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New Study Shows Melatonin in Walnuts Protective Against Cancer and Heart Disease

How To Grow Organic Walnuts - One Of The Top10 Super-Foods. A gardening article featured by the Lifestyle directory at Resources For Attorneys, a legal and lifestyle portal.

(SACRAMENTO, CALIF.) SEPTEMBER 13, 2005 - Many think melatonin is something you can take to fall asleep after long airplane flights, but scientists are studying how this powerful antioxidant actually fights diseases like cancer, may impact diseases associated with aging and likely will allow people to live healthier lives.

According to Russel J. Reiter, Ph.D., Professor of Neuroendocrinology at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, "The ingredients in walnuts would be expected to reduce the incidence of cancer, delay or make less severe neurodegenerative diseases of aging, including Parkinsonism, Alzheimer's disease and reduce the severity of cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Reiter's study found walnuts are a potent source of melatonin, which is easily absorbed in the body. "When walnuts are consumed, blood levels of melatonin increase threefold," notes Reiter. Studies have shown walnuts reduce the risk of heart disease due to their combination of healthy nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Reiter believes it is the synergy among the ingredients in walnuts - the combination of nutrients plus the melatonin that makes them so beneficial. "Melatonin and omega-3s, both of which are in walnuts, starve cancers because they prevent the growth of cancer cells. When you take melatonin as a tablet, you are exclusively getting melatonin. I think the value of the walnut is the composite of what it contains."

Many diseases of aging, including cataracts, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease, have a free-radical component, Dr. Reiter said. A primary theory of aging states that aging and its associated degenerative changes are consequences of free-radical damage. Melatonin acts like a cellular "Pac-Man" gobbling up free radicals before they can cause harm.

"Melatonin is found in all vertebrates and invertebrates, even in algae, slime molds and bacteria," Dr. Reiter said. "In 1995, a couple of publications appeared showing that it also is present in plants. So, we not only produce it in our bodies, but we eat it in our diets." Walnuts also contain large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to inhibit certain types of cancer and to be heart healthy. Melatonin also has been shown to inhibit certain types of cancer.

Eating a good, nutritious diet containing a variety of nutrient-rich foods is undoubtedly better than trying to get those beneficial ingredients from supplements. "It's the package deal," Dr. Reiter said. "In walnuts it's not only the melatonin that is healthy, but the other ingredients. It's really the composite of the nut that makes it healthy, not one ingredient."

Melatonin is perhaps more famous as a sleep aid. The pineal gland in the brain secretes a little of it during the day and more at night. The nighttime rise is most important. As we get older, our nighttime melatonin levels wane, often wreaking havoc on regular sleep patterns.

Free-radical damage increases as we age, while melatonin decreases. "I'm not going to suggest that if we boost our melatonin level we can defer age-related conditions," Dr. Reiter said. "But it is worth asking this question: Is the loss of melatonin, an important anti-oxidant, of any consequence in terms of us developing free-radical-related diseases? In the lab, we can use pure melatonin to forestall a lot of free-radical damage."

For example, adding melatonin to the diet of newborn rats that are susceptible to cataracts prevents cataracts from forming, he observed.

The finding that walnuts contain melatonin is important. "We don't know the half of it yet," Dr. Reiter said.

 Eat nuts in moderation though as they are quite high in calories – perhaps a handful up to five times a week. Oil made from the nuts is delicious in salads or on pasta dishes.

Common walnut (Juglans regia) is a beautiful, slow growing, deciduous tree that may grow to around 15meters/50feet tall with a spread of about 10meters/30feet. Because of it’s potential mature size give some thought to its permanent position as not all back yards are able to accommodate such a tree. Even though they will tolerate heavy pruning, they shouldn’t be planted near drains or buildings.
It is a cool-climate tree and prefers a sunny position. The mature tree is quite frost hardy, but young plants and new spring growth are vulnerable to frost damage. Walnut trees prefer deep, rich, well drained soils with regular watering through summer and plenty of light.

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