Recent studies have demonstrated the benefits of melatonin on the reproductive organs when assisted reproduction techniques are used.
Melatonin is a natural compound produced by a small structure in the brain – the pineal gland, also known as the epiphysis cerebri- found in the centre of the brain. This endocrine gland serves a unique and interesting purpose: it naturally converts the information we receive about environmental light and is the main control centre of our biological rhythms.
From the time we are three months old melatonin is circulating in our bodies. Melatonin circulation increases as daylight starts to disappear, making it the true “hormone of darkness”. Its rise each night “opens the doors to falling asleep” and, throughout life, levels decrease. This fall in melatonin levels is associated with insomnia and a higher prevalence of cancer.
Thus, melatonin is capable of coordinating and regulating the body’s biological rhythms; it is also a powerful antioxidant and an excellent natural protector of cells.
Aerobic organisms, those which utilise oxygen in their metabolism, are constantly exposed to oxidative stress (OS). OS occurs when the generation of free radicals exceeds the capacity of natural antioxidants to eliminate them, thus affecting the integrity of DNA. Free radicals are produced during normal cellular metabolism and in some situations such as exposure to ionising radiation, ultraviolet rays, environmental contamination, tobacco consumption, etc.
Semen contains antioxidants which protect germ cells from environmental oxidative danger. However, antioxidants are eliminated with the use of assisted reproduction techniques (ART), thus leaving the spermatozoids vulnerable to oxidative damage.
Recent studies have demonstrated the beneficial effect of melatonin on the reproductive organs. In spermatozoids, melatonin offers protection against oxidative damage by preserving their viability. This allows for a greater number of spermatozoids to recover and for an increase in embryo quality when assisted reproduction techniques (ART) are used.
Today, the use of melatonin in fertility treatment is associated with a significant reduction in free radicals and oxidative stress which can negatively affect sperm quality. Although production only occurs during periods of darkness, it is also possible to obtain melatonin through our diet by consuming the following foods:
- Some studies have shown that regularly consuming nuts increases the presence of melatonin in the blood stream and makes it possible to counteract the effects of oxidative stress.
- Rice, oats and sweet corn. These three foods contain the greatest amount of melatonin per gram.
- Some tarter varieties contain concentrations of melatonin that are even higher than the levels present in the blood stream of certain mammals.
- Due to their high concentration of melatonin, specialists regularly recommend consuming bananas in the evening.
- Just like bananas, this fruit contains a small amount of melatonin, thus making it advisable to include tomatoes in the diet.