Dietary factors and fluctuating levels of melatonin

Food Nutr Res. 2012:56. doi: 10.3402/fnr.v56i0.17252. Epub 2012 Jul 20.


Melatonin is secreted principally by the pineal gland and mainly at nighttime. The primary physiological function is to convey information of the daily cycle of light and darkness to the body. In addition, it may have other health-related functions. Melatonin is synthesized from tryptophan, an essential dietary amino acid. It has been demonstrated that some nutritional factors, such as intake of vegetables, caffeine, and some vitamins and minerals, could modify melatonin production but with less intensity than light, the most dominant synchronizer of melatonin production. This review will focus on the nutritional factors apart from the intake of tryptophan that affect melatonin levels in humans. Overall, foods containing melatonin or promoting the synthesis of it by impacting the availability of tryptophan, as well those containing vitamins and minerals which are needed as co-factors and activators in the synthesis of melatonin, may modulate the levels of melatonin. Even so, the influence of daytime diet on the synthesis of nocturnal melatonin is limited, however, the influence of the diet seems to be more obvious on the daytime levels.

Keywords: 6-sulphatoxymelatonin; B vitamins; alcohol; diet; melatonin; vegetable.