Second-generation antipsychotics (SGAs) are among the first-line treatments for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, but have a tendency to generate metabolic disturbances. These features resemble a metabolic syndrome for which a central autonomic imbalance has been proposed that may originate from the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nuclei. In a clinical trial, we hypothesized that melatonin, a hormone that regulates the suprachiasmatic nucleus, could attenuate SGA-induced adverse metabolic effects.Methods
In an eight-week, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-group clinical trial, we evaluated the metabolic effect of melatonin in SGA-treated patients in terms of weight, blood pressure, lipid, glucose, body composition, and anthropometric measures. A total of 44 patients treated with SGAs, 20 with bipolar disorder and 24 with schizophrenia, randomly received placebo (n = 24) or melatonin 5 mg (n = 20).Results
The melatonin group showed a decrease in diastolic blood pressure (5.1 versus 1.1 mmHg for placebo, p = 0.003) and attenuated weight gain (1.5 versus 2.2 kg for placebo, F = 4.512, p = 0.040) compared to the placebo group. The strong beneficial metabolic effects of melatonin in comparison to placebo on fat mass (0.2 versus 2.7 kg, respectively, p = 0.032) and diastolic blood pressure (5.7 versus 5.5 mmHg, respectively, p = 0.001) were observed in the bipolar disorder and not in the schizophrenia group. No adverse events were reported.Conclusions
Our results show that melatonin is effective in attenuating SGAs' adverse metabolic effects, particularly in bipolar disorder. The clinical findings allow us to propose that SGAs may disturb a centrally mediated metabolic balance that causes adverse metabolic effects and that nightly administration of melatonin helps to restore. Melatonin could become a safe and cost-effective therapeutic option to attenuate or prevent SGA metabolic effects.