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July 7. - 2020

Shift Workers at Risk of Disruption to Physiological Rhythms

Modern societies rely increasingly on shift work. Meanwhile, studies have shown that this sort of work can potentially negatively affect our health. It has, therefore, become increasingly important to understand whether shift work has a long-last effect on human health.

To understand this better a research group consisting of scientists from the University of Amsterdam in The Netherlands looked at the effects of time-restricted feeding, simulating human shift work, on rats in a laboratory setting.

Two groups compared
The study looked at the effects of putting rats through four weeks of time-restricted feeding where rats were fed during the light period. A control group was fed during the dark period, in accordance with rats’ regular feeding patterns.

During the study, various parameters were monitored. This included measuring each animals' core body temperature throughout the study with Star-Oddi's DST nano-T temperature loggers.

Poor health outcomes for light-fed animals
Feeding during the light period was associated with poor health outcomes for the study animals, while feeding during the dark period was associated with good health outcomes.

Light-fed animals displayed the smallest day/night difference in body temperature, food intake, activity, and respiratory exchange ratio. These animals also demonstrated that they had not fully recovered from the change in their regular eating schedule 11 days later. The effects were shown to be both tissue- and gene- dependent.

Implications for human health
These results indicate that similar effects may be observed in human shift workers. Humans working on rotational shifts may, therefore, be at risk of long-lasting disturbed physiological rhythms after shift work periods which may in turn negatively affect their health.

The paper was published in the journal Obesity and can be accessed here.