Melatonin Unsafe for Kids?

Last week (Jan 6, 2017) the NY Times asked the question that millions of parents have been asking for years, “Is the sleep aid melatonin safe for children and adults?”

You can read part of the article pasted below or the original at the NYTimes.

Here are a few things that you should know about melatonin:

Melatonin is a hormone – and like any hormone, taking it on a regular basis means that your body is likely to stop making it’s own and you’ll become dependent on the external source (this is how people become “addicted” to melatonin and can’t sleep without it).

All of the “natural” melatonin supplements on the market are actually synthetic hormones – they’re not natural at all.

Melatonin helps only about half of the people who try it to fall asleep 5-10 minutes faster – but not to sleep longer or better. In fact, many people report the very common “melatonin hangover” where residual unmetabolized melatonin is “leftover” the next morning – resulting in you feeling groggy and sluggish.

The best use of melatonin is for short-term (2-3 days) treatment of jet lag or to recover from shift work – but melatonin is not meant for regular use in adults or children.

If you’re not sleeping well, there are a lot of potential reasons – but the primary cause of your restlessness is likely to be chronic stress. Stress Cookies use a natural plant-derived precursor of melatonin to reduce stress, boost mood, and improve sleep quality.

Phytotonin (“phyto” = “plant”) increases serotonin levels during the day (for improved mood) and increases melatonin levels at night (for improved sleep quality). Because Phytotonin is not a synthetic hormone, but a natural building block, your body only synthesizes as much serotonin/melatonin as it needs – so no more “melatonin hangover” to fight through the next day.

Our whole family – kids included – enjoy Stress Cookies to reduce stress, beat burnout, improve focus, elevate mood, and enhance sleep quality. They look and taste like “cookies” – but they’re very much healthy snacks with high protein (10 grams from whey/egg), healthy fats (coconut/avocado oil), and smart carbs (prebiotics). Give them a try – feeling good never tasted so good!

Thanks for reading,



Is the Sleep Aid Melatonin Safe for Children and Adults?

By KEVIN MCCARTHY date published JANUARY 6, 2017 6:39 AM

QUESTION: How safe is melatonin to take regularly for sleep problems? Are there more risks for children versus adults?

ANSWER: There’s a dearth of safety data for melatonin, but there are a number of potential concerns, especially for children.

“I think we just don’t know what the potential long-term effects are, particularly when you’re talking about young children,” said Dr. Judith Owens, director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Parents really need to understand that there are potential risks.”

The pineal gland in the brain ramps up production of the hormone melatonin in the evening, as light fades, to encourage sleep, and it turns down production in the early morning hours. Synthetic forms of the hormone are also sold as a dietary supplement; because melatonin is found in some foods, like barley, olives and walnuts, it is regulated as a nutritional supplement rather than a drug, as most other hormones are.

In adults, studies have found melatonin to be effective for jet lag and some sleep disorders. It is also hugely popular as a sleep aid for children and can be useful for sleep disorders among those with attention-deficit disorders or autism, Dr. Owens said. “I rarely see a family come in with a child with insomnia who hasn’t tried melatonin,” she said. “I would say at least 75 percent of the time when they come in to see us” at the sleep clinic, “they’re either on melatonin or they’ve tried it in the past.”

While short-term use of the hormone is generally considered safe, it can have side effects, including headaches, dizziness and daytime grogginess, which could pose a risk for drivers. Melatonin can also interfere with blood pressure, diabetes and blood thinning medications.

Less is known about this potent hormone’s effects in children. Some research suggests it could, at least in theory, have effects on developing reproductive, cardiovascular, immune and metabolic systems.


“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”

-Robert Collier (American author, 1885-1950)

Post-Holiday Stress Solutions

Dr. Shawn Talbott: Post-Holiday Stress Solutions

(KUTV) Dr. Shawn Talbott visited Fresh Living with some great Post-Holiday Stress Solutions. (Watch the Video HERE)

As I write this, Halloween 2016 is a fading memory, I’m finally un-full from Thanksgiving feasting, and warm Christmas memories are just starting to get pushed aside by the New Year 2017. Like so many millions of other people, the holiday season means “busy-ness” – and being overly busy means being overly stressed. 

Too many things to do in not enough time. We’re always time-crunched – our sleep suffers, our diet and exercise patterns change (for the worse), our waistlines expand and our moods decline. 

As much as the holiday season truly is the “most wonderful time of the year” for many people, surveys show that it’s also the most high-stress time of the year. This is why “reduce stress” is always among the most popular of the New Year’s resolutions – typically behind only “lose weight” and “get in shape” in popularity. This is encouraging, not only because stress is associated with a higher risk for many diseases, but also because of the many very effective, very easy to follow strategies that can help control stress. Stress, as we all know, can come from a variety of sources – and at this time of year, turkey with the in-laws, hanging Christmas lights, and opening your post-holiday Visa bill are just some of the many sources of our escalating stress levels. 

The link between stress and disease is partly due to the fact that stress generally encourages us to eat more and exercise less – which is exactly the opposite of what we should be doing when we’re under stress. It also appears that these higher stress levels also cause a direct change in the body’s metabolic machinery – so appetite increases, fat storage accelerates, brain cells shrink, and immune cells become sluggish. Think about it – this means that holiday stress (and chronic stress in general) is making us hungry, fat, dumb, and sick – no wonder Santa can’t find good help these days. A key culprit in these metabolic changes appears to be the body’s primary stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is one of the hormones involved in the body’s Fight or Flight reaction to stress – so in this way cortisol is a “good” thing. But prolonged exposure to cortisol, such as those that we’ll all experience during this holiday season, are most certainly a “bad thing” because of the growing link between cortisol and health problems. Luckily, we have a lot of options for controlling stress – and guess what? – our grandmothers had it right all along. 

Getting enough sleep, regular exercise, and a balanced diet can all help to control the stress response and keep cortisol levels right where they should be. All of these approaches work – but the key here is BALANCE! By balance, I do NOT mean “deprivation” – but instead, I mean that one eggnog is better than 10 – and a slice of pumpkin pie is nicely balanced by a post-feast walk around the neighborhood. 

Here are my favorite “Super Stress Busters” – my favorite “stress balancing” foods and supplements that can be used to help bust stress and improve sleep quality. 

  • Green tea / Theanine (psychological stress) – a unique amino acid naturally found in green tea leaves. Theanine reduces the beta brain waves associated with tension/anxiety – and increases the alpha brain waves associated with relaxed alertness and calm focus. 
  • Dark Chocolate / New Zealand Pine Bark Extract (physiological stress) – contain OPCs (oligomeric proanthycyanins), that protect the body and brain from inflammatory and oxidative stress – improving both mental performance (of the brain) and physical performance (of the body). 
  • Japanese Asparagus Extract (environmental stress) – a novel amino acid profile stimulates the production of anti-stress compounds called heat-shock proteins (HSPs) that improve the body’s stress resilience at the cellular level. HSPs not only “protect” us from stress-induced cellular damage, but they help to “clean up” and repair residual damage – sort of like an internal cellar “tuneup” that keep cells running smoothly. 
  • Corn Grass Extract / Phytotonin (sleep stress) – a plant-derived phytonutrient (MBOA), a non-drowsy melatonin-like “plant-melatonin” that improves mood during the day and dramatically enhances sleep quality at night. 
  • Milk / casein decapeptide (cellular stress) – the “old wives tale” about drinking a glass of warm milk before bed to help you sleep is TRUE! The anti-stress and relaxation benefits of milk are due to a specific protein chain (decapeptide) that naturally induces a relaxation response in the brain – improving both sleep quality and stress resilience. 
  • Ashwagandha (hormonal stress) – the most revered of all the “adaptogens” in ancient Ayurvedic medicine (5,000 year history). Ashwagandha not only reduces feeling of stress and anxiety, but also helps our body to adapt to future stress by naturally balancing production of cortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone. 
  • Hemp / Cannabinoids (time stress) – “hemp” is the name for cannabis (Cannabis sativa) with no psychoactive compounds (such as THC – tetrahydrocannabinol). There are nearly 400 other cannabinoids in hemp, many of which help naturally balance the endocannabinoid systemm (ECS) in the brain – resulting in lower stress, reduced anxiety, and improved mood. Our body’s naturally produce their own “endocannabinoids” to help us adapt to stress – they’re responsible for the familiar “runner’s high” that we get after a good workout. 
  • Sugar – that’s right – sugar – it’s not exactly “toxic” like you may have read about – but you need to use it wisely. We all know that when we’re stressed out, we crave sweets. This carb-craving is because cortisol (our primary stress hormone) signals the brain to seek out sugar to “fuel” our fight-or-flight stress response. Instead of gorging on junk food to satisfy these sugar cravings, we can use the right amount of properly balanced carbohydrates to reduce cravings, while also improving daytime mood and enhancing nighttime sleep quality. Just the right amount of low-glycemic carbohydrate, about 10-20 grams (40-80 calories), can increase serotonin levels (for good mood during the day) and naturally enhance melatonin production at night (so you fall asleep faster and sleep deeper for improved sleep quality). 

By using your food (and supplements) to address different aspects of our stress response, we can effectively and naturally control existing stress – while also “vaccinating” ourselves against future stress – which increases our overall resilience to the stressful modern world in which we all live – especially during the Holidays! In bringing this balance into our holiday seasons, we’re better able to control stress and less likely to suffer the Bah-Humbugs that so many of us succumb to each year. Look at it this way, if indulging in holiday cheer just a little bit (instead of a lot) can help you control your stress levels, then you’ll be happier and healthier in the New Year. If nothing else, grandma’s gonna be happy just knowing that you took her advice – and that’ll be good for everybody’s stress level. Happy Holidays! 

Shawn M Talbott, PhD, CNS, LDN, FACSM, FAIS, FACN Nutritional Biochemist and Author  801) 915-1170 (mobile) 

For more information, visit and

Dr. Shawn Talbott is a nutritional biochemist who studies “psychological vigor” (which is a combination of physical energy, mental acuity, and emotional well-being). He is the author of 13 books, was part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative to fight childhood obesity, and was recently named the “World’s Fittest CEO.”

Dietary Stress & Gut Microbes…

Could your belly fat be caused by the “dietary stress” of disrupted gut bacteria from your Western Diet?

Stress Cookies are rich in “smart carbs” such as probiotics and fiber to help healthy gut bacteria to thrive…

Gut Microbes. 2017 Jan 6:1-13. doi: 10.1080/19490976.2016.1270811. [Epub ahead of print]

Western diets, gut dysbiosis, and metabolic diseases: Are they linked?


Obesity afflicts 36.5% of the US population and 600 million individuals world-wide. Thus, it is imperative to understand the risk factors underlying metabolic disease including diet, activity level, sleep, and genetics. Another key contributory factor is the gut microbiota given its widely reported role in the development of metabolic disease. The gut microbiota, particularly its structure and function, is heavily influenced by Western style diets rich in a complex mixture of fats and high in simple sugars. In this review, the profound impact of obesity and Western diets on the gut microbiota will be illustrated, and the following research questions will be addressed: 1) to what extent do high fat diets (HFDs) alter community membership and function and does this depend upon the amount or type of fat consumed?, 2) how rapidly do dietary shifts alter gut microbial communities?, 3) are these alterations sustained or can the microbiome recover from dietary stress?, 4) how does diet drive host-microbe interactions leading to obesity?, and 5) what can be done to restore the detrimental impact of HFD on the gut microbiota? The goal of this review is to address these questions by parsing out the effects and underlying mechanisms of how Western diets impact the gut microbiota and host. By doing so, potential avenues for further exploration and strategies for microbiome-based interventions to prevent or treat diet-induced obesity may become more apparent.

KEYWORDS:  Western Diet; dietary fat; gut microbiome; gut microbiota; metabolism; obesity; prebiotics; probiotics

PMID: 28059614


DOI: 10.1080/19490976.2016.1270811

Stress Cookie Special!

Happy Holidays!

Just a quick note to let you know that we’re offering a very special deal of Stress Cookies and Stress Tea for the next TWO WEEKS (until Jan 1).

Buy our most popular “Tea & Cookie Combo” (2 dozen Stress Cookies + 2 dozen servings of Stress Tea) – and get 8 servings of Stress Tea for FREE (4 of Fruit Punch and 4 of Mango Peach).

Shopping cart is here =

Here’s to starting the New Year off with less stress, more energy, and better mood!

All best,

Shawn & Courtney

PS – we have several new Stress Cookie formulas coming in 2017, including one specifically formulated for SLEEP (improved sleep quality) and versions for athletes (endurance & recovery) – so please stay tuned at

Probiotics Reduce Stress…

Recent meta-analysis shows a dramatic reduction of stress, depression, and anxiety with probiotic consumption…

J Altern Complement Med. 2016 Nov 14. [Epub ahead of print]

Probiotics and Subclinical Psychological Symptoms in Healthy Participants: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.

McKean J1, Naug H1,2, Nikbakht E1,2, Amiet B1,2, Colson N1,2.



Interest in the gut-brain axis and emerging evidence that the intestinal microbiota can influence central nervous system function has led to the hypothesis that probiotic supplementation can have a positive effect on mood and psychological symptoms such as depression and anxiety. Although several human clinical trials have investigated this, results have been inconsistent. Therefore, a systematic review and meta-analytic approach was chosen to examine if probiotic consumption has an effect on psychological symptoms.


The online databases PubMed, Scopus, and the Cochrane Library were searched for relevant studies up to July 2016. Those that were randomized and placebo controlled and measured preclinical psychological symptoms of depression, anxiety, and perceived stress in healthy volunteers pre and post supplementation with a probiotic were included. To control for differences in scales of measurement, data were converted to percentage change, and the standardized mean difference between the probiotic and control groups was investigated using Revman software. A random effects model was used for analysis. Heterogeneity was assessed using the I2 statistic. Quality assessment was undertaken using the Rosendal scale.


Seven studies met the inclusion criteria and provided data for nine comparisons. All studies passed the quality analysis. The meta-analysis showed that supplementation with probiotics resulted in a statistically significant improvement in psychological symptoms (standardized mean difference 0.34; 95% confidence interval 0.07-0.61, Z = 2.49) compared with placebo.


These results show that probiotic consumption may have a positive effect on psychological symptoms of depression, anxiety, and perceived stress in healthy human volunteers.


meta-analysis; neuropsychology; nutrition; probiotics

PMID: 27841940
DOI: 10.1089/acm.2016.0023

Stress/Depression Predict Sleep Quality

This new study outlines precisely what we are addressing with our upcoming Sleep Cookie (sleep “quality” versus sleep “quantity”)!

Chronic stress leads to depression and poor sleep quality – which leads to more stress and more depression and even worse sleep quality – in a vicious cycle that keeps repeating and is very hard to break.

Sleep Cookies help to rebalance the stress response like our very popular Stress Cookies, but they’re specifically formulated to help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer (with fewer awakenings during the night) and with MUCH improved sleep quality.

Sleep Cookies will be available in January and we’re running a special on Stress Cookies until the end of the year (buy 2 dozen Stress Cookies and 2 dozen servings of Stress Tea and get 8 servings of Stress Tea for FREE).

J Am Coll Health. 2016 Dec 12:0. [Epub ahead of print]

Multilevel Analysis Exploring the Links between Stress, Depression, and Sleep Problems among Two-Year College Students.



This study explored the association of stress and depression with a multidimensional sleep problems construct in a sample of 2-year college students.


The sample consisted of 440 students enrolled in 2-year study from fall 2011 to fall 2013.


Participants in an obesity prevention study completed surveys assessing sleep, stress, and depression at baseline, 4, 12, and 24 months. Multilevel models predicting sleep problems were conducted to distinguish episodic from chronic reports of stress and depression.


Participants were primarily female (68%), white (73%), young adults (M age = 22.8), with an average of 8.4 hours of sleep per night. Neither stress nor depression were predictive of sleep quantity; however, they were predictive of sleep quality.


Results show that sleep quality rather than sleep quantity may be the greater health concern for young adults suggesting that intervention programs targeting depression, stress management, and healthy sleep patterns are warranted.


Mental health; depression; sleep problems; stress; young adults




Fat as Endocrine Organ – Inflammation & Metabolic Syndrome…

Exp Gerontol. 2016 Dec 9. pii: S0531-5565(16)30579-4. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2016.12.007. [Epub ahead of print]

Changes in adipose tissue cellular composition during obesity and aging as a cause of metabolic dysregulation.


Adipose tissue represents complex endocrine organ containing several different cellular populations including adipocytes, pre-adipocytes, mesenchymal stem cells, macrophages and lymphocytes. It is well establishing that these populations are not static but alter during obesity and aging. Changes in cellular populations alter inflammatory status and other common metabolic complications arise, therefore adipose tissue cellular composition helps dictate its endocrine and regulatory function. During excessive weight gain in obese individuals and as we age there is shift towards increase populations of inflammatory macrophages with a decrease of regulatory T cell. This altered cellular composition promote chronic low grade inflammation negatively affecting mesenchymal stem cell progenitor self-renewal, which result in deterioration of adipogenesis and increased cellular stress in adipocytes. All these changes promote metabolic disorders including age- or obese-related insulin resistance leading to type 2 diabetes.




Metabolic Stress & Diabetes…

Biochem J. 2016 Dec 15;473(24):4527-4550.

Molecular mechanisms of ROS production and oxidative stress in diabetes.


Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation are known to be associated with the development of metabolic diseases, including diabetes. Oxidative stress, an imbalance between oxidative and antioxidative systems of cells and tissues, is a result of over production of oxidative-free radicals and associated reactive oxygen species (ROS). One outcome of excessive levels of ROS is the modification of the structure and function of cellular proteins and lipids, leading to cellular dysfunction including impaired energy metabolism, altered cell signalling and cell cycle control, impaired cell transport mechanisms and overall dysfunctional biological activity, immune activation and inflammation. Nutritional stress, such as that caused by excess high-fat and/or carbohydrate diets, promotes oxidative stress as evident by increased lipid peroxidation products, protein carbonylation and decreased antioxidant status. In obesity, chronic oxidative stress and associated inflammation are the underlying factors that lead to the development of pathologies such as insulin resistance, dysregulated pathways of metabolism, diabetes and cardiovascular disease through impaired signalling and metabolism resulting in dysfunction to insulin secretion, insulin action and immune responses. However, exercise may counter excessive levels of oxidative stress and thus improve metabolic and inflammatory outcomes. In the present article, we review the cellular and molecular origins and significance of ROS production, the molecular targets and responses describing how oxidative stress affects cell function including mechanisms of insulin secretion and action, from the point of view of possible application of novel diabetic therapies based on redox regulation.


insulin action; insulin secretion; metabolism; oxidative stress; pancreatic β cells; reactive oxygen species

Tea Polyphenols for Weight Loss – Green or Black?

Molecules. 2016 Dec 7;21(12). pii: E1659.

Mechanisms of Body Weight Reduction by Black Tea Polyphenols.

Pan H1, Gao Y2, Tu Y3.


Obesity is one of the most common nutritional diseases worldwide. This disease causes health problems, such as dyslipidemia, hyperglycemia, hypertension and inflammation. There are drugs used to inhibit obesity. However, they have serious side effects outweighing their beneficial effects. Black tea, commonly referred to as “fermented tea”, has shown a positive effect on reducing body weight in animal models. Black tea polyphenols are the major components in black tea which reduce body weight. Black tea polyphenols are more effective than green tea polyphenols. Black tea polyphenols exert a positive effect on inhibiting obesity involving in two major mechanisms: (i) inhibiting lipid and saccharide digestion, absorption and intake, thus reducing calorie intake; and (ii) promoting lipid metabolism by activating AMP-activated protein kinase to attenuate lipogenesis and enhance lipolysis, and decreasing lipid accumulation by inhibiting the differentiation and proliferation of preadipocytes; (iii) blocking the pathological processes of obesity and comorbidities of obesity by reducing oxidative stress. Epidemiological studies of the health relevance between anti-obesity and black tea polyphenols consumption remain to be further investigated.


AMPK; anti-obesity; anti-oxidation; black tea polyphenol; lipid digestion; saccharide digestion