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Shift Workers have increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Update Date: Jul 25, 2014 01:47 PM EDT

Shift work often comes with weird hours. Several studies have examined the relationship between working at random hours and health. In a new study, researchers found that people who worked shifts, particularly men working rotating shifts, have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

"Physicians have long known that working shifts disrupts many key body chemicals, creating a ripple effect that can lead to ailments such as gastrointestinal disorders, cardiovascular disease and even cancer," one expert, Dr. Alan Manevitz, a clinical psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City said reported by Philly. "Now type 2 diabetes can be added to this considerable list."

In this study, the researchers from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China reviewed data on 226,652 people from 12 studies. The team had information on the participants' work schedules, body mass index (BMI), family history of diabetes and their exercise level.

They found that people who were shift workers had a nine percent greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes. When the researcher looked at men only, they found that the risk increased to 35 percent. For workers who constantly had rotating daytime and nighttime shifts, their risk increased by 42 percent.

"The result suggests that male shift workers should pay more attention to the prevention of diabetes," the researchers noted according to BBC News. "Given the increasing prevalence of shift work worldwide and the heavy economic burden of diabetes, the results of our study provide practical and valuable clues for the prevention of diabetes."

Even though the study did not find a cause-and-effect relationship, the team reasoned that working random shifts could disrupt the body's sleep-wake cycle. Less and poor sleep can jeopardize insulin resistance, which is often a precursor to type 2 diabetes. The team also stated that shift work has been tied to obesity, which is also linked to type 2 diabetes risk.

"Shift work also often makes it more difficult to schedule regular meals and exercise," Dr. Gerald Bernstein, director of the Diabetes Management Program at Friedman Diabetes Institute at the Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, commented. "It would be better to screen shift workers regularly for pre-diabetes and intervene to slow the progression to full-blown diabetes."

The study was published in the journal, Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

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