Melatonin Supplementation Studies
In recent years, the landmark studies showed that patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) who were administered melatonin had significantly less progression to Alzheimer’s disease over time than MCI patients who were not taking melatonin supplements. In these studies, the dosage range was 3-9 mg, taken one hour before bedtime. In addition, two other preliminary studies showed improved cognitive performance in MCI patients using melatonin dosages as low as 1 mg and as high as 6 mg.
This research is particularly compelling when you consider the fact that melatonin levels begin to decline during our teenage years, and by age 40 have reached a low enough level to often trigger sleep disturbance problems. The pineal gland in the brain normally secretes melatonin in the late-evening hours (darkness is a trigger), which helps to induce sleep. As such, lower age-related melatonin levels in the brain are a major cause of insomnia and interrupted sleep as we get older.
Many people take melatonin as a natural sleep aid because it helps them fall asleep. However, melatonin is also a powerful brain antioxidant, and its ability to quench free radicals in this role and suppress the build-up of beta-amyloid plaque are the ways in which it has been shown in experimental studies to inhibit the steps that lead to Alzheimer’s disease. The recent clinical trials showing that melatonin helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease in high-risk patients is of great significance when you consider that MCI affects a large percentage of the population over 60 years of age.
Nutritionally, there is no perfect food, although a few come pretty close. And even if there were, who’d want to eat the same thing every meal, every day? Fortunately, variety and healthy eating can go hand in hand, particularly if you know where to look. Take a look at these foods that pack a nutritional punch and can be incorporated into a wide variety of meal plans.
Beets: Beets were one of the most successful crops in the Biosphere project. Basically, it simulated living on the moon. And if you had to pick one vegetable to take with you to the moon, you’d do well to pick beets. The roots and leaves are packed with antioxidant phytochemicals, provide much-needed minerals and vitamins, and are a good source of fiber.
Rye: Obesity statistics suggest a good portion of us could use some help battling the scale, and rye is on your side. Rye has an excellent reputation for helping us feel full, produces a low insulin response, and is typically a good source of fiber. It is a rich source of minerals, too.
Organic Berries: This isn’t a hard sell, right? Juicy, bright, and tasty, berries add fiber, vitamins and antioxidants to your diet. These little gems appear to support healthy arteries, cognition, inflammation and eyesight. Many studies have found a benefit in drinking cranberry or blueberry juice for prevention of urinary tract infections.
Fermented foods: Face it Mr. Clean, the human body needs bacteria, and fermented foods provide good bacteria (probiotics) to give our native colonies a helping hand. Clinical trials continue to examine the benefits of probiotics on gastrointestinal complaints like diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome, as well as for conditions such as colic and eczema in infants.
Legumes: Don’t fear the beans! Yes, some legumes have “explosive” potential, but adding beans, lentils, or peas to our diet may be one way to keep us merrily dancing along.
This low-fat, no-cholesterol source of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals is among the best foods we can eat. As a substitute for meat-based protein, beans can help support our drive for heart health. And the fiber and protein in legumes are excellent tools in our weight-management toolbox.
Cruciferous vegetables: Broccoli, radishes, the dreaded Brussels sprouts and cabbage are all members of this illustrious family of veggies. Associations between low incidence of some cancers and high intake of cruciferous veggies have led to more in-depth research on how these unassuming vegetables contribute to a healthy diet. Crucifers are especially rich in phytochemicals (including isothiocyanates such as sulforaphane), both of which are responsible for these vegetables’ pungent or spicy flavor and appear to help the body’s detoxification processes. The phytonutrients in these vegetables also seem to affect the body’s ability to respond to free radicals. Steamed or raw, they retain the majority of their nutrients.
Organic Figs: Fresh or dried, these teardrops of deliciousness are a wonderful addition to any diet. High in fiber, potassium and manganese, figs can support heart health and weight management as part of a healthy diet and exercise program. They’re great on their own as dessert or a snack, and they make a wonderful addition to salad, too. Choose the organic ones, though, especially if you are sensitive to sulfites.
Fatty Fish: In this case, fat is good. Cold-water fish (like salmon and sardines) contain a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids (specifically EPA and DHA) that appear to have a host of health benefits. Large, rigorous trials from around the globe have found evidence that diets with the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids are also the most heart healthy. The American Heart Association recommends that healthy adults should eat two, 3-ounce servings a week, which is in line with the American Diabetes Association and the World Health Organization.
Whatever You Don’t Eat Now: Variety is important. It’s so easy to get stuck in a food rut, especially if you’re counting calories. So instead of eating yogurt and cherries as a snack every day, why not try oatmeal and blueberries? Or string cheese and an apple? Buying a farm share or visiting a farmer’s market can be a good way to try new vegetables. And if something looks unusual – pick it up! You can put the power of the Internet to good use and find a recipe for anything in seconds flat. So try a purple pepper or a golden beet. A vibrant rainbow on the plate means more and varied nutrients for the body.