In the past, we’ve seen a research link made between poor sleep and Type 2 diabetes. Indeed, lack of sleep and development of the disease have often been tied together. Now, low levels of the hormone melatonin (linked to sleep, and secreted by the pineal gland, it’s charged with regulating hormones and maintaining the body-clock) have been associated with increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in a new study.

The new analysis, a case-control study of women published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), found that those with the lowest levels of melatonin were more than twice as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those with the highest levels of melatonin. This finding remained even after researchers controlled for diabetes risk factors including body mass index (BMI), diet, and additional lifestyle factors.

Researchers compared urine samples taken from 370 women who developed diabetes during a big 12-year study of nurses and compared them to samples from 370 women who never developed diabetes.

Still, researchers are quick to point out that this study does not show that low melatonin causes Type 2 diabetes, and along those lines, there is no proof or reason to believe that taking melatonin supplements would decrease the risk of developing diabetes.

Nearly no melatonin is produced during the day. Typically, production of the hormone reaches its height up to about five hours after a person has been asleep in a dark space. Sleep disruption and amount of light can alter melatonin production.

Previous research has suggested that melatonin may play a role in glucose metabolism. Melatonin receptors are spread across the body, including in the cells of the pancreas that produce insulin, known as the islet cells. Researchers believe that melatonin may have a role in glucose metabolism.

Researchers do not know why melatonin may affect Type 2 diabetes risk, and they are currently not sure if there will be ways to modify the secretion of melatonin in people.

While this new study raises the possibility that increasing levels of melatonin may lower the risk of diabetes, currently, the researchers discourage people from taking melatonin supplements.

Have You asked your doctor about your melatonin levels?

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