NMU 107 – Melatonin for Weight Loss and Improved Blood Sugar Regulation
Nutrition / Natural Medicine Update No 107 (October 4, 2018)
with Dr. James Meschino
Topic: Melatonin for Weight Loss and Improved Blood Sugar Regulation
Source: Journal of Pineal Research (2014)
The Journal of Pineal Research published a review article showing some compelling evidence that melatonin can help to prevent and reverse weight gain and improve blood sugar levels in adults. Melatonin is a hormone made by the pineal gland in the brain. It is typically secreted in the evening upon darkness, and it functions to help us get to sleep and reach a deep level of renewing sleep. In recent years we have seen that melatonin also acts as an important brain antioxidant, it helps to prevent the build-up of amyloid plaque linked to Alzheimer’s disease, it supports immune system function and it has some direct anti-cancer effects on breast and prostate tissues. That’s already very impressive. But new research also shows that one of the reasons that people tend to gain weight (body fat) as they get older (even though they are not eating more calories) is linked to the age-related decline in melatonin secretion. As we get older the pineal gland secretes less and less melatonin. This is a major reason why insomnia and sleep disturbance problems increase with age, and why our immune system becomes weaker and less efficient, as well as a contributing factor to Alzheimer’s onset and increased risk of breast and prostate cancer, according to many published studies.
But, the decline in melatonin as we age also makes us more prone to weight gain and higher blood sugar levels (glucose levels), which increase risk of diabetes. There is now conclusive evidence from animal studies to show this, and human studies indicate that individuals with lower melatonin levels tend to gain weight more easily and have a harder time shedding the excess weight. The good news is that experimental studies show that melatonin supplementation reverses weight gain and improves blood sugar (glucose) levels in older animals, even when no changes are made to diet or exercise. We think the same thing happens in humans and here is why. Melatonin supplementation has been shown to increase the ability of blood sugar to enter cells of the body, which decreases blood sugar. This is known as increased insulin sensitivity and occurs because melatonin increases synthesis of the GLUT-4 transporter on cells, which allows blood sugar to enter cells. So, blood sugar regulation improves in the presence of adequate melatonin As well, melatonin supplementation increases the activity of the body’s brown fat. Our brown fat burns off excess calories consumed during the day and releases it as heat to the environment, especially while we are sleeping. Melatonin also stimulates the conversion of white fat (which stores body fat) into brown fat, which burns excess fat, thereby increasing our metabolism and enabling us to burn more fat each day. In turn, this helps to reduce body fat, even when no changes are made to our diet and exercise. So, in the perfect scenario, if an overweight person cuts back on some calories, adds 30 minutes of light endurance activity to their daily routine, and adds an evening dose of melatonin to their supplementation program – you have the best of all worlds coming together to help reduce body fat, regulate blood sugar and improve a variety of health parameters. For this reason, I think melatonin supplementation is something to consider for many people. If you find that your metabolism has slowed down, or you’re not eating any more than you always did, or you’re actually eating less, but you seem to be gaining weight or having trouble losing excess weight while making a pretty good effort, then melatonin supplementation may be the missing link. Remember that as we age we naturally make less melatonin. So, putting some melatonin back into your body via supplementation may be a good thing on many levels. It is something that I do myself.
Here is what the authors of the study state, “The absence or reduction in melatonin production, as during aging, shift-work or illuminated environments during the night, induces insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, sleep disturbance, and metabolic circadian disorganization … constituting a vicious cycle aggravating overall health and leading to obesity. The available evidence supports the suggestion that melatonin replacement therapy (supplementation), if adequately carried out (in terms of dose, formulation, and time of the day of administration), might prevent and/or contribute to the elimination of the above pathologies and restore a more healthy state to the organism”. As for melatonin dosing and timing, a person would typically take 1-3 mg of a melatonin supplement, about 60-90 minutes before bedtime to get the intended benefit. Taking melatonin through the day would make you too sleep and disrupt your body’s natural circadian rhythm sleep and wakefulness.
I have included a link to this brilliant research review article in the text below.
Cipolla-Neto J, Amarai FG, Afeche SC et al. Journal of Pineal Research Melatonin, energy metabolism, and obesity: a review. 2014; 56:371-381
Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great,