ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Herbal Remedy Could Halt Peanut Allergy
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
Using Music and Sports to Improve Kids' Asthma
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
Acupuncture May Not Help Hot Flashes
Birds Don't Miss a Beat
ANIMAL CARE
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
BONES & JOINTS
Vitamin D Plus Calcium Guards Against Fractures
Brazilian Mint Tea Naturally Good for Pain Relief
Studies Struggle to Gauge Glucosamine's Worth
CANCER
Quitting Smoking Doubles Survival in Early Stage Lung Cancer
Lifting Weights Can Ease Arm Swelling in Breast Cancer Survivors
Study Cites Gains in Gall Bladder Cancer Treatment
CAREGIVING
Birthmark or Blood Vessel Problem?
Early Exercise Boosts Outcomes for ICU Patients
Mom's Smoking May Lead to SIDS
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Years of Exposure to Traffic Pollution Raises Blood Pressure
Secondhand Smoke Quickly Affects Blood Vessels
Anemia Rates Down for U.S. Women and Children
COSMETIC
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
DENTAL, ORAL
An Oral Approach to Heart Disease
Study Links Osteoporosis Drugs to Jaw Trouble
Good Oral Hygiene May Protect Against Heart Infections
DIABETES
Vitamin K Slows Insulin Resistance in Older Men
Patients' Photos Help Boost Radiologists' Accuracy
Whole Grains Take a Bite Out of Type 2 Diabetes Risk
DIET, NUTRITION
For Fitness, Cutting Calories May Not Be Enough
Meat Additives May Be Dangerous for Kidney Patients
More Calcium And Dairy Products in Childhood Could Mean Longer Life
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Hurricane Threats: Time to Batten Down the Hatches
U.S. Diet Needs Heart-Felt Overhaul
As Earth Warms, Lyme Disease Could Flourish
EYE CARE, VISION
It's a Whole New Outlook for Cataract Patients
Magnetic Pulses to Brain Improve Lazy Eye in Adults
Don't Lose Sight of Halloween Safety
FITNESS
Weak Muscles May Cause 'Runner's Knee'
Fitness Fades Fast After 45
Seniors Who Exercise Help Their Health
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
Olive Oil May Protect Against Bowel Disease
GENERAL HEALTH
Hoping for a Happy Family Holiday? Here's How
Any Old Cane Won't Do
Olde Time Medicine Therapy May Prevent Alcoholic Relapse
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
More Steps a Day Lead to Better Health
Risk Factor for Stroke More Common Among Whites
Fructose Boosts Blood Pressure, Studies Find
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Poor Restroom Cleaning Causes Cruise-Ship Sickness
Hand Washing 10 Times a Day May Help Keep Flu Away
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Bullying Seems to Affect Kids Years Later
Mom's Extra Pregnancy Pounds May Raise Child's Heart Risks
Help Your Kids Stay Active
MEN'S HEALTH
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
Low Iron Levels Cut Cancer Risk in Men With PAD
Sunlight May Help Protect Men From Kidney Cancer
MENTAL HEALTH
17 Ways to Create the Perfect Workday
Positive Brain Changes Seen After Body-Mind Meditation
Music Soothes Anxiety as Well as Massage Does
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
For Baby and Mom Alike, Breast-Feeding May Be Best
Mom's Extra Pregnancy Pounds May Raise Child's Heart Risks
SENIORS
For a Healthier Retirement, Work a Little
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
A Little Alcohol May Stave Off Alzheimer's
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Acupuncture May Relieve Acid Indigestation In Pregnancy
For Women, Moderate Midlife Drinking Linked to Healthier Old Age
Steady Weight Gain Boosts Late-Life Breast Cancer Risk
Add your Article

Night Shift Work Hard on the Heart

MONDAY, March 2 -- Working the night shift might lead to hormonal and metabolic changes that raise risks for obesity, diabetes and heart disease, researchers say.

"In the long run, the physiological impact of shift work on several markers involved in the regulation of body weight -- leptin, insulin, cortisol -- seems to contribute to the increased risk for the development of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity," said study author Frank Scheer, an instructor of medicine in the division of sleep medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, in Boston.

Scheer and his team report the findings in the March 2 online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The authors point out that about 8.6 million Americans perform shift work, which the National Sleep Foundation defines as any type of schedule that falls outside the standard nine-to-five norm for business hours. In the United States, factory workers, hospital staff, policemen, firefighters, pilots, road crews and truck drivers are some of the positions that commonly entail some degree of shift work.

This type of work has been previously associated with gastrointestinal problems, fatigue and poor sleep, the researchers noted. Such complications are thought to arise from a chronic disconnect between the waking and eating habits the work demands and the body's innate 24-hour sleep/wake clock, commonly known as the circadian rhythm.

To explore how such a misalignment might raise the risk for developing serious health issues, Scheer and his colleagues conducted a laboratory test designed to mimic the acute effects of jet lag and/or the chronic impact of regular shift work.

In the experiment, the bodily responses of five men and five women were tracked as they stuck to an ever-changing sleep/eat schedule for 10 days.

By the study's conclusion, all the volunteers had eaten and slept across all phases of the circadian cycle, as they followed a daily schedule artificially fashioned along 28-hour blocks.

The results: circadian misalignment provoked a drop in levels of the weight-regulating hormone leptin. Plummeting leptin levels could hasten the onset of obesity and heart disease by prompting increases in appetite and decreases in activity, the researchers said.

Furthermore, changes in blood sugar levels and insulin levels also occurred, resulting in impaired glucose tolerance and decreased insulin sensitivity.

In particular, three participants with no prior history of diabetes developed glucose levels that resembled those of pre-diabetic people after eating on the misaligned schedule. Daytime blood pressure levels were also found to be elevated among these volunteers.

The degree of hormonal change was highest when participant schedules were set 12 hours off the normal sleep/wake cycle -- that is, when participants were asked to sleep throughout the day and stay awake through the night.

Yet despite the strength of the findings, Scheer cautioned that more research is needed before drawing too many conclusions.

"First of all, this is an in-laboratory study of short duration," he observed. "So we don't yet know if circadian misalignment has a similar impact in the long run in a real-life setting where people are performing night shift work."

"We also need to look at how different people might respond differently," Scheer noted. "Because shift work typically affects people's alertness levels, and GI functioning, and those who don't cope well with this are likely to drop out. Which means that those who continue with this kind of work might not be so susceptible to such problems, and may be less sensitive to this kind of misalignment. These are all questions for the future."

For the time being, Dr Joseph Bass, an assistant professor of medicine at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, agreed it is too soon to draw direct connections between shift work and specific health risks.

"However, having said that, this isn't smoke and mirrors," he said. "Our internal biological clocks represent a whole area of biology that is as critical as blood pressure or breathing. And this work does provide us with a plausible biological mechanism that may underlie and cumulatively contribute to the occurrence of metabolic disorders in certain individuals, because of their work patterns, or because of traveling, or simply because they ignore the normal light cycle."

Alan Mozes

More information

For more on night shift work and sleep, visit the National Sleep Foundation.



SOURCE: Frank Scheer, Ph.D, instructor, medicine, division of sleep medicine, department of medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Harvard Medical School, Boston; Joseph Bass, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago; March 2, 2009, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, online

Last Updated: March 03, 2009

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