ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
Keep Asthma, Allergies at Bay for the Holidays
Herbal Remedy Could Halt Peanut Allergy
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
No Verdict Yet on Grape Seed Extract vs. Breast Cancer
Taking the Mystery Out of Hypnotherapy
Meditation, Yoga Might Switch Off Stress Genes
ANIMAL CARE
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
BONES & JOINTS
Stem Cells Might Treat Tough Fractures
B Cells Can Act Alone in Autoimmune Diseases
Arthritis Hits More Than Half of Diabetics
CANCER
U.S. Reported 25,000 Cases of HPV-Related Cancers Annually
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
Supplements Might Reduce Breast Cancer Risk
CAREGIVING
With Age Comes Greater Risk of Hypothermia
Stressed Health Care Workers Battle 'Compassion Fatigue'
Mom's Smoking May Lead to SIDS
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Bad Marriages Harder on Women's Health
An Apple a Day May Help Keep Heart Disease Away
Migraines in Pregnancy Boost Vascular Risks
COSMETIC
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
DENTAL, ORAL
Hormones May Be to Blame for Women's Cavity Rates
Rheumatoid Arthritis May Harm Gums
Gummy Bears Join Cavity Fight
DIABETES
Formula Puts Doctor, Patient Glucose Readings on Same Page
Study Shows Turmeric May Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Doctors Urged to Screen Diabetics for Sleep Apnea
DIET, NUTRITION
Olive Oil May Be Key to Mediterranean Diet's Benefits
Oregano Shown to be the Most Powerful Culinary Herb
Mercury in Fish Linked to High Blood Pressure
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Smog Standards Need Tightening, Activists Say
Global Warming May Bring More Respiratory Woes
Population-Based Strategy Urged to Cut U.S. Obesity Rate
EYE CARE, VISION
Just Like Skin, Eyes Can 'Burn' in Strong Sun
Florida Vision Test Law: Fewer Traffic Deaths Among Elderly
Diabetic Hispanics Missing Out on Eye Exams
FITNESS
Mom and Baby Alike May Benefit From Exercise
When It Comes to Lifting, the Pros Have Your Back
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
GENERAL HEALTH
Toxins May Form When Skin, Indoor Ozone Meet
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
New Methods Could Speed Production of Flu Vaccines
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Airport Full Body Scanners Pose No Health Threat: Experts
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Estrogen May Help Men's Hearts
Fondness for Fish Keeps Japanese Hearts Healthy
Obese People Seem to Do Better With Heart Disease
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Now Reported in All 50 States
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Boosting Kids' Stroke IQ May Save Lives
3 Home Habits Help Youngsters Stay Slim
Eating Fish, Breast-Feeding Boost Infant Development
MEN'S HEALTH
Exercise May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study Shows
More Vitamin C May Mean Less Chance of Gout
The Dark Side of Vegetarianism
MENTAL HEALTH
Music Soothes Anxiety as Well as Massage Does
Cinnamon Breaks Up Brain Plaques, May Hold Key to Fighting Alzheimer’s
17 Ways to Create the Perfect Workday
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
Pre-Pregnancy Weight Linked to Babies' Heart Problems
For Baby and Mom Alike, Breast-Feeding May Be Best
SENIORS
High-Impact Activity May Be Good for Old Bones
Laughter Can Stimulate a Dull Appetite
Community Exercise Programs Boost Seniors' Strength
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Acupuncture May Help Relieve Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
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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