Chronic administration of melatonin, a natural hormone produced by the pineal gland during the dark hours of the day and regulates sleep and wakefulness, produces anti-obesity effects because it increases the mass of brown adipose tissue, according to a study led by the University of Granada (UGR) and published in the Journal of Pineal Research. The team of scientists discovered in diabetic obese rats a new molecular mechanism that also decreases the dangerous mass of white adipose tissue.
The team of researchers included scientists from the UGR, the Hospital La Paz-Carlos III of Madrid and the Scientific Center of Health of the University of Texas (USA).
“The results have been surprising, because the animals that were treated with melatonin not only increased in their brown adipose tissue mass, but the thermogenic activity of their body also improved and, at the same time, the mass of the dangerous white adipose tissue decreased, the central or visceral“, said the main author of the work, the professor of Pharmacology Ahmad Agil Abdalla, member of the UGR Center for Biomedical Research (CIBM).
The results of the work showed that melatonin is closely linked to the loss of body weight gain, since the amount of brown fat increases in the tissues; and at the level of the organs, increases the mass and mitochondrial functionality among others.
The protein responsible for weight loss
“Among our findings, we must highlight the increase in mitochondrial molecular thermogenic capacity, by increasing the expression of UCP1-mitochondrial protein (thermogenin), which is responsible for calorie burn and weight loss,” says Agil Abdalla.
Previous studies by several international groups (including the research group of the UGR) have already shown that melatonin has powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-obesogenic effects. With respect to the anti-obesity effect, we can affirm that it is carried out by two thermogenic mechanisms in two targets or tissues; because melatonin has the ability to convert white subcutaneous fat into beige fat, and to increase both the amount and the thermogenic activity of brown fat.
“We have shown that melatonin has the function of regulating obesity in animals, but yes, without affecting the intake of food and does not affect physical activity. That is why we thought it could be another tool to fight against obesity, in addition to reducing energy consumption through diet and forcing energy expenditure, mainly by doing more physical activity even in cold room temperature to increase caloric spending“, says the UGR professor.
Currently, the research group of the UGR that has developed this work is interested in collaborating with companies that wish to help the commercialization of a patent, and is carrying out more tests with another molecule, melatonin agonist.