Melatonin consumption can help control weight gain

Melatonin – a natural hormone found in the body – might help to control weight gain when taken as a supplement, according to research published in the Journal of Pineal Research.

Spanish scientists found that melatonin can have a metabolic benefit because it stimulates the presence of "beige" fat – a type of fat cell that burns calories instead of storing them. Beige fat is considered a "good" fat, in that it can help regulate weight.

A treatment for obesity?

The researchers, from the University of Granada Institute for Neuroscience, the Hospital Carlos III, Madrid, and the University of Texas Health Science Center, previously analyzed the effects of melatonin on obesity. Their most recent study reveals that melatonin not only promotes beige fat in obese rats, but also in thin animals who were used as a control group. The chronic administration of melatonin was found to heighten the body's thermogenic effect in response to cold and exercise, which allows it to generate heat and burn fat.

"These findings, together with the pharmacologically safe profile of melatonin, mean it is a potentially useful tool both in its own right and to complement the treatment of obesity," a press release on the study stated.

Sources and treatment

Melatonin can be found in small quantities in foods like sunflower seeds, almonds, goji berries, mustard, cherries and some spices, like cardamom and coriander.

Darkness causes the body to release more melatonin, so people battling obesity can benefit from making their sleep environments as light-free as possible.

Melatonin supplements are usually made in pill form and are often used to treat conditions like jet lag, insomnia, Alzheimer's disease and some developmental disorders like autism and cerebral palsy. Since melatonin can produce side effects – especially when taking with other medications – it's best to speak with your doctor before taking melatonin.

The researchers are hoping to secure further funding "to confirm these findings in humans, by administering melatonin to help combat obesity and diabetes."

Source: University of Granada

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