Background and aims: Melatonin is a pineal hormone that plays an important role as an endogenous synchronizer of circadian rhythms and energy metabolism. As this circadian component has been closely related to eating behavior, an important question on this topic would be whether melatonin administration could influence eating habits. However, this topic has been rarely studied in the literature in individuals with excessive weight and chronic circadian misalignment, such as shift workers. Therefore, the present study aims to evaluate the effects of exogenous melatonin administration on the quali/quantitative aspects and temporal distribution of food intake in female night workers with excessive weight (overweight and obesity). An additional aim is to evaluate the association of the referred outcomes with circadian misalignment and chronotype.
Methods: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover clinical trial was conducted with 27 female nursing professionals with excessive weight who worked permanent night shifts. The protocol was implemented under real-life conditions for 24 weeks, in two randomly allocated conditions (12 weeks of melatonin and 12 weeks of placebo). The quali/quantitative aspects of food intake (NOVA classification, total energy intake and the proportion of calories from macronutrients) and meal timing were assessed using food diaries. Timing for every meal recorded in the diaries was assessed to evaluate the temporal distribution of food intake. Generalized estimating equations were performed for each dependent variable.
Results: No significant modifications in total energy intake, macronutrient distribution, types of foods consumed, and meal timing were observed after melatonin administration. Different levels of circadian misalignment and chronotype did not interfere with these results.
Conclusion: Eating habits of female night workers with excessive weight remained unchanged after melatonin administration, and no association of these results with circadian misalignment and chronotype was found. These results suggest that the metabolic effects of melatonin may occur independently of food intake.
Keywords: circadian dysregulation; dietary supplements; eating behavior; melatonin; night work.