Shift work linked to type 2 diabetes risk factors

Working a night shift can have a number of consequences for a person's life, but new evidence suggests that this type of schedule can cause major disruption to an individual's metabolic health and put them at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Shift work is characterized by a work schedule that is outside of the typical businesses hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is common among factory workers, cleaning crews and other professionals who work in industries that operate on a round-the-clock basis.

Previous studies have shown that individuals who work these types of schedules tend to be more obese and have higher rates of heart disease, yet no one knew why. The new study, which was conducted by a team of Dutch researchers and reported in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, showed that the hormone cortisol may be to blame.

After taking hair samples from groups of workers who either worked overnight shifts or regular day schedules, the researchers found that shift workers tended to have much higher levels of cortisol.

This hormone is associated with the body's response to stressful situations. It is released when a person encounters a potentially anxiety-inducing experience. However, when a person has high levels of the hormone in their blood at all times, it can have major health implications.

Previous studies have associated persistently high levels of cortisol with an increased risk of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The new finding could help explain why shift workers tend to have higher rates of cardiovascular and metabolic conditions.

The study also suggests that individuals who do shift work may need to take extra steps to support their health. While their job may put them at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, a proper diet and regular exercise can help mitigate this threat.

Additionally, any individuals who have noticed warning signs of the disease should talk to their doctor about testing. Type 2 diabetes can be much easier to treat when it is caught in its early stages.