Shift Workers ‘Risking’ Diabetes and Obesity

We always keep up to date with the latest health news and we were really interested when we came across this new researched that was published in the BBC Health Section and written by James Gallagher, a health and science reporter for BBC News.

It seems night working has been linked to poorer health with shift workers getting too little sleep at the wrong time of day may be increasing their risk of diabetes and obesity, according to researchers. It made us think of the new season upon us in Mallorca and with people starting to work longer and more irregular hours. The team of researchers is calling for more measures to reduce the impact of shift working following the results of its study.

The results, published in Science Translational Medicine, showed changes to normal sleep meant the body struggled to control sugar levels. Some participants even developed early symptoms of diabetes within weeks.

The 21 health-trial participants started with 10 hours’ sleep at night. This was followed by three weeks of disruption to their sleep and body clocks.

“The evidence is clear that getting enough sleep is important for health, and that sleep should be at night for best effect” says Dr Orfeu from Buxton Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

The length of the day was extended to 28 hours, creating an effect similar to a full-time flyer constantly getting jet lag. Participants were allowed only 6.5 hours’ sleep in the new 28-hour day, equivalent to 5.6 hours in a normal day. They also lived in dim light to prevent normal light resetting the body clock.

During this part of the study, sugar levels in the blood were “significantly increased” immediately after a meal and during “fasting” parts of the day. The researchers showed that the hormone that lower levels of insulin – the hormone that normally controls blood sugar – were produced. Three of the participants had sugar levels which stayed so high after their meals they were classified as “pre-diabetic”. They also highlighted a risk of putting on weight as the body slowed down.

“The 8% drop in resting metabolic rate that we measured in our participants… translates into a 12.5-pound increase in weight over a single year,” they wrote. “Clearly, this does not equate to the normal experience of shift workers… it is not possible to conclude that the findings would translate to real conditions in the wider public”

Lead researcher Dr Orfeu Buxton said: “We think these results support the findings from studies showing that, in people with a pre-diabetic condition, shift workers who stay awake at night are much more likely to progress to full-on diabetes than day workers.

“Since night workers often have a hard time sleeping during the day, they can face both circadian [body clock] disruption working at night and insufficient sleep during the day.

The research group called for more efforts to reduce the health impact of shift working.


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