ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Overweight Moms More Likely to Have Asthmatic Kids
Know Your Asthma Triggers
Keep Asthma, Allergies at Bay for the Holidays
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Cranberries May Help Prevent Urinary Tract Infections
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
Eight Spiritual Universal Principles in the Art of Practice
ANIMAL CARE
Safe Toys for Dogs
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Beware of Dog Bites
BONES & JOINTS
Most Women With Osteoporosis Unaware of Raised Fracture Risk
Alcohol Abuse Can Damage Bones
Bone Density Predicts Chances of Breast Cancer
CANCER
Ginger Can Ease Nausea From Chemotherapy Treatments
Exercise Cuts Lung Cancer Risk in Ex-Smokers by 45%
Smokeout '08: The Perfect Time to Quit
CAREGIVING
When the Caregiver Becomes the Patient
Caring for Aging Loved Ones Can Be a Catch-22
Many Alzheimer's Caregivers Admit to Abusive Behavior
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Drink a Little Wine, Live a Little Longer
Exercise Extends Life of Kidney Patients
A Brisk Pace May Keep Stroke at Bay
COSMETIC
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
DENTAL, ORAL
Obesity Boosts Gum Disease Risk
Periodontal Disease Impacts Whole Health
Study Links Osteoporosis Drugs to Jaw Trouble
DIABETES
Brown Rice Bests White for Diabetes Prevention
Spices, Herbs Boost Health for Diabetics
Laughter May Lower Heart Attack Risk in Diabetics
DIET, NUTRITION
Eating your way to Good Health
Low Vitamin D Levels May Initiate Cancer Development
Teens Lose More Weight Using Healthy Strategies
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Lead Exposure in Childhood Linked to Criminal Behavior Later
Seasons Arriving 2 Days Earlier, Study Says
Bed Bugs Bring No Disease Danger
EYE CARE, VISION
Diabetic Eye Disease Rates Soaring
Eye Care Checkups Tied to Insurance Status
Action-Filled Video Games Boost Adult Vision
FITNESS
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
When It Comes to Lifting, the Pros Have Your Back
Exercise As Well As Acupuncture, May Ease Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
GENERAL HEALTH
When Clocks Change, Body May Need Time to Adjust
Play Creatively as a Kid, Be a Healthier Adult
Family Medicine Cabinet Top Source Of Kid's Poisonings
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Ginkgo Won't Prevent Heart Attack, Stroke in Elderly
Psychiatric Drugs Might Raise Cardiac Death Risk
A Little Chocolate May Do the Heart Good
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
Swine Flu Now Reported in All 50 States
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Eating Fish, Breast-Feeding Boost Infant Development
Family Medicine Cabinet Top Source Of Kid's Poisonings
Fussy Babys Could Be Out Of Your Control
MEN'S HEALTH
Sunlight May Help Protect Men From Kidney Cancer
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
More Vitamin C May Mean Less Chance of Gout
MENTAL HEALTH
Most Depressed Teens Don't Get Treatment
Music Soothes Anxiety as Well as Massage Does
Green Spaces Boost the Body and the Mind
PAIN
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Sugary Colas Tied to Gestational Diabetes
Music of Mozart Soothes the Preemie Baby
SENIORS
Older People at Greater Risk of Swine Flu Death
Fitness Fades Fast After 45
15-Point Test Gauges Alzheimer's Risk
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Women Who Run May Benefit From Extra Folic Acid
Most Women With Osteoporosis Unaware of Raised Fracture Risk
Rheumatoid Arthritis Rising Among U.S. Women
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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