Too little melatonin could contribute to type 2 diabetes

By Shayna Brouker • Published: June 24th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

You know what you need to do to steer clear of Type 2 diabetes: Stay active, avoid consuming too much sugar, fatty meats and dairy products, don’t smoke and keep your waistline trim. But a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found another factor that may contribute to the development of Type 2 diabetes: melatonin.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital researchers found that women with the lowest levels of the hormone melatonin saw more than twice the risk of Type 2 diabetes compared with those with the highest level. The study simply shows a link, but the next question is why.

Melatonin is most commonly linked with sleep and the body’s ability to regulate rest. The body makes almost no melatonin during the day, but disruptions in sleep and exposure to sunlight can affect levels.

Insulin is another hormone, and it’s critical for converting sugar and carbohydrates into energy. Type 2 diabetics can’t produce enough insulin or use it properly. The connection between diabetes and melatonin could possibly be in the pancreas, which creates insulin and is also home to some melatonin receptors. So melatonin could also affect how your body metabolizes sugar.

More research is needed to determine whether adjusting melatonin levels could decrease the risk of Type 2 diabetes, but in the meantime, those at risk can take matters into their own hands — or mouths, rather. You can’t control many risk factors, such as family history, race and age, but you can control your blood sugar level with careful consideration of what you eat.

Avoid drinking too much alcohol, and do so only when your blood sugar levels are stable. Eat foods with a low glycemic index and steer clear of white foods that can cause blood sugar to spike and crash. Most importantly — and here’s the good news — snack regularly to keep blood sugar steady.