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How Melatonin May Help with Weight Loss

Melatonin and weight loss

You may be familiar with melatonin as a natural supplement that can alleviate sleep problems, but now researchers report another possible benefit. Could melatonin help with weight loss?

Melatonin and weight loss

The relationship between melatonin and weight loss involves fat. More specifically, researchers noted “for the first time, that oral melatonin supplementation induces browning of the inguinal WAT [white adipose tissue].” What does this mean?

White adipose tissue, also known as white fat, is one of two kinds of fat tissue in humans. Brown (or beige) adipose tissue is the other.

White fat is often viewed as the bad guy, because it stores energy in the form of large fat molecules and is the type of fat you may see hanging around your midsection. Brown fat, however, is generally considered to be good fat because it is much smaller and actually burns these smaller molecules, producing energy.

Studies conducted in mice have shown that when these animals are overfed, their brown fat protects them from getting fat. In humans, there is evidence that having more brown fat is associated with being leaner.

Now a new study from scientists at the University of Granada in Spain has shown that melatonin supplementation caused inguinal (groin and lower abdominal area) white fat tissue in rats to brown. How did this happen?

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The researchers noted that melatonin supplementation increased the levels of two thermogenic (heat producing) proteins, which encourages weight loss. At the same time, melatonin did not have a negative effect on activity.

Other benefits of melatonin
Investigators have been busy exploring other uses for melatonin, and much of the research has focused on sleep-related benefits. One potentially important use of melatonin involves children with autism.

A new study has found that daytime behavior may improve in children with autism when they are given melatonin supplements. The supplement demonstrated a good ability to improve sleep duration and time to fall asleep in these children.

Animal research has indicated that melatonin also may be helpful in the treatment of uveitis, or inflammation of the eye. Thus far, research has focused on animal studies, with one 2012 report showing melatonin to be helpful in managing uveitis in cats.

The bottom line
Overweight and obesity are a major health issue, and despite the many different ways to address the challenge, the battle of the bulge is still going strong. New, effective ways to tackle the problem are always welcome.

In the current study, use of oral melatonin caused white adipose tissue to engage in a “brown-fat-like function” in the rats. This led the authors to conclude that “this may contribute to melatonin’s control of body weight and its metabolic benefits.” More research into the power of melatonin will hopefully yield more promising results in terms of weight loss.

Del Sole MJ et al. Therapeutic benefit of melatonin in experimental feline uveitis. Journal of Pineal Research 2012 Jan; 52(1): 29-37
Jimenez-Aranda A et al. Melatonin induces browning of inguinal white adipose tissue in Zucker diabetic fatty rats. Journal of Pineal Research2013 Sept. DOI:10.1111/jpi.12089