Can low melatonin levels increase diabetes risk?

Low levels of the hormone melatonin could be linked to type 2 diabetes, a new study reveals.

Research from the National Institutes of Health found that women with the lowest levels of melatonin had more than twice the risk of type 2 diabetes compared to women with the highest levels of melatonin.

More than 300 women were tested during a study period from 2000 to 2012. Low levels of the hormone increased the risk of developing diabetes by 2.17 times.

Causation or speculation?

Do low levels of melatonin actually cause the development of type 2 diabetes? Researchers say this part of the equation is still unclear.

"We found an association between melatonin and type 2 diabetes; what we haven't got from this study is causality," said study lead author Dr. Ciaran McMullan in an article on HealthDay News. "That's the next step of research."

Melatonin can be found in the islet cells of the pancreas — the organ that produces insulin, suggesting that the hormone might play a role in the metabolism of sugar.

Should you take melatonin to prevent diabetes?

Dr. Joel Zonszein, director of the clinical diabetes center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, says the study reflects the "complexity" of type 2 diabetes, but it doesn't necessarily prove that melatonin supplements will help to prevent the disease.

Researchers will next look at whether or not they can adjust melatonin secretion levels to determine if it is a risk factor for diabetes.

The study is published in the April 3 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Source: Web MD

Image via michael reuter on Flickr

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