The research team used a rat model to reveal that melatonin consumption is associated with the induction of "beige fat" that is known to help regulate body weight control, and offer metabolic benefits. If you haven't heard these terms before, "beige fat" is white fat that has "browned." What does that mean?
Brown fat (also known as brown adipose tissue, or BAT) is a unique type of fat that is solely devoted to the production of heat, or thermogenesis (specifically, "non-shivering" thermogenesis, that is also separate from the heat generated by physical activity). It's not used to produce energy, or provide insulation, or any of those other functions typically attributed to fat. For example, hibernating animals will have lots of brown fat to help produce heat while they sleep (since physical activity is low while they're dormant). A higher concentration of brown fat is linked with lower obesity rates in humans.
White fat (also known as white adipose tissue, or WAT, the typical fatty deposits you think of) can be influenced to "brown," and take on the thermogenic characteristics of brown fat. The scientific community has logically named this "beige fat." This newly published rat study shows for the first time, that oral melatonin supplementation induces browning of white fat.
The researchers suggested that their results may also offer an insight in to the previously unsolved puzzle of why melatonin consumption has metabolic benefits for people diabetes and hyperlipidaemia.
The study also showed that chronic administration of melatonin sensitised the thermogenic effect of exposure to cold (exposure to cold being one proven way to increase the amount of brown fat), and heightened the thermogenic effect of exercise. Therefore, the team suggested that melatonin supplementation may be an excellent therapy against obesity.
The next step would be to conduct a human study to see if we continue to see this browning of white fat, and THAT would be exciting.
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Source: Melatonin induces browning of inguinal white adipose tissue in Zucker diabetic fatty rats
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