Does Melatonin Help You Lose Weight? — 3 Potential Benefits

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Does Melatonin Help You Lose Weight

Losing weight is a journey that often involves a combination of lifestyle changes, dietary adjustments, and sometimes, the exploration of various supplements.

Melatonin, a hormone naturally produced by the pineal gland in the brain, is commonly associated with regulating sleep-wake cycles. However, recent discussions have emerged regarding the potential role of melatonin in weight management.

This article delves into the question: Does melatonin help you lose weight? By exploring scientific studies and available evidence, we aim to shed light on the relationship between melatonin and weight loss, providing insights into whether this sleep-related hormone may offer benefits beyond its well-known role in promoting a good night’s rest.

What Is Melatonin?

Melatonin, a vital hormone naturally synthesized within the body, plays a pivotal role in regulating the circadian rhythm, the internal 24-hour clock orchestrating the timing of essential biological processes1. Released by the pineal gland in response to darkness, melatonin facilitates the initiation of sleep.

The ebb and flow of melatonin levels are intricately linked with cortisol2, reaching their peak during the early nighttime when cortisol is at its lowest, and diminishing in the early morning when cortisol levels are highest. Notably, melatonin release exhibits variations with age and in conditions of insulin resistance3.

Beyond its role in sleep initiation, melatonin serves as a guardian of the body’s sleep-wake cycles, synonymous with circadian rhythms. Governed by the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the brain, which responds to daily light and dark patterns, this internal clock is finely tuned by melatonin4. The hormone influences specific brain regions, notably the default mode network (DMN), promoting rest during periods of mental or physical inactivity5.

In simple terms, melatonin release is prompted by the brain in response to darkness, inducing a sense of tiredness as night approaches. The hormone peaks in the middle of the night during sleep and diminishes with the onset of sunrise, signaling the body to awaken.

The popularity of melatonin as an over-the-counter sleep aid has surged significantly over the past two decades6. Widely available in various foods and supplements, melatonin has been recognized for its potential benefits in body composition and fat oxidation. Studies indicate that consistent melatonin supplementation over a year may contribute to reduced body fat, increased lean mass, and elevated adiponectin levels, thereby enhancing the process of fat burning7.

Sources Of Melatonin

Melatonin, often taken as a supplement, is known for complementing the body’s natural melatonin levels. It’s generally considered safe and non-addictive, yet it can lead to side effects such as headaches, nausea, drowsiness, and dizziness. While supplements are an option, studies indicate that certain foods naturally high in melatonin can boost their levels8.

When considering melatonin content in foods, eggs and fish stand out as richer sources compared to meat9. Colored rice, notably, boasts elevated levels of melatonin. Fruits such as grapes, cherries, and strawberries naturally provide significant amounts of melatonin. Among vegetables, tomatoes and peppers showcase relatively higher melatonin concentrations.

Warm milk, often associated with aiding sleep, also contains substantial levels of melatonin. Nuts, known for their antioxidant properties, particularly almonds, and pistachios, exhibit the highest melatonin content10. Legumes and seeds, including white and black mustard seeds, also contain noteworthy concentrations of this hormone.

Melatonin supplements are readily available over-the-counter (OTC), but it is crucial to consult with a doctor before considering them. While there are some potential benefits, additional research is required to establish more substantial advantages and determine the appropriate dosage.

Benefits Of Melatonin

Melatonin plays a multifaceted role in the human body, with many aspects still not completely understood. Its efficacy is particularly noteworthy in addressing sleep disorders, including jet lag and anxiety11. Moreover, there is growing evidence suggesting that melatonin may contribute to weight loss, muscle gain, and overall health improvement.

Despite these promising findings, further research involving human studies is essential to comprehensively evaluate the health benefits and potential risks associated with melatonin supplementation. Beyond its impact on weight, melatonin is implicated in regulating insulin sensitivity and demonstrates anti-inflammatory properties, making it potentially beneficial for individuals dealing with conditions such as diabetes and high cholesterol.

As a naturally occurring hormone with minimal adverse effects, melatonin has been explored as a natural supplement for various medical conditions, including:

1. Sleep Disorders: Melatonin, when taken orally, has shown promise in reducing the time it takes to fall asleep, particularly in individuals with sleep disorders like delayed sleep phase syndrome.

2. Headaches: Melatonin has been found to help alleviate headaches, especially those related to migraines and cluster headaches, though the most effective formula and dosage remain uncertain12.

3. Antioxidant Properties: Melatonin serves as a potent antioxidant that supports the immune system, protecting the body from free radicals and cellular damage13.

Other potential benefits of melatonin include:

  • Decreased risk of heart attack
  • Improvement in gastrointestinal health
  • Boost to the immune system
  • Alleviation of depression caused by sleep deprivation
  • Reduction of free radicals
  • Management of sleep disorders
  • Prevention of skin aging
  • Promotion of brain health

While research indicates few negative impacts of melatonin14, any adverse effects are typically minor, such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, and drowsiness. Children taking melatonin supplements may experience bedwetting and irritability. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should consult their doctor before using melatonin due to potential harm to the fetus or newborn.

Melatonin And Lean Body Mass

The process of muscle growth relies on maintaining a harmonious and protective internal environment. Melatonin emerges as a factor with positive implications for body weight and energy metabolism. In a study published in Clinical Endocrinology, researchers proposed that melatonin might contribute to a reduction in adipocyte mass while concurrently promoting an increase in lean muscle mass15.

The potential benefits of melatonin extend to safeguarding and fostering muscle development, particularly by mitigating exercise-induced oxidative damage16. Intense physical activity can disrupt normal bodily functions, leading to oxidative stress. This condition may contribute to muscle fatigue, injury, and a depletion of energy. Melatonin’s antioxidant properties offer a potential avenue for minimizing oxidative damage induced by exercise.

Melatonin Affecting Sleep And Weight

While there is insufficient evidence to universally recommend melatonin for all individuals dealing with insomnia, certain people may experience improvements in both the quality and quantity of their sleep upon initiating melatonin17. This is particularly notable for individuals facing circadian rhythm disruptions due to factors like shift work, jet lag, or diminished melatonin production in older age, where melatonin supplements can positively impact overall sleep18,19,20.

It is well-established that obtaining adequate and restful sleep plays a crucial role in weight management and overall health. The reciprocal relationship between poor or insufficient sleep and weight gain is evident. Inadequate sleep not only elevates the risk of future obesity but also, through the heightened risk of sleep apnea associated with obesity, contributes to the likelihood of ongoing poor sleep21. Studies have shown that insufficient sleep is linked to increased levels of ghrelin, the hunger-stimulating hormone, and decreased levels of leptin, the hormone signaling fullness to the brain22.

A study involving young, healthy-weight individuals revealed the impact of sleep duration on dietary habits23. During periods of restricted sleep (four hours of opportunity), participants consumed over 300 additional calories per day, leading to a gain of one pound of fat, specifically in visceral fat associated with metabolic health issues like high blood pressure and diabetes. Furthermore, a meta-analysis24 encompassing 30 studies and involving over 600,000 participants demonstrated that for every reduction of one hour of sleep below eight hours, there was an increase in BMI of approximately 0.35 (equivalent to around 3 pounds).

Melatonin And Weight Gain

Despite its widespread use, concerns have emerged regarding the potential for melatonin supplements to contribute to weight gain. These concerns stem from observations in rat studies where high doses of melatonin led to decreased intestinal motility, suggesting a potential impact on digestion speed25. However, lower melatonin doses were associated with increased intestinal motility in these studies. The notion is that slowed digestion might result in weight gain.

Contrary to these concerns, animal studies have indicated that melatonin treatment could lead to weight loss or, at the very least, prevent weight gain, especially in scenarios like consuming a high-fat diet or during the menopausal transition26. One proposed mechanism for this weight loss is the potential of melatonin to enhance brown adipose tissue27, a specialized fat type that helps regulate body temperature by burning calories as heat. Limited human studies support this idea28. While substantial clinical trials supporting melatonin as an obesity treatment are lacking, crucially, there is no evidence establishing a connection between melatonin supplementation and body weight gain29.

For individuals who have experienced weight gain after starting melatonin supplementation, it is advisable to explore other factors such as lifestyle changes, stress, and poor sleep – the very reasons prompting melatonin use in the first place.

Does Melatonin Help You Lose Weight?

The outcomes of numerous experimental studies and clinical trials indicate a disturbance in the circadian and seasonal pattern of melatonin release in cases of obesity30,31. Reduced melatonin secretion during the autumn-winter period might elevate hunger levels and contribute to weight gain32.

While several researchers advocate for melatonin’s use in treating obesity33,34, comprehensive research studies supporting this stance are currently lacking. Determining optimal melatonin doses for patients across varying obesity levels remains a contentious and unresolved matter. Often, doses utilized in animal experiments are excessively high, with uncertain effects on other human bodily functions.

It is crucial to emphasize that melatonin supplementation is generally considered appropriate for individuals experiencing a deficiency in this hormone. Importantly, the natural secretion of melatonin dwindles with age, commencing as early as 30 years of age.

However, the direct relationship between melatonin supplementation and weight loss remains an intricate topic that warrants further investigation, as existing research does not conclusively establish melatonin as a definitive solution for weight management.


The benefits of melatonin administration in relation to weight management remain uncertain, with conflicting evidence from various studies. While some animal studies indicate a potential for melatonin to aid in weight loss or prevent weight gain, especially in high-fat diet scenarios, human studies, and clinical trials supporting its effectiveness in treating obesity are lacking. Concerns suggesting that melatonin supplements cause weight gain lack substantiated evidence, and it’s essential to look into other factors like lifestyle changes, stress, and sleep quality if weight gain is observed after starting melatonin.

Melatonin’s impact on sleep quality is well-documented, and there’s an evident link between insufficient sleep and weight gain. Poor sleep patterns contribute to hormonal changes that increase hunger and decrease feelings of fullness, potentially leading to weight gain over time. Therefore, while melatonin supplementation might not directly cause weight loss, ensuring adequate and restful sleep remains crucial for overall health, metabolism, and potentially weight management. As research continues, the understanding of melatonin’s role in weight regulation may become clearer, emphasizing the importance of consulting healthcare professionals before using melatonin supplements for weight-related concerns.


1 McMullan, C. J., Schernhammer, E., Rimm, E. B., Hu, F. B., & Forman, J. P. (2013). Melatonin secretion and the incidence of type 2 diabetes. JAMA, 309(13), 1388. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2013.2710

2 Zisapel, N., Tarrasch, R., & Laudon, M. (2005). The relationship between melatonin and cortisol rhythms: clinical implications of melatonin therapy. Drug Development Research, 65(3), 119–125. https://doi.org/10.1002/ddr.20014

3 McMullan, C. J., Schernhammer, E., Rimm, E. B., Hu, F. B., & Forman, J. P. (2013). Melatonin secretion and the incidence of type 2 diabetes. JAMA, 309(13), 1388. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2013.2710

4 National Institute of General Medical Sciences. (n.d.). National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). https://www.nigms.nih.gov/education/fact-sheets/Pages/circadian-rhythms.aspx

5 Zisapel, N. (2018). New perspectives on the role of melatonin in human sleep, circadian rhythms and their regulation. British Journal of Pharmacology, 175(16), 3190–3199. https://doi.org/10.1111/bph.14116

6 Li, J., Somers, V. K., Xu, H., López-Jiménez, F., & Covassin, N. (2022). Trends in use of melatonin supplements among US adults, 1999-2018. JAMA, 327(5), 483. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2021.23652

7 Amstrup, A. K., Sikjær, T., Pedersen, S. B., Heickendorff, L., Mosekilde, L., & Rejnmark, L. (2015). Reduced fat mass and increased lean mass in response to 1 year of melatonin treatment in postmenopausal women: A randomized placebo-controlled trial. Clinical Endocrinology, 84(3), 342–347. https://doi.org/10.1111/cen.12942

8 Meng, X., Li, Y., Li, S., Zhou, Y., Gan, R., Xu, D., & Li, H. (2017). Dietary sources and bioactivities of melatonin. Nutrients, 9(4), 367. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9040367

9 Tan, D. X., Zanghi, B. M., Manchester, L. C., & Reiter, R. J. (2014). Melatonin identified in meats and other food stuffs: potentially nutritional impact. Journal of Pineal Research, 57(2), 213–218. https://doi.org/10.1111/jpi.12152

10 Verde, A., Míguez, J. M., Leão, J. M., Gago-Martı́Nez, A., & Gallardo, M. (2022). Melatonin content in walnuts and other commercial nuts. Influence of cultivar, ripening and processing (roasting). Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 105, 104180. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jfca.2021.104180

11 Costello, R. B., Lentino, C. V., Boyd, C., O’Connell, M. L., Crawford, C., Sprengel, M., & Deuster, P. A. (2014). The effectiveness of melatonin for promoting healthy sleep: a rapid evidence assessment of the literature. Nutrition Journal, 13(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-13-106

12 Gelfand, A. A., & Goadsby, P. J. (2016). The role of melatonin in the treatment of primary headache disorders. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 56(8), 1257–1266. https://doi.org/10.1111/head.12862

13 Hacışevki, A., & Baba, B. (2018). An overview of melatonin as an antioxidant molecule: a biochemical approach. In IntechOpen eBooks. https://doi.org/10.5772/intechopen.79421

14 Melatonin: What you need to know. (n.d.). NCCIH. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/melatonin-what-you-need-to-know#hed8

15 Amstrup, A. K., Sikjær, T., Pedersen, S. B., Heickendorff, L., Mosekilde, L., & Rejnmark, L. (2015). Reduced fat mass and increased lean mass in response to 1 year of melatonin treatment in postmenopausal women: A randomized placebo-controlled trial. Clinical Endocrinology, 84(3), 342–347. https://doi.org/10.1111/cen.12942

16 Kruk, J., Aboul‐Enein, B. H., & Duchnik, E. (2021). Exercise-induced oxidative stress and melatonin supplementation: current evidence. The Journal of Physiological Sciences, 71(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12576-021-00812-2

17 Sateia, M. J., Buysse, D. J., Krystal, A. D., Neubauer, D. N., & Heald, J. L. (2017). Clinical Practice Guideline for the Pharmacologic Treatment of Chronic insomnia in Adults: An American Academy of Sleep Medicine Clinical Practice Guideline. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 13(02), 307–349. https://doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.6470

18 Marqueze, E. C., Nogueira, L. F. R., Vetter, C., Skene, D. J., Cipolla‐Neto, J., & De Castro Moreno, C. R. (2021). Exogenous melatonin decreases circadian misalignment and body weight among early types. Journal of Pineal Research, 71(2). https://doi.org/10.1111/jpi.12750

19 Herxheimer, A., & Petrie, K. J. (2002). Melatonin for the prevention and treatment of jet lag. The Cochrane Library, 2010(1). https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.cd001520

20 Canadian Society Of Hospital Pharmacists. (2019, August 1). Should melatonin be used as a sleeping aid for elderly people? PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6699865/

21 Romero‐Corral, A., Caples, S. M., López-Jiménez, F., & Somers, V. K. (2010). Interactions between obesity and obstructive sleep apnea. Chest, 137(3), 711–719. https://doi.org/10.1378/chest.09-0360

22 Taheri, S., Lin, L., Austin, D., Young, T., & Mignot, E. (2004). Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index. PLOS Medicine, 1(3), e62. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0010062

23 Covassin, N., Singh, P., McCrady-Spitzer, S. K., St Louis, E. K., Calvin, A. D., Levine, J. A., & Somers, V. K. (2022). Effects of experimental sleep restriction on energy intake, energy expenditure, and visceral obesity. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 79(13), 1254–1265. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jacc.2022.01.038

24 Cappuccio, F. P., Taggart, F. M., Kandala, N., Currie, A., Peile, E., Stranges, S., & Miller, M. A. (2008). Meta-Analysis of short sleep duration and obesity in children and adults. SLEEP, 31(5), 619–626. https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/31.5.619

25 Drago F, Macauda S, Salehi S. Small doses of melatonin increase intestinal motility in rats. Dig Dis Sci. 2002 Sep;47(9):1969-74. doi: 10.1023/a:1019696006677. PMID: 12353839.

26 Tamura, I., Tamura, H., Kawamoto-Jozaki, M., Doi-Tanaka, Y., Takagi, H., Shirafuta, Y., Mihara, Y., Tanaka, T., & Sato, S. (2021). Long-term melatonin treatment attenuates body weight gain with aging in female mice. Journal of Endocrinology, 251(1), 15–25. https://doi.org/10.1530/joe-20-0462

27 Tan, D. X., Manchester, L. C., Fuentes-Broto, L., Paredes, S. D., & Reíter, R. J. (2011). Significance and application of melatonin in the regulation of brown adipose tissue metabolism: relation to human obesity. Obesity Reviews, 12(3), 167–188. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-789x.2010.00756.x

28 Halpern, B., Mancini, M. C., Bueno, C., De Barcelos, I. P., De Melo, M. E., Lima, M. J., De Godoi Carneiro, C., Sapienza, M. T., Buchpiguel, C. A., Amaral, F. G. D., & Cipolla‐Neto, J. (2019). Melatonin increases brown adipose tissue volume and activity in patients with melatonin deficiency: a Proof-of-Concept study. Diabetes, 68(5), 947–952. https://doi.org/10.2337/db18-0956

29 Guan, Q., Wang, Z., Cao, J., Dong, Y., & Chen, Y. (2021). Mechanisms of melatonin in Obesity: a review. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 23(1), 218. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms23010218

30 Bartness, T. J., Demas, G. E., & Song, C. K. (2002). Seasonal Changes in Adiposity: the Roles of the Photoperiod, Melatonin and Other Hormones, and Sympathetic Nervous System. Experimental Biology and Medicine, 227(6), 363–376. https://doi.org/10.1177/153537020222700601

31 Reíter, R. J., Tan, D. X., Korkmaz, A., & Ma, S. (2012). Obesity and metabolic syndrome: Association with chronodisruption, sleep deprivation, and melatonin suppression. Annals of Medicine, 44(6), 564–577. https://doi.org/10.3109/07853890.2011.586365

32 Sato, M., Kanikowska, D., Iwase, S., Shimizu, Y., Nishimura, N., Ikoma, Y., Sato, M., & Sugenoya, J. (2012). Seasonal differences in melatonin concentrations and heart rates during sleep in obese subjects in Japan. International Journal of Biometeorology, 57(5), 743–748. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00484-012-0601-3

33 Cardinali, D. P., Cano, P., Jiménez-Ortega, V., & Esquifino, A. I. (2011). Melatonin and the metabolic Syndrome: Physiopathologic and therapeutical implications. Neuroendocrinology, 93(3), 133–142. https://doi.org/10.1159/000324699

34 Metabolic syndrome, its pathophysiology and the role of melatonin. (2013, January 1). PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22946959/


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