According to a new review published last month, researchers demonstrated the role of melatonin in neurodegenerative disorders. It is well documented that sleep disruption increases amyloid beta and tau proteins, and previous studies have shown poor sleep having an increased risk of cognitive problems. For example, individuals with sleep apnea have an increased risk for developing mild cognitive impairment approximately 10 years earlier than healthy individuals. However, there are numerous other mechanisms in which melatonin can provide neuroprotective effects besides just addressing sleep disturbance.
Oxidative stress is a common contributor to many neurodegenerative disorders; thus, many practitioners recommend antioxidant supplements in patients with these disorders, such as vitamin E, NAC, glutathione, CoQ10, lipoic acid, and Ginkgo biloba. Melatonin is a powerful free radical scavenger and antioxidant, which can help mitigate oxidative stress and Aβ-induced toxicity. Its antioxidant effects also inhibit Tau hyperphosphorylation and mitochondrial cell death. The hyperphosphorylation of Tau has been associated with high levels of oxidative stress and is characteristic of most neurodegenerative diseases.
Previous research has demonstrated that melatonin levels in the cerebrospinal fluid of patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is diminished. Therefore, lower levels of melatonin may be an early predictor of AD. Melatonin restores neurite formation, microtubule enlargement, and microfilament organization. It also prevents microtubule disruption, and increases lipid peroxidation and apoptosis.
Based on the numerous protective mechanisms of melatonin on oxidative stress and neurodegenerative disorders, it can be a useful adjunct to treatment even if difficulty sleeping is not an issue.
Other brain supportive nutrients to consider are GPC, CDP-choline (citicoline), ginkgo biloba, phosphatidylserine, and fish oil. GPC and CDP-choline are water soluble forms of choline that can cross the blood brain barrier and support brain health. These help make more acetylcholine and neurotransmitters, as well as phosphatidylcholine in the cell membranes.
Each person's biochemical individuality exerts a major influence on his or her health. Lifestyle choices and environmental exposures filtered through genetic predisposition are fundamental factors in the expression of disease. Therefore, it is essential is assess nutrient status, provide cognitive-enhancing nutrients, correct dyglycemia, and address oxidative stress.
Tackling a patient’s diet is a valuable first step. For instance, Mediterranean and ketogenic diets are rich in healthy fats and antioxidants. Yet, individuals with chronic disease states often need additional support with therapeutic doses of certain nutrients in order to battle oxidative stress and deficiencies.
By Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN, CNS