Study Uncovers How Night Shift Work Disrupts Appetite And Eating Patterns


Working night shifts interferes with appetite, hunger, and food habits, leading to weight gain, according to scientists. A study was done on the subject, and here’s what it revealed. 


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What happens when someone is working in a night shift?

Working night shifts causes a disruption in the body’s biological clock, or circadian misalignment, which affects the hormones that regulate appetite, according to a team of scientists led by the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom. 

The condition of ‘jet lag’ is also typically related to circadian misalignment. The researchers concentrated on the adrenal gland, which is located near the kidney and generates glucocorticoid hormones, which affect several physiological activities such as metabolism and hunger.

Where does a human body face problems while working a night shift?

night shift

A misalignment of light and dark cues caused a disruption in the functioning of these hormones, which then affected the appetite of the jet-lagged group of animals, leading to an increased desire to eat significantly more during the inactive phase of the day, according to the scientists’ study published in the journal Communications Biology. 

They claim that their findings show how circadian misalignment can dramatically affect dietary patterns, much to the disadvantage of metabolic health, and that they may be of assistance to the millions of people who work through the night and struggle with weight gain.

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Why was the study done?

Adrenal glucocorticoid hormones directly regulate a collection of brain peptides that affect hunger, with some stimulating appetite (orexigenic) and others decreasing appetite (anorexigenic). 

The jet-lagged group’s orexigenic hypothalamic neuropeptides (NPY) were dysregulated in this study, which the scientists think could be potential targets for pharmacological treatments aimed at treating eating disorders and obesity.

Furthermore, while control rats consumed approximately 90% of their daily intake during their active phase and only 11% during their inactive phase, the jet-lagged rats consumed approximately 54% of their daily calories during their inactive phase, with no increased physical activity during this time. 

This was nearly five times more than what the control rats consumed during the inactive phase, indicating that the timing of calorie ingestion was modified, according to the researchers.

How can the damages be fixed?

“Those who work long-term night shifts should try to maintain daylight exposure, cardiovascular exercise, and mealtimes at regulated hours.” 

“However, internal brain messages that drive increased appetite are difficult to override with ‘discipline’ or ‘routine,’ so we are currently designing studies to assess rescue strategies and pharmacological intervention drugs,” said senior author and Bristol Research Fellow Becky Conway-Campbell.

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