Night shift work can increase diabetes risk, study finds

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Just spending a few days working the night shift can disrupt important body processes. This includes how our body uses sugar, how we get energy, and how we control inflammation.

These disruptions can increase the risk of long-term health problems like diabetes, obesity, and heart diseases.

Scientists from Washington State University and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory conducted a study to explore why people who work night shifts often have higher chances of developing these health issues.

Hans Van Dongen, a leading researcher and professor at WSU’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, explains that our body has a master biological clock in our brain.

This clock tells us when it’s day and when it’s night. However, there are other processes in our body that can get confused by night shift work and start behaving as if night is day and vice versa.

When these body rhythms get mixed up, it puts stress on our system, which might lead to health problems over time.

Van Dongen’s research shows that these mix-ups in our body’s rhythms can happen very quickly, within just three days of starting night shifts.

This suggests that it’s important to tackle these issues early to prevent serious health problems like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and stroke. These conditions are more common in people who work night shifts.

The study was published in the Journal of Proteome Research and involved a detailed experiment. Volunteers were placed on simulated night or day shift schedules for three days.

After their last shift, they were kept awake for 24 hours in a controlled environment where lighting, temperature, posture, and food intake were kept constant.

This setup was used to measure the volunteers’ internal biological rhythms without any external disturbances.

The researchers took blood samples from the volunteers at regular intervals during the 24-hour period. These samples were used to look at proteins found in the cells of the immune system.

They noticed that some proteins, which should follow the master clock, didn’t show much change. But most other proteins, especially those involved in managing blood sugar levels, showed big changes.

The night shift volunteers had their glucose control processes turned upside down. Normally, these processes help keep our blood sugar levels stable, but they were out of sync in the night shift workers.

The study also noted changes in how insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar, is produced and used by the body.

These changes might initially seem like the body’s attempt to fix the sugar imbalances caused by the unusual shift schedule.

While this might help in the short term, in the long run, it could lead to serious health issues. This is because constant high sugar levels can damage cells and organs.

Jason McDermott, a computational scientist involved in the study, highlighted that this was one of the first times these changes were observed at such a detailed molecular level in a controlled setting.

The next step for the researchers is to see if similar changes happen in people who have been working night shifts for a long time.

Understanding these changes can help in developing strategies to protect night shift workers from these health risks, potentially leading to better working conditions and health policies.

This research underscores the importance of aligning our work schedules with our natural body rhythms to maintain good health.

If you care about diabetes, please read studies that pomace olive oil could help lower blood cholesterol, and honey could help control blood sugar.

For more information about diabetes, please see recent studies about Vitamin D that may reduce dangerous complications in diabetes and results showing plant-based protein foods may help reverse type 2 diabetes.

The research findings can be found in the Journal of Proteome Research.

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