Prolonged melatonin consumption fights obesity and diabetes

Prolonged melatonin consumption fights obesity and diabetes

Experiments on rats prove prolonged melatonin consumption fights obesity and diabetes

Tuesday, 30th of September of 2014

Scientists at the University of Granada also recommend sleeping in absolute darkness and avoiding artificial light at night in order to avoid interference in the generation of endogenous melatonin.

Their research has been published in the last online issue of the prestigious Journal of Pineal Research.

Scientists at the University of Granada, in collaboration with La Paz University Hospital in Madrid and the University of Texas in the U.S. have demonstrated in several experiments conducted on obese Zucker rats that prolonged melatonin consumption helps combat obesity and diabetes mellitus type 2.

Their research has confirmed that the prolonged use of melatonin in young obese rats with diabetes mellitus type 2, similar to its human equivalent, improves mitochondrial dysfunction (i.e. mitochondrial homeostatic functions) in a very efficient way, since it improves the consumption of oxygen, diminishes stress levels related to free radicals, and prevents the destruction of the mitochondrial membrane.

The research has been conducted by an interdisciplinary team at the UGR's Pharmacology Department and the Neuroscience Institute, led by Prof. Ahmad Agil, with the collaboration of Dr. Gumersindo Fernández, from the Endocrinology and Nutrition Service of La Paz University Hospital in Madrid, and prof. Russell Reiter, from the Structural Biology Department at the University of Texas, in San Antonio (USA).

According to the research group Director, Prof. Ahmad Agil, both developed and developing countries are struggling to cope with a significant increase in obesity rates and also in diabetes type two. This increase results from a maladaptation of the human genome to modern environments, sedentary lifestyles, higher consumption of hypercaloric food and excessive exposure to artificial light, all of which reduce endogenous melatonin levels.

In the case of obesity, mitochondriae (our cells’ power stations) do not work properly (due to a homeostatic imbalance) and their programmed destruction is thus accelerated (apoptosis). This leads to insulin resistance and the subsequent development of mellitus diabetes.

We must sleep in total darkness

In Prof. Agil’s words, melatonin “is a natural substance present in plants, animals and humans. It works as a hormonal signal released at night to establish circadian rhythms”

Currently, this process is frequently interrupted, as a result of excessive exposure to artificial light during the night, which reduces the levels of endogenous melatonin—for instance, many people sleep with their lamps, TVs, or their computers switched on, or with the blinds drawn up. “For all these reasons, it is important to try to sleep in absolute darkness, to avoid interference in the generation of melatonin”.

Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory: these properties constitute the foundation of its protective effect upon metabolism. ‘Melatonin is particularly abundant in vegetables, such as spices, herbs, tea, coffee, fruit, seeds and nuts. This is one of the main reasons why these sorts of food are particularly healthy’

General treatments with specific action upon adipose tissue, and in particular upon the mitochondria, and the increase in their efficiency, could have beneficial effects upon these sorts of diseases.

This study has been funded and supported by several projects from the Ministry of Economics and Finance (Spain, Ref: SAF2013-45752), the GREIB MCI-International Campus of Excellence at the Vice-Rector's Office for Scientific Policy And Research at the UGR, and the CTS-109 research group (Junta de Andalucía), Spain.

30092014 The image shows Prof. Ahmad Agil, from the Pharmacology Department, University of Granada, and his research team.

Research Contact:

Ahmad Agil
Farmacology Departament, University of Granada
Phone: 00 34 958 243 538


Melatonin improves mitochondrial function in inguinal white adipose tissue of diabetic Zucker fatty rats.
A Jimenez, G. Fernández, M Mohammed, R. Reiter, and A Agil.
Journal of Pineal Research. 2014. 2014. May 27. doi: 10.1111/jpi.12147