Melatonin, in addition to its presence in vertebrates, has also been found in bacteria, unicellular organisms, fungi and plants. According to the antioxidant properties described, it is considered that the consumption of plants rich in melatonin can help prevent oxidative stress.
The knowledge of its biology can contribute to propose pharmacological measures to stimulate its endogenous secretion through nutritional habits and aspects of lifestyle.
Changing Nutritional Habits
The diet provides not only tryptophan, an essential amino acid precursor of the endogenous synthesis of melatonin, but also, the melatonin itself. It is considered that the ingestion of red meat may increase the risk of cancer because it causes melatonin decrease.
The high proportion of carbohydrates in the diet, in rats, determine a decrease in the synthesis of melatonin.
It seems to be true that the caloric restriction and the ingestion of foods rich in melatonin or tryptophan increase melatonin levels, which coincides with the theory of the prolongation of life when this restriction is applied.
Changing aspects of lifestyle
It is recommended to protect yourself from the sun, with sunscreen and taking nutraceuticals, because of the implication of ultraviolet rays on the development of skin cancer. However, the rational exposure to sunlight is a means to promote the synthesis of melatonin, which due to its antioxidant character prevents the development of neoplastic diseases in different tissues and organs.
In this sense, there is some evidence that serotonin, the most immediate precursor of melatonin and melatonin itself, can also be synthesized in the skin by a mechanism associated with vitamin D.
Therefore, according to the bibliographic sources, performing outdoor exercises, under sunlight, during the first hours of the day and with the largest possible area of exposed skin stimulates the synthesis of vitamin D, serotonin and melatonin on the skin. At the same time, this can produce a greater uptake of glucose by the muscle. The duration and frequency should not be more than 30 minutes per day, with moderate intensity, not more than 50 or 60% of maximum capacity. Exercises that are too intense can cause negative effects on blood pressure. In this way, an adequate dose of sunlight is taken and the production of free radicals decreases with increasing endogenous melatonin.
Performing aerobic exercises like walking, jogging, swimming, dancing, riding a bicycle, rhythmic gymnastics, skating and others promote dilation of small vessels, collateral circulation is created and peripheral resistance is reduced.
Finally, the use of lents that impede the passage of ultraviolet light to maintain a higher level of melatonin synthesis during the day is recommended.
Although in recent decades there have been significant contributions to the knowledge of the physiology and biochemistry of melatonin, more studies are still needed to clarify the Mechanisms of action of the hormone.
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Revista CENIC. Ciencias Biológicas, vol. 43, núm. 3, septiembre-diciembre, 2012.
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