Did You Know?


By Will Block

M elatonin, the sleep-orchestration hormone produced in the pineal gland and elsewhere in the body, sends out signals to all the organs within the body. It acts as a timekeeper in the maintenance of various physiologic processes including those of the neuroendocrine and immune functions as well as the antioxidant defense system.

Reduced melatonin circadian levels are associated with immunosuppression, aging and age-associated diseases. Melatonin replacement therapy is thought to enhance the immune system and retard the aging process while postponing the incidence of neoplasia and possibly prolonging life span.

Pregnenolone’s importance as a steroid is primarily qualitative rather than quantitative because it orchestrates so many different activities. To some degree, it mimics every pharmacologic action shown to be exhibited by every steroid hormone.

Pregnenolone excels as an anti-fatigue agent, and helps to modulate stress response. This assertion is based on PREG’s known ability to reduce the urinary excretion of the 17-ketosteroids —metabolites of sex steroids that have been used as an index of stress in humans. Anecdotal evidence offers ample testimony to what this means “in action,” and justifies pregnenolone being called the “feel-good hormone.” (See review of Dr. Ray Sahelian’s book in this issue.)

The neurotransmitter serotonin, made from 5-hydroxytryptophan, has been found to affect at least 14 distinct receptors. In some regions of the brain, serotonin neurons terminate in a field of neurons rather than in a tight synaptic junction. Thus, low concentrations of serotonin may especially inhibit its diffusion across these vast fields and not strike the appropriate target receptors.

Nature’s Answer to Phen-Fen? At low levels and when taken on an empty stomach 1 hour before meals, 5-HTP helps suppress appetite. Clinical trials in obese subjects show that the intake of 5-HTP resulted in decreased consumption of both carbohydrates and fats, but not protein. Weight loss occurred because of a voluntary decrease in caloric intake rather than because of a restrictive diet.

Neural impulses in your brain operate on the basis of critical mass. This means that an impulse in the brain does not occur until enough receptor molecules on the “postsynaptic” or receiving nerve bind specifically to one or another class of neurotransmitter. As an example, there must be a minimum amount of the neurotransmitter serotonin to cause an inhibitory impulse. Because stress depletes serotonin, serotonin levels need to be increased if one is to effectively cope. Supplementing with 5-HTP can fulfill added needs generated by stress, as well as insure against inadequate supplies in the first place.

Acetyl-L-carnitine, the acetyl derivative of L-carnitine, regulates the metabolism and function of peripheral nerves. Acetyl-L-carnitine has been shown to possess a slight cholinergic-like activity. Its depletion or deficiency may contribute to the neurotoxicity or peripheral neuropathy resulting from antiviral drugs used in treatment of AIDS.


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

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