• Disrupted eating and sleeping patterns leads to weight gain
  • Diabetes can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and blindness

By Sadie Whitelocks

Women who mix day and night shifts are at greater risk of type 2 diabetes a study has found.

People who rotate through shifts for just a few years are more to susceptible because they are more likely to suffer from disrupted eating patterns and sleep deprivation, which in turn leads to weight gain.

Type 2 diabetes can lead to a number of serious health problems including heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and blindness.

Women who work rotating night shifts could be at greater risk of type 2 diabetes

Women who work rotating night shifts could be at greater risk of type 2 diabetes

Results showed those who worked periodic night shifts for as little as three years were 20 per cent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

While those who clocked at least 20 years of shift work were around 60 per cent more likely to develop the disease compared to day workers.

Lead researcher Professor Frank Hu, from Harvard University said: 'The increased risk is not huge, but it's substantial and can have important public health implications given that almost one-fifth of the workforce is on some kind of rotating night shift.'

He explained that working irregular hours can disrupt the body's circadian rhythms- also known as the body clock - which plays a critical role in maintaining healthy blood-sugar metabolism.

TYPE 2 DIABETES: FACTS

Diabetes is a long-term (chronic) condition caused by too much glucose, a type of sugar, in the blood

It affects 2.8 million people in the UK

It means the body is unable to break down glucose into energy because there is either not enough insulin to move the glucose, or because the insulin that is there does not work properly

Type 2 diabetes occurs when not enough insulin is produced by the body for it to function properly, or when the body’s cells do not react to insulin

Around 90 per cent of all adults in the UK with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.

Symptoms such as tiredness and weight loss can be controlled by eating a healthy diet and monitoring your blood glucose level but you may eventually need to take insulin medication, usually in the form of tablets

It is often associated with obesity

SOURCE: NHS

The study, published in the journal PLoS Medicine, was based on 177,184 women between the ages of 42 and 67 who were followed for around two decades as part of a Nurse's Health Study.

Those who worked at least three nights per month, in addition to day and evening hours were considered rotating night-shift workers.

Scientists discovered the increase in type 2 diabetes risk associated with night shift work ranged from 5 per cent in nurses who'd worked that schedule for one or two years to 58 per cent in those who'd done so for at least 20 years.

This supports previous studies which highlight sleep deprivation can lead to insulin resistance and rising blood-sugar levels -- both precursors of diabetes.

The authors added: 'Recognizing that rotating night shift workers are at a higher risk of type 2 diabetes should prompt additional research into preventive strategies in this group.'

Commenting on the research Mika Kivimäki from University College London said: 'We are increasingly residing in a '24/7' society, thus the option to eradicate shift working is not realistic.

She suggested that 'promotion of healthy life styles, weight control and early identification and treatment of pre-diabetic and diabetic employees' were realistic measures.

 

Diabetes is a long-term condition caused by too much glucose - a type of sugar in the blood - and affects 2.8 million people in the UK. Around 90 per cent of these have type 2 diabetes.

It is thought that a further one million people have the condition but are not aware of it. Around 3.6 million people in the UK do shift work.