In overweight or obese individuals, various treatment strategies are discussed daily. Recently, the relationship between melatonin and weight loss has been a target of scientific research. Since melatonin is a potential regulator of energy metabolism, it is suggested that the hormone plays a vital role in weight loss. Shall we understand in more detail?
Melatonin: What Is It?
Melatonin is an endogenous dopaminergic hormone synthesized from tryptophan and derived from serotonin.
Known as the “ sleep hormone,” melatonin production occurs in the pineal gland in a process strictly controlled by the environmental lighting cycle. In other words, the peak of its synthesis happens at night, in the absence of light.
This characteristic attributes essential physiological functions to melatonin: its main effect is synchronizing the circadian cycle, sleep, and wakefulness, from which its well-established use in clinical medicine for treating sleep disorders arises.
However, whether by direct action or through its receptors, melatonin also plays essential roles in other bodily functions, such as energy metabolism. This participation is one of the intersection mechanisms between melatonin and weight loss, as we will see later.
Does Melatonin Make You Lose Weight?
Yes, melatonin can be seen as an anti-obesogenic hormonal factor, as several pieces of evidence prove its regulatory action in the stages of energy balance, such as controlling hunger, fat accumulation, and calorie consumption.
However, attention is needed: in a scientific review that analyzed research on the use of melatonin in obesity, it was found that clinical data are still insufficient, and preclinical data do not always show favorable evidence.
Therefore, exogenous supplementation must be treated with caution, and the primary strategy must be the natural regulation of the circadian cycle of those who wish to lose weight.
Why Does Melatonin Make You Lose Weight?
Next, you will understand the mechanisms that promote weight loss through the action of melatonin.
Adipose Tissue Regulation
Obesity is characterized by severe dysfunction of white adipose tissue, the subtype with the best ability to store lipid/caloric excess. It has been reported that melatonin can regulate adipose tissue and adipokines through mechanisms such as:
- Lipolysis of adipocytes;
- Growth of brown adipose tissue (with a more remarkable ability to burn excess calories);
- “Browning” of white adipose tissue;
- Increased capacity for cellular respiration;
- Reduction of adipogenesis.
Together, all these processes contribute to increased energy expenditure, helping to lose weight.
In addition, melatonin also contributes to normalizing the expression and secretion patterns of two adipokines related to the pathogenesis of obesity: leptin ( satiety hormone) and adiponectin (anti-inflammatory and fight against insulin resistance).
Improved Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance in obesity is nothing new. High food intake, glucose, and lipid overload lead to greater activation of insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells. Over time, this excess circulating insulin stops taking effect, and the glucose is incorporated by the cells and converted into fat for storage purposes. In other words, insulin resistance promotes the accumulation of visceral fat.
The role of melatonin in combating insulin resistance has already been addressed by science. Melatonin inhibits insulin secretion; therefore, hyperinsulinemia is not adequately counteracted if it is lacking in the body and weight gain persists.
Circadian Control Of Metabolism
Circadian disturbances, caused by factors such as nocturnal exposure to light or changes in diet, can affect energy balance and increase the risk of weight gain.
Known for its role in synchronizing the circadian rhythm, melatonin is a critical factor in the correct functioning of energy metabolism, including synchronizing the feeding cycle at rest or fasting.
One of the essential functions of melatonin in the circadian organization is to prepare and modify central and peripheral metabolic tissues to respond to hormones such as glucocorticoids, growth hormones, and catecholamines, in addition to improving insulin sensitivity, as described above.
This regulation of energy metabolism promotes the correct functioning of energy storage or burning pathways, contributing to proper weight maintenance.
What Is Good For Increasing Melatonin?
Once the relationship between melatonin and weight loss has been established, it is necessary to understand how to stimulate its production naturally. For this, some tips are:
- Include tryptophan-rich foods in the diet (such as cheese and oilseeds );
- Consume foods that contain melatonin (such as tomatoes, rice, and nuts );
- Establish suitable times for each meal;
- Exercise during the day;
- Expose yourself to sunlight;
- Limit artificial light before bed.
Melatonin supplementation should only be considered when natural treatment is insufficient.
In the weight loss process, adequate melatonin production is crucial. Indirectly, this hormone participates in several physiological processes that prevent weight gain and therefore help in weight loss.
However, healthcare professionals should be careful when prescribing indiscriminate melatonin supplementation, as its exogenous use needs to be better established clinically. Alternatively, natural regulation of this hormone through simple lifestyle changes should be the preferred route.