Biomedical Tidbits

Dietary and Production Sources of Melatonin

By Will Block

T o obtain the equivalent of 3 mg of oral supplementary melatonin from your diet you would have to consume 120 bananas or 30 large bowls of rice at one time, according to MIT brain and cognitive science professor Richard J. Wurtman, MD.1 Dr. Wurtman has warned the public that taking melatonin can cause people to crash into telephone poles. He believes melatonin should be available by prescription only.

Curiously, Dr. Wurtman also has a “use patent” on melatonin. The arrival in the drug “pipeline” of his prescription melatonin, Melzone,® is anticipated any day now.

Speaking of rats, melatonin levels were determined in serum and gastrointestinal tract tissue of rats that had had their pineal glands removed.2 This surgical procedure resulted in substantially lower levels of melatonin in serum but did not alter levels of melatonin in the gastrointestinal tract. This finding supports the hypothesis that melatonin concentrations in the tissues of the GI tract are independent of pineal production.

In another animal experiment, when melatonin levels were bolstered in the GI tract, the formation of gastric lesions was significantly reduced. Further, there was also a reduction of free radicals in the bloodstream at the same time that gastric blood flow slowed. Melatonin may be able to protect mucosa from the damage caused by ischemia-reperfusion (blood restriction and reflow), an action thought to be mediated, in part, by antioxidant activity.


  1. Lamberg L. Medical News & Perspectives. JAMA. October 2, 1996.
  2. Bubenik GA, Brown GM. Pinealectomy reduces melatonin levels in the serum but not in the gastrointestinal tract of rats. Biolog Sig. 1997;6:40–44.
  3. Konturek PC, Konturek SJ, Majka J, Zembala M, Hahn EG. Melatonin affords protection against gastric lesions induced by ischemia-reperfusion possibly due to its antioxidant and mucosal microcirculatory effects. Eur J Pharm. 1997;322:73–77.

Will Block is the publisher and editorial director of Life Enhancement magazine.

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