The Role of Melatonin in Managing Obesity

03 March, 2021
Melatonin plays an essential role in managing obesity, partly because of its ability to increase the body's thermogenic capacity. Learn how supplementing with this hormone can help your weight loss process.

We can define obesity as a generalized excess of body fat that responds to a positive energy balance whose origin we can find in a multifactorial and complex web which relates to the physical, psychological and social sphere of human beings. But do you know the role of melatonin in managing obesity?

Most of those who suffer from obesity suffer from what’s known as chronodisruption, an internal imbalance, mainly caused by sleep disorders, which means they continue to accumulate body fat. Thus, it seems that improving the quality of sleep is fundamental and melatonin plays an essential role in this regard.

Sleep and obesity

A person sleeping with socks on.

Sleep is an essential process for re-establishing cellular energy stores and restoring the homeostasis of the central nervous system and other body tissues. Both tasks are essential to ensure the body’s correct functioning, and, therefore, to maintain an adequate body composition.

In this sense, most of those who suffer from obesity go to bed late and don’t get a good night’s sleep. This makes them tired during the day. As a consequence of their lack of energy, they eat more to obtain energy, and move less to save energy.

The body needs energy to carry out its vital functions. When it hasn’t obtained enough through sleep, it leads us to eat more and move less.

At the same time, the state of these people’s bodies causes them to eat worse. The lack of sleep generates a great discomfort that the person ends up resolving with the most pleasurable stimulus they know: the combination of fat, salt and sugar. This combination, coincidentally, gives meaning to what we call “junk food”.

Junk food is one of the greatest sources of pleasure as a result of the dopamine release it generates.

All of the above causes the person to be full of energy at the end of the day and to wait longer before they  go to sleep. This, in addition to all the above, will increase the likelihood of resorting to ‘junk food’ as a source of entertainment. This also solves the discomfort generated by the boredom of everyone else being asleep.

Also read: The Key to Eating Well

The role of melatonin in managing obesity

Melatonin is a hormone that the body synthesizes with the main mission of regulating the sleep-wake cycle. In other words, this hormone establishes when we sleep and when we’re awake. It’s regulated by light, so if it doesn’t respond to natural light stimuli, it alters the entire internal functioning.

As we’ve stated during this article, most people with obesity have difficulty maintaining a quality night’s sleep and this not only indicates that their circadian rhythm is altered, but it also reinforces this alteration. This is why, in addition to improving sleep hygiene, melatonin supplementation becomes essential.

Moreover, in 2018, a group of Spanish researchers published a study carried out with animals in which they demonstrated how chronic supplementation with melatonin favored the conversion of white fat  into beige adipose tissue – fat-burning activity – and increased the thermogenic activity of brown fat. The result of this research has been published in the Journal of Pineal Research.

Melatonin supplementation increases the thermogenic capacity of the body even when neither physical activity nor food intake is modified.

Discover: White, Beige, and Brown Types of Body Fat

Melatonin supplementation

Melatonin for managing obesity.

Supplementation would consist of taking 2 milligrams of melatonin in the form of extended-release tablets. The ideal time to take them would be between two and three hours before going to sleep. However, this could vary depending on the subject.

Whatever the case, recent research has proven the effects of using higher doses. The results have been positive in doses of up to 100 milligrams, ruling out adverse effects. We see this in an article published in the European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

In any case, a professional expert in the field should always guide melatonin supplementation. A professional will also be able to vary the optimal dose, adjust the most appropriate time to ingest it, and evaluate possible interactions with other medications.

In conclusion, the role of melatonin in managing obesity is promising. However, a professional expert should always be in charge of melatonin supplementation.

  • Fernández Vázquez, G., Reiter, R.J. & Agil, A. (2018). Melatonin increases brown adipose tissue mass and function in Zücker diabetic fatty rats: implications for obesity control. Journal of pineal research, 64(4). Consultado el 10/01/2020. Recuperado de: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jpi.12472#accessDenialLayout
  • Groth Harpsoe N., Holst Andersen LP., Gogenur I., Rosenberg J., Clinical pharmacokinetics of melatonin: a systematic review. Eur J Clin Pharmacol, 2015. 71 (8): 901-9.