Lorna Vanderhaeghe, BSc
</P> Canada's new Natural Health Products Regulations now allow the sale of supplements like melatonin and lysine.
You may have noticed that your local health food store shelves are brimming with products that you used to order by mail or were only available from the US.
Canada's new Natural Health Products Regulations now allow the sale of supplements like melatonin and lysine. Most Canadians could never understand why these supplements were banned for sale in Canada but sold over the counter in the US. Presumably, our government thought they were protecting us from something. Now, as long as there is published, peer-reviewed evidence showing safety and efficacy, many of the previously banned substances are now available. In the case of melatonin, sleep-deprived individuals are thankful to see it available.
Melatonin is a hormone manufactured from serotonin (our "feel good" hormone) and secreted by the pineal gland. The human body is governed by an internal clock, which signals the release of many hormones that regulate various body functions. Melatonin is well-known for its ability to control our sleep/wake cycles, where it is secreted in darkness and suppressed by the light. It is also used to treat jetlag, as it can be used to reset our internal clock after we've travelled across several time zones. Children have much higher melatonin levels than adults, and as we age it is dramatically reduced. Anti-aging specialists believe melatonin to be essential in retarding the aging process. Low levels of melatonin are also found in individuals with sleep and depressive disorders.
Protecting Against Female Cancers
Exciting new research shows that melatonin is important for much more. A study published in Neuroendocrinology Letters in 2003 found that melatonin has an anti-estrogenic effect on estrogen receptor positive breast cancer cells. Further research released in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that nurses who worked rotating night shifts three nights per month for 15 years had a higher incidence of colorectal cancer. Earlier studies had confirmed that night shift workers had higher rates of breast cancer, but the colorectal study found melatonin had an anti-cancer effect on intestinal cancers.
Another study reported in Gynecology and Obstetric Investigation showed a significant correlation between melatonin deficiency and endometrial cancer. Unlike cervical cancer there is no screening method for endometrial cancer, the most common pelvic cancer in women. In this study, researchers looked at 138 women; 68 were diagnosed with endometrial cancer and 70 with abnormal bleeding. The researchers compared the blood melatonin levels of each group and found that there was a six-fold lower difference in melatonin levels in those with endometrial cancer. The researchers believe that melatonin levels may be an indicator of endometrial cancer and declining levels of melatonin a risk factor for developing the disease.
Get a Good Night's Sleep
For those people having difficulty stopping benzodiazepines (sleeping pills), melatonin has been used effectively to help withdraw from these drugs without side effects.
Night lights and street lights streaming through your bedroom windows at night inhibit melatonin production while sleeping. Purchase light-inhibiting drapes for your windows, and turn off those night lights. Shut out the light to enhance your body's own melatonin levels. I have been taking melatonin, 3 mg per night, for the last ten years to help reduce my risk of cancers - and I sleep like a baby.
The release of the previously banned products is one of the positive aspects of the new Health Products division of Health Canada. Let's hope that all the new regulations are this advantageous to consumers.