New research sheds light on connections between mitochondrial health and performance, melatonin and coronavirus impact, specifically demonstrating how melatonin protects mitochondria, potentially reducing the impact of coronaviruses.
In the study, published by the medical review journal Pharmacology and Therapeutics, researchers found that coronaviruses seem to target the mitochondria and melatonin appears to offer protection against the damage these viruses inflict. The research highlights the fact that in addition to its many other functions within the body, melatonin plays an important role in immune system function.
This deeper understanding of how coronaviruses function on a cellular level and the role of melatonin in mitigating viral damage and preserving immune function may yield more effective Covid-19 treatment options.
Examining Mitochondrial Function
Mitochondria are dual membrane wrapped organelles – specialized structures within a cell responsible for specific tasks – and energy production is one of their primary functions within the body. While aiding in the process of metabolizing food into the energy required for the vast number of bodily processes is a primary mitochondrial function, the mitochondria are also essential to innate immunity processes and the calcium exchange process essential to the regulation of cellular metabolic processes.
Signaling or communication within the immune system is another important mitochondrial function. Mitochondrial dysfunction is connected to a wide variety of diseases, including diabetes and other diseases associated with metabolic disorders as well as diseases associated with inflammation. Mitochondrial dysfunction is also associated with such diseases as Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
The Impact of Coronaviruses on Mitochondria
According to the new research, coronaviruses impact the mitochondria in ways that disrupt its functioning, allowing the virus to replicate more freely. One way these viruses interfere with the functioning of the mitochondria is by interfering with mitochondrial antiviral-signaling proteins (MAVS). These proteins can signal a cell attacked by a virus to self-destruct rather than replicate.
By invading angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptors, coronaviruses disrupt the regulatory and energy producing functions of the mitochondria. These disruptions, problematic on their own, also divert mitochondrial energy away from fighting the virus.
How Melatonin Protects Mitochondria
Melatonin is most widely recognized for its role in maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm and promoting the quality sleep essential to good health. However, in the context of how melatonin protects mitochondria, melatonin has a number of important functions.
Long recognized as a powerful antioxidant, as well as for the significant role it plays in the regulation of inflammation, melatonin helps to maintain the structural integrity of the mitochondria via its anti-inflammatory action and its role in regulating cytosolic calcium levels. That anti-inflammatory action is a vital part of preventing the dangerous cytokine storm, a major, out-of-control inflammatory immune response event that can cause organ failure.
According to researchers, melatonin helps to mitigate the damage inflicted by coronavirus via regulatory actions that help maintain cell signaling and support mitochondrial activities, including energy production. Melatonin also has a regulatory role in the mechanical function of the immune system, including the action of natural killer cells. Boosting immune system performance is another way that melatonin serves to protect mitochondrial functions.
Melatonin Levels Decrease With Age
Researchers noted that there may be a melatonin connection to why the coronavirus tends to be more severe in the elderly. As we age, melatonin levels decrease. Naturally, that reduction is going to have consequences. Those consequences can include reduced immune function and decreased mitochondrial health and functioning, impacts that can leave us more vulnerable to the effects of coronaviruses and other health conditions and diseases.
Because this hormone, produced primarily by the brain’s pineal gland, is an essential part of optimal health, it is important to be proactive in maintaining healthy melatonin levels, especially as we move into middle age and beyond.
Maintaining Healthy Melatonin Levels
As revealed in the field of chronobiology, a branch of biological study specializing in natural rhythms, many biological processes and functions take place a specific times of the day. Melatonin production tends to take place at night. Light, as well as the lack thereof, is an important environmental cue for its production. Thus, practicing better sleep hygiene and being more light conscious can help improve your melatonin levels.
Set regular hours for sleeping and waking. Avoid bright lights and light from electronic devices in the evening, particularly during the two hours before bedtime. Be physically active in the morning sun, which serves as a valuable environmental cue for better sleep and better melatonin production.
Diet and the timing of meals is also an important aspect. Eliminate highly processed foods from the diet. Eat foods that enhance melatonin production, such as eggs, fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, nuts, tart cherries and milk. Set regular times for meals and avoid heavy foods in the evening. A melatonin supplement can help boost levels while you work on the lifestyle changes that can naturally improve melatonin levels.
Potential to Improve Coronavirus Treatment
In light of the more in-depth information about how coronaviruses operate on a cellular level and their impact on the mitochondria, researchers are optimistic that their findings on the role of melatonin in helping to protect the mitochondria can yield more effective treatment for Covid-19. The connection to mitochondrial health adds to the importance of maintaining health melatonin levels.