A review of a number of observational studies show shift work to be linked with an increase in rates of diabetes.
Researchers from the Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China performed a meta-analysis of 12 different observational studies. In total 226,652 participants were reviewed including 14,595 of which that developed diabetes.
The researchers found that shift work schedules were associated with a 9% greater risks of diabetes than non-shift working. Men were shown to be at greater risk than women. Men who worked shifts had a 37% increased risk of diabetes. Workers who had rotating shifts, alternating between day and night shifts had a 42% increased risk of diabetes.
The study did not attempt to identify reasons for the cause in increased diabetes risk, however, there are possible explanations for why shift work may increase diabetes risk. Changes in sleeping patterns can affect hormone levels which may play a part. Having varied meal times is likely to make meal planning more difficult and could increase reliance on instant meals which are likely to be more energy dense and less nutritious than home cooked meals.
People that are working shifts should be aware that there may be increased risks of diabetes. It is important to ensure you take regular physical activity and eat healthy, balanced meals. It is advisable not to be over-reliant on processed foods. Also be aware of the symptoms of diabetes so that, if diabetes develops, it can be diagnosed at an early stage to reduce the harm that undiagnosed diabetes can cause.

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