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Three Essential Ways in Which Melatonin Links to Energy Balance



sharma-obesity-pineal-glandAs a regular reader, you will be quite familiar with the emerging recognition of sleep (or rather lack thereof) as an important determinant of weight gain.

Melatonin, an evolutionary ancient molecule that, in mammals, is secreted from the pineal gland, is a hormone that plays a major role as a key regulator of the circadian cycle, along which  virtually all metabolic activities are coordinated.

A paper by José Cipolla-Neto and colleagues, published in the Journal of Pineal Research, provides a fascinating overview of how melatonin plays a significant role in energy metabolism.

Its first role relates to insulin secretion and action. Thus, melatonin is not only necessary for the proper synthesis and secretion of insulin, it also plays a role in the insulin-signalling pathway through its effects on GLUT4 receptors.

Secondly, as a powerful chronobiotic, it helps coordinate various metabolic processes so that the activity/feeding phase of the day is associated with higher insulin sensitivity whereas the rest/fasting phase is synchronized to lower insulin sensitivity.

Thirdly, melatonin plays an important role in regulating energy flow to and from fat stores and directly regulating the energy expenditure through the activation of brown adipose tissue and participating in the browning process of white adipose tissue.

The paper discusses how the reduction in melatonin production, as seen during aging, shift-work or night-time light exposure can induce insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, sleep disturbance and metabolic circadian disorganization, which together can lead to weigh gain.

Thus, the available data supports the notion that melatonin replacement therapy may provide a novel strategy to influence metabolism, at least in people with disruptions in their melatonin system.

Clearly, these notions need to be tested in well-controlled randomised trials but there certainly appears to be ample data to suggest that such a trial may well be worthwhile.

If you have taken melatonin or prescribed it to your patients, I’d certainly like to hear about your experience.

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

Hat tip to Sukie for pointing me to this article.

ResearchBlogging.orgCipolla-Neto J, Amaral FG, Afeche SC, Tan DX, & Reiter RJ (2014). Melatonin, Energy Metabolism and Obesity: a Review. Journal of pineal research PMID: 24654916

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1 Comment

  1. Well, I’m over 50 and due to sleeping disturbs I started to Take melatonine just four days ago, for the first time. I’ve been taken it for these four days consecutively and what I found is that it’s not helping me much at all to sleep better, because I hoped it could help me to maintaing my sleep at night and I still wake up in the middle of the night. Although, very interestingly I noticed that even without improving mh sleeping pattern to much, I have felt a much better mood and energy during the day time.

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