New research suggests there is a link between low levels of the hormone melatonin and an increased risk of diabetes.
Melatonin is a naturally-occurring hormone which helps regulate the need for sleep. Researchers at Harvard researchers compared 370 diabetic women to 370 women without the disorder. The women came from a larger, ongoing project known as the Nurses’ Health Study. At the beginning of that study, the women were also asked to submit a urine sample, which provided a baseline melatonin level. None of the women had type 2 diabetes at the beginning of the study.
Even after the researchers accounted for lifestyle factors, including hours of sleep, women with the lowest melatonin levels were more than twice as likely to develop diabetes compared to those with the highest levels.
Researchers say they don’t know if low melatonin levels actually caused diabetes, but other research suggests that might be the case. Studies have shown that melatonin supplements given to diabetes-prone rats can help stave off the disease, while also improving cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
The study was published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.