Low melatonin levels linked to diabetes in women

Women with low levels of melatonin may be more at risk for developing diabetes, a new study reveals.

The hormone linked to sleep regulation, melatonin plays an important role in maintaining the body's natural rhythms. Receptors for melatonin are found all over the body, including the pancreas, suggesting that it might have the ability to impact insulin production.

Predictor of risk

Researchers at Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital compared 370 diabetic women to 370 women without the condition. The women gave urine samples to assess baseline melatonin levels, and they also completed surveys about their lifestyle habits, including diet, exercise and sleep patterns.

Even after accounting for these factors, researchers found that women with low melatonin levels were 2.2 times as likely to develop diabetes compared to women with high levels of the hormone.

The researchers expected to find an association between melatonin levels and diabetes, but the study’s lead author, Dr. Ciaran McMullan, said they were surprised by the results.

Causal relationship?

It's unclear whether or not low melatonin levels can actually cause diabetes, so more research is needed before recommending supplements to diabetic patients, McMullan noted.

“What we don’t yet know is whether you can change the risk of diabetes by increasing melatonin secretion,” she wrote.

The research is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Source: NBC News

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