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Night Shift Metabolism

March 18, 2009

Staying up all night triggers biological changes that can lead to obesity, hypertension, and diabetes.


Bad news for night owls…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

There’s growing evidence that shift workers face higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. A new study may help explain why. Harvard Medical School neuroscientist Frank Scheer and his colleagues put volunteers through artificial 28-hour days. When this schedule didn’t match up with true day and night, the volunteers’ bodies produced less leptin, a hormone that controls appetite. Their blood pressure also went up. So did their glucose and insulin levels, both associated with diabetes.

FRANK SCHEER (Harvard Medical School):
And we actually found that three of the subjects showed signs of a pre-diabetic state.

Other, related hormones were also disrupted. Scheer says all these problems may stem from overriding the body’s natural signals that tell us when to eat and sleep. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.