Diabetes type 2: Dr Zoe Williams discusses high blood sugar risks
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New research has discovered the reason night shift workers are at greater risk of diabetes.
Eating at night, the study finds, worsens your blood sugar while people who maintained a daylight meal plan were unaffected.
The researchers believe making a behavioural change of eating in daytime may lower the risk of night shift workers developing diabetes and related conditions.
The study, published in Science Advances, could also be applicable to people who eat at night for other reasons.
Over a 14-day period they tested subjects working in a simulated night shift environment, but divided them into groups that ate during the night and during the daytime.
The study found that markers for diabetes increased when eating at night.
Eating the same meals in the daytime before or after working a night shift did not have the same negative effects.
Trying to maintain a daytime eating schedule while working night shifts may prove challenging, but seems to improve your health as a result.
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Previous studies examining night shift work had found a higher risk for blood sugar conditions such as diabetes and prediabetes.
This increased risk couldn’t be fully explained by other factors such as differences in lifestyle between day and night shift workers.
The researchers speculate this could come about because of disruption to the body’s internal timekeeping mechanisms.
Eating is used to moderate some of the body’s time keeping mechanisms, but this puts them at odds with other body clocks.
Night shift work has become increasingly common over recent years.
A 2018 review noted that 18 percent of the US working population held alternate shift schedules.
Cardiovascular disease has also been noted as more common among night shift works, with a seven percent increased risk of heart attack in one study.
The researchers here did not examine heart disease, so data is not available on whether the altered meal schedule impacts it.
Night shift work has also been linked to increased risk of cancer.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a WHO body, classified night shift work as “probably carcinogenic to humans”.
The IARC report notes that specific types of work are more likely to have night shifts.
This includes healthcare, retail, and manufacturing jobs and notes a higher risk of breast, prostate and colon cancer.
Another source of disruption to the body’s time keeping mechanisms is international travel.
Pilots and flight attendants are also listed an at-risk group because they frequently cross large numbers of time zones.
A Berkeley study from 2010 found that frequent air travel was linked to a decrease in cognition and memory.
This effect persisted for a month after returning to a normal sleep schedule, suggesting a long-term impact.
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