Melatonin is most commonly associated to sleep and the body’s biological clock. However, a recent study has found that decreased levels of the hormone melatonin may be linked to the development of type-2 diabetes.
Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the study concluded 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 the hormone. This association held true even after the researchers controlled for other risk factors for type-2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes, such as body weight and dietary habits. The results of the study were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Melatonin production peaks about three to five hours after you fall asleep in the dark and almost no melatonin is produced during the day. Sleep disruptions can affect melatonin production, as can exposure to more or less daylight. People with type-2 diabetes don’t make enough insulin, the hormone needed to convert sugar from foods into energy, or use it properly. Melatonin receptors are found throughout the body, including in the islet cells of the pancreas, which produce insulin. This connection suggests melatonin may also play a role in glucose metabolism, according to the study. In the United States, about eight percent of residents have diabetes, a leading cause of heart disease and stroke, and typically associated with obesity, and sedentary lifestyle.