Researchers analyzed twelve different diabetes studies, encompassing data from a total of 226,652 participants. The survey found a significant link between shift work and type 2 diabetes, the most common type. Stronger correlations were found between male shift workers and those working rotating or predominantly nighttime shifts.
The survey was published this month in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
The evidence bolsters previous research that showed patients in sleep labs with disrupted and daytime sleep cycles were more likely to develop diabetes mellitus (DM), or type 2.
If untreated, diabetes mellitus can result in blindness, heart attack or stroke. The condition can severely damage the nerves and blood vessels, to the point where a limb (most commonly a foot) must be amputated.
"Given the increasing prevalence of shift work worldwide and the heavy economic burden of DM, the results of our study provide practical and valuable clues for the prevention of DM and a study of its aetiology," the researchers wrote.
Though the scientists did their best to account for other risk factors associated with shift work, they warned that other variables could be at play. Until more studies address the topic, the only advice scientists can offer those that work rotating shifts is: eat healthier and exercise more.