The combination of an unhealthy lifestyle coupled with working night shifts could put women at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to research.
The study examined data from two projects undertaken in the US which tracked the health of nurses over a number of years.
A total of 143,410 women took part in the Nurses’ Health Study, the first project of which started in 1976, the second in 1989.
The research was carried out by US, Chinese and Austrian researchers and involved nurses without cardiovascular disease, cancer or type 2 diabetes asked to fill in regular medical, diet and lifestyle questionnaires.
Researchers carried out the study on nurses due to the regular change in their rota systems, with a switch between daytime, evening and night shifts potentially disruptive to routines and biological rhythms.
The study discovered that over a period of 22-24 years, a total of 10,915 of the 143,410 nurses (7.6%) were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
For every five years of working at least three night shifts per month it was found that nurses were 31% more likely to have been diagnosed with the condition.
Those seen as having a less healthy lifestyle (being overweight or obese, smoking, doing less than 30 minutes of exercise per day and having a less healthy diet) were 2.3 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
Overall, the research team found rotating night shift work was associated with about 17% of the higher risk of type 2 diabetes, while 71% was linked to lifestyle and 11% was risk related to the interaction of both factors.
The study was published in the British Medical Journal.
Editor’s note: Working irregular shifts can make us more fatigued and likely to eat high-calorie snacks, so eating as healthily as possible and getting regular exercise is important to counter the negative effects of shift work. For more information, visit our award-winning Low Carb Program.

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