Melatonin and aging: prospects for human treatment

J Physiol Pharmacol. 2011 Feb;62(1):13-9.


Human life span, with or without modern medicine is around 85-95 years. All living creatures have their inner clock that measures their daily (circadian) and their seasonal (circannual) time. These time changes are mediated by the alteration of levels of melatonin, an evolutionary ancient hormone, which is produced in many body tissues, including the pineal gland, retina and the gastrointestinal tract (GIT). Light is blocking the production of melatonin in the pineal gland, darkness is stimulating it. So, the diurnal changes of light intensity of melatonin, provide a "daily clock" and the seasonal changes provide a "seasonal clock". Finally, the reduction of melatonin observed with aging, may indicate the presence of an "age clock". Melatonin is a strong antioxidant (often it is called scavenger of free radicals), which protects the body from the effects of noxious compounds. Therefore it was hypothesized that the reduction of melatonin levels with age contributes to the aging process. So far, the only remedy to extend the life span was a 40% reduction in caloric intake, which prolonged the life in mice, rats, dogs and monkeys by 30-50%. A large group of people imitate these experiments performed on animals, but the results of these experiments will not be known for several decades. How is being hungry prolonging the life span? There is a connection between caloric reduction and melatonin levels in GIT. Several experiments indicate that fasting in animals substantially increased their production of GIT melatonin. Therefore, instead of being permanently hungry, a prolongation of human life could be achieved by a replacement melatonin therapy. A daily intake of melatonin before bed time might achieve the same effect as fasting e.g. an increase of body melatonin levels, which will protect the individual from the ravages of old age. That includes Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. There is a large group of people taking melatonin daily who believe that melatonin is the "fountain of youth". Those are the subjects which will one day provide an experimental evidence of the efficacy of melatonin.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / drug effects*
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Circadian Clocks / drug effects*
  • Circadian Clocks / physiology*
  • Energy Intake / physiology
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Melatonin / pharmacology*
  • Melatonin / physiology*


  • Melatonin