In our busy modern world, night shift workers are called upon to keep the world spinning whilst most of us sleep. However, it has been proven that people who work when the sun goes down have a number of health problems associated with this lifestyle. According to the CDC, these include heart disease, metabolic disorders, cancer, sleep disorders, and type 2 diabetes.
A recent study published in Science Advances may just have a solution for the latter. The research group did a small scale trial, enrolling 19 healthy young people and subjecting them to 14 days of simulated night work. They were monitored under different mealtime protocols; with half of the group eating in the daytime, and a half eating during the night.
While no significant increase was observed for the individuals who ate during the day, it was found that eating at nighttime actually increased their risk of diabetes. Even after this short time, glucose levels were boosted by 6.4 percent in participants. “This study reinforces the notion that when you eat matters for determining health outcomes such as blood sugar levels, which are relevant for night workers as they typically eat at night while on shift,” said study co-leader Sarah L. Chellappa from the University of Cologne.
Currently, it is unclear exactly what complex mechanisms are causing these observed effects. Though, it is believed a huge influencing factor is a circadian misalignment. This means the body clock in our brains is out of sync, after being conditioned by behavioral, lighting, and eating patterns since birth.
The fact that such a drastic difference occurred in only 14 days shows the potential power of changing this behavior. Future studies need to be carried out with real-life shift workers to identify the exact best times to eat, but this research offers tangible evidence for improving the health of those who work nontraditional hours.
Source study: Science Advances – Daytime eating prevents internal circadian misalignment and glucose intolerance in night work.