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Rotating Shift Work May Boost Women’s Diabetes Risk

December 7, 2011
By

TUESDAY, Dec. 6 (HealthDay News) — Working rotating night
shifts may do more than leave you tired; it may also increase your risk of
developing type 2 diabetes, new research finds.

A study of two groups of women found that those who worked rotating
night shifts were more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than women with
regular hours, and the longer that they worked a rotating shift schedule,
the greater their risk.

“The association is quite strong and very consistent between the two
cohorts,” said the study’s senior author, Dr. Frank Hu, a professor of
nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health in
Boston.

“For nurses who spent a couple of years working rotating night shifts,
there was a minimal increase in risk. But, for those with a very long
duration of rotating shifts, the risk was almost 60 percent higher. This
provides pretty strong evidence that the longer the rotating night shift
work, the greater the risk of diabetes,” Hu said.

Results of the study are published in the December issue of PLoS
Medicine
.

Rotating shift work is becoming more common, according to background
information in the study. Several studies have found a link between these
varying or unusual work schedules and obesity and metabolic syndrome (a
group of symptoms, such as high blood pressure and insulin resistance,
linked to a higher risk of heart disease). Both factors are associated
with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Recently, a few studies on
Japanese men found a link between working the night shift and type 2
diabetes, according to the study.

For the current study, rotating shift work was defined as working three
or more nights a month, plus days and evenings. Hu and his team looked at
data from two groups of women involved in the U.S. Nurses’ Health Studies
I and II. There were more than 69,000 women between the ages of 42 and 67
in the first study, and nearly 108,000 women between the ages of 25 and 42
in the second study.

When the women enrolled in the trials, none had diabetes,
cardiovascular disease or cancer.

During the 18- to 20-year study period, 6,165 women in the first group
and almost 4,000 women from the second group developed type 2 diabetes.

When compared to women who hadn’t done rotating shift work, women who
did one to two years of shift work had a 5 percent increase in type 2
diabetes. Women who worked shifts for three to nine years had a 20 percent
increased risk, while women who toiled 10 to 19 years on rotating shifts
had a 40 percent greater risk of type 2 diabetes compared to women who
didn’t do shift work.

Women with more than 20 years on a rotating work schedule had the
highest risk of all, with a 58 percent increase in the risk of type 2
diabetes, the study found.

When the researchers adjusted the data to account for body mass, the
association between shift work and type 2 diabetes was reduced, but still
present, they said.

Although the study wasn’t designed to figure out why rotating shift
work might increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, Hu said there are likely
both biological and behavioral reasons. Rotating shift work disturbs the
body’s natural time clock (circadian rhythm), which, in turn, disrupts the
body’s ability to balance its need for energy. Hu said this can cause
higher levels of glucose and insulin resistance, which are hallmarks of
type 2 diabetes.

Working on rotating shifts also affects eating and sleeping behaviors,
and women who worked rotating shifts also tended to smoke more.

“Shift work is an important risk factor for obesity and type 2
diabetes,” Hu said. “This study increases the awareness of diabetes risk
among people who work on a rotating shift, and the importance of diabetes
screening, detection and prevention in this high risk group.”

More research is needed to confirm the findings, the authors said.

Worldwide, about 346 million people have diabetes. Most of them suffer
from type 2 diabetes, typically caused by excess body weight and physical
inactivity. Over time, the disease can damage vital organs, including
kidneys, nerves and heart.

Dr. Joel Zonszein, director of the clinical diabetes center at
Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, said other influences besides
work hours may have contributed to the development of diabetes among the
study participants.

“This study shows an association between working night shifts and
obesity and diabetes. But, it’s difficult to disassociate other risk
factors,” Zonszein said. “It may not just be that they work at night. They
may work harder; they may be more stressed. There was more smoking. All of
these things are related.”

More information

Learn more about preventing diabetes from the American Diabetes Association.

Article source: http://news.yahoo.com/rotating-shift-may-boost-womens-diabetes-risk-220407676.html

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