It’s a dream come true: Burn fat while you sleep
. That’s the promise of a new weight-loss program designed to unleash a sleep-related hormone that helps burn calories and fat overnight.
And here’s the best part. The fat you lose is the dangerous visceral belly fat.
Spanish researchers have discovered that the sleep hormone melatonin may work wonders to eliminate visceral fat. Experimenting with rats, scientists at the University of Granada found that melatonin, which regulates the circadian rhythm wake-sleep cycle, stimulates the transformation of lardy “white” visceral fat into healthy “beige” or “brown” fat.
The difference is beige fat cells have little power generators called mitochondria that burn calories whereas white fat just stores them inertly.
Michael Colgan, author of “Hormonal Health: Nutritional and Hormonal Strategies for Emotional Well Being & Intellectual Longevity,” cites the Spanish study as evidence that melatonin helps activate the production of beige fat and, in turn, ramp up a heat-generating biological process called thermogenesis.
“Melatonin has long proven beneficial in treatment of metabolic syndrome and diabetes, but until recently we didn’t know why,” says Colgan, a fellow of the American College of Nutrition. “Now we do.”
Melatonin is produced by a small gland in the brain, which releases it after dark to prepare the body for slumber. But levels begin decreasing around age 20, and by 40 most people produce about half the melatonin they once did. That can cause sleeping problems, which cut down on the beige fat activation and a fat-burning process known as “thermogenesis.”
Since it’s hard to get melatonin through diet, supplements may be necessary. Colgan and alternative medicine guru Dr. Joseph Mercola both recommend sprays as opposed to pills due to better absorption and dosage control. In any case, be sure to check with your physician before you start because melatonin supplements can conflict with some medications.
“The biggest problem with melatonin supplements is that they are not [Food and Drug Administration) regulated for safety and effective dosage,” Dr. Fred Jaffe, medical director of the Temple Sleep Center at Oaks, Pa., tells Newsmax Health.
“There’s no established melatonin dose to take to get a good night’s sleep. But it’s not harmful. Your body will eliminate what it doesn’t need. It’s only harmful to your wallet.”