Shift work health risks linked to blood sugar and triglyceride changes

Shift work has been implicated in past research as a potential risk factor for developing metabolic issues and heart disease, and now a newly published study has shed light on specific changes it may cause that could pave the way for these issues. Specifically, researchers have found that working outside of traditional daytime hours may cause changes to triglycerides and blood sugar, increasing long-term risks for heart attacks and other issues.

Shift work is common in many industries, including health care and transportation, and usually refers to working late night or early morning hours. These schedules represent a substantial deviation from normal wake/sleep cycles for most people, requiring them to stay awake during hours their body would prefer to sleep and get sleep during hours they'd normally be awake.

Research out of the University of Delhi's University College of Medical Sciences has found that shift work has a negative effect on how a person's body uses blood sugar and breaks down triglycerides. These changes may increase the employee's odds of developing diabetes and heart disease.

The study looked at two groups of people with the same 20 to 40 age range and professional background: one that engaged in rotational night shift duties and another involving healthcare workers who didn't work the night shift at all. Both groups had normal blood sugar levels at the start of the study.

The results — that shift workers experience negative changes in blood sugar and triglycerides — sheds light on what may be driving the adverse health effects past studies have associated with late night and early morning shifts. It's unclear whether sleep disruption or inadequate sleep levels during the week may contribute to this negative change or if the participants were getting adequate, restful sleep.