Irregular or Rotating Night Shifts Linked To Increased Risk of Diabetes Interview with:
“Night Shift - Hard@Work (5of8)” by cell105 is licensed under CC BY 2.0Dr. Céline Vetter

Assistant Professor
Department of Integrative Physiology
University of Colorado at Boulder
Boulder, CO What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: Shift work, particularly night shifts, can change our social rhythms, as well as the internal biological rhythms including our sleep, and these effects could explain why shift work is linked to conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. However, we don’t know which type of shift pattern is most strongly linked to type 2 diabetes. In addition, we know that some lifestyle factors can modify the link between a genetic predisposition to a disease and the disease itself, but we don’t know if this applies to shift work and type 2 diabetes. What should readers take away from your report?

 Response: We found that, all shift workers were more likely to have type 2 diabetes, except for permanent night shift workers. Those who reported working irregular or rotating shifts with usual night shifts were 44 percent more likely to have type 2 diabetes, after taking into account other established risk factors. This is in line with prior evidence. In addition, we observed that more frequent night shifts work exposure was associated with a higher likelihood of having type 2 diabetes. This suggests that frequency of shifts might be a relevant dimension to capture when examining the links between work schedules and health, and will help further research in this area, with the ultimately to provide evidence-based recommendations for healthy work schedule design.

This is also the first study investigating the interaction between shift work and a cumulative genetic risk score for type 2 diabetes. Current or past shift work did not modify genetic type 2 diabetes risk, suggesting similar effects of night shift work regardless of an individual’s genetic predisposition to type 2 diabetes. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: The results from our cross-sectional study suggest is that we need to get a better picture of the individual work schedule characteristics and how they relate to type 2 diabetes risk to ultimately create healthier work schedules. Our results warrant replication in longitudinal, prospective studies with information on multiple dimensions of work schedules, including the frequency a given shift was worked, duration that someone worked specific schedules, as well as information on rotation and regularity. With regards to our novel genetic findings, we need replication studies, both in populations of European ancestry, and those of non-European ancestry. Examining interactions with other genes beyond those related to type 2 diabetes risk might also provide further insights. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: Our study is important because it raises awareness of the important link between shiftwork and the higher likelihood of having diabetes. In 2017, the CDC reported that more than 100 million Americans have diabetes or are at risk of developing it. Diabetes is a manageable, but serious chronic disease condition. Also, approximately 15 millions Americans work evening shifts, night shift, rotating shifts or any other kind of irregular schedule that is arranged by the employer (2004 US Bureau of Labor Statistics Data, and that industrialized countries approximately 20-25% of the workforce have such schedules. Because shift schedules are modifiable, understanding the characteristics that might be most relevant to chronic disease is important. Our study findings represent another puzzle piece in this quest towards healthier work schedule design. We understand that a person might not always be able to modify their schedule, so it is important to mention that diet quality, physical activity, prioritizing sleep, and keeping a healthy weight are key factors that can help prevent type 2 diabetes.  


Vetter, C et al. Night Shift Work, Genetic Risk, and Type 2 Diabetes in the UK Biobank. Diabetes Care, 2018 DOI: 10.2337/dc17-1933

Céline Vetter, Hassan S. Dashti, Jacqueline M. Lane, Simon G. Anderson, Eva S. Schernhammer, Martin K. Rutter, Richa Saxena and Frank A.J.L. Scheer

Diabetes Care 2018 Feb; dc171933.



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