Is Melatonin Safe For Children?

Pediatric melatonin overdoses have risen 530 percent in the last 10 years. But that's not the only reason to reconsider the popular...

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Today’s Health Upgrade

  • Why you should eat more blueberries

  • Are your children taking hormones?

  • The misleading science of managing your blood sugar

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The Benefits of Blueberries

We don’t love the idea of good foods and bad foods because there’s no way we could label something like kaiserschmarrn (Arnold’s favorite food) as bad. But, some foods do have more nutritional benefits than others. 

If you want to boost your brain and heart health, adding more blueberries to your diet could go a long way. 

Research suggests that eating blueberries could lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes, protect your brain from neurodegeneration, boost short-term memory, and support weight loss and maintenance.

And that’s not all. As you age, a recent study suggests blueberries protect the health of your blood vessels, which means improved blood flow, less calcification, a healthier heart, and a lower likelihood of suffering a heart attack. 

Research suggests you’ll achieve most of the benefits by eating about 1.25 cups per day. You can throw blueberries in a smoothie, add them to yogurt, enjoy them as a side dish, or be like Arnold and toss them into a bowl of oatmeal.  

Are Your Children Taking Hormones?

When your kids don’t sleep, you’ll do almost anything to help them get some rest. But the quickest solution might not be the best or the safest.

In the last ten years, pediatric melatonin overdoses have risen 530 percent. And recent research suggests that 88 percent of melatonin gummy products are mislabeled, with some having up to 300 percent more melatonin listed than the label.

And that’s just scratching the surface. The study also found that many products included other substances, such as CBD or serotonin. This happens because supplement companies don’t have to prove the accuracy of their label. So if you buy a supplement for your children (or yourself), make sure it’s third-party certified, such as NSF Certified for Sport or Informed Sport.

But the bigger question might be if you should be giving children melatonin in the first place. Melatonin use in children has soared in the last five years, and approximately 20 percent of kids under the age of 14 now use it daily. Many people don’t realize it, but melatonin is a hormone that your brain produces naturally in response to darkness, and the long-term impact on children is unknown. 

There are currently no studies that assess long-term use. Still, some research suggests that giving melatonin to children before they develop could affect puberty or glucose metabolism, but there’s not enough research to know the level of risk. 

We don’t mention this to scare you but to make you aware that recent research suggests many reasons you might want to limit melatonin to short-term use or avoid it altogether. Your body produces melatonin throughout the day. When your brain senses darkness, your pineal gland produces more melatonin and signals that it’s time for you to sleep. 

As parents, we understand how hard it can be if your children aren’t sleeping. But it might be helpful to work on other techniques to improve their sleep, such as setting consistent bedtimes (this works for adults too), limited screen time and bright lights an hour or two before bed, cutting off food at least 1 to 2 hours before sleep, reading a story, listening to calming music, or even have your children write or draw before they sleep. 

You Might Be Overstressing Blood Sugar

Continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) have become a popular way to try and prevent weight gain and manage insulin. But if you’re not a diabetic, it can lead to a lot of stress about nothing. 

That’s because it’s completely normal (and healthy) for your blood sugar to rise after eating. 

The mistake is thinking that your blood sugar response depends alone on the food you eat. In reality, research shows that people can respond differently to the exact same foods because the many factors determine your blood sugar response, including:

  • Body fat

  • Genetics

  • Stress

  • Sleep

  • Whether you exercise before or after a meal

  • How much muscle you have on your body

  • The time of day

  • What else you eat in your meal (for example, combining fiber or protein with pure sugar would change your insulin response). 

Research even suggests that what you ate the night before can influence your insulin response the following day, which means you could be misinterpreting what a CGM is saying. This is why stressing over every food you eat can be so problematic. Not only might you make unnecessary changes (because blood sugar is a concern if it stays elevated — not if it spikes), but also because you might remove completely healthy foods from your diet and unnecessarily stress every time you eat.

If you want to prevent insulin resistance, instead of worrying about individual foods, focus on maintaining a healthy body weight, eat protein and fiber in each meal, move each day, prioritize sleep, and limit ultra-processed foods.

Publisher: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Editors-in-chief: Adam Bornstein and Daniel Ketchell