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Shift work may alter brain-regulated hormones, making workers hungry: study


Photo: Andrey Rykov/iStockphoto

Bristol, England — Why do shift workers often deal with hunger pangs?

A recent study led by researchers at the University of Bristol suggests the reason is a disruption in certain hormones regulated by the brain that manage hunger.

The researchers analyzed the performance of rats operating on simulated fixed schedules and shift schedules. Findings show that a disruption in light and dark cues in the shift group, or “jet-lagged” group, triggered a dysregulation in hormones associated with hunger. Throwing off the animals’ body clocks resulted in a heightened appetite during typically inactive parts of the day.

The “jet-lagged” rats consumed 53.8% of their calories during their inactive phase compared with 11.6% for the control group.

The researchers linked the study results with the habits of shift workers.

“For people working throughout the night, a reversed body clock can play havoc with their health,” Becky Conway-Campbell, senior study author and Bristol Medical School research fellow, said in a press release. “For those who are working night shifts long term, we recommend they try to maintain daylight exposure, cardiovascular exercise and mealtimes at regulated hours.”

The study was published online in the journal Communications Biology.

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