Intermittent fasting reduces cardiovascular risk associated with shift work

Shift work has been linked to a host of health problems, including higher rates of diabetes, heart attacks and other cardiometabolic diseases, and being overweight. But despite the known risks, little research has been done to identify lifestyle interventions that might help prevent these conditions. Now, a new randomized controlled clinical trial, published in Cell Metabolism, has found that time-restricted eating (a type of intermittent fasting that means you can only eat during a specific time window of the day) could safely practiced on shift workers and that provides benefit to participants who have indications of cardiometabolic disease.

In this case, the intervention was carried out with the San Diego firefighters within the framework of the Healthy Heroes Study. “Shift work is much more common than many people realize, and it affects workers in a variety of different fields, as well as parents of newborn babies,” says Satchidananda Panda, a Salk Institute professor and co-author of the study. study. “Shift work not only contributes to a higher burden of disease in our society, it also makes it harder for people with existing conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, to manage them,” he adds.

For her part, Pam Taub, a cardiologist and professor in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and co-author of the research, affirms that “within the confines of shift work, there are many lifestyle interventions that can potentially optimize the health of shift workers. Our study sheds light on one way we can help this population.”

Panda and Taub have collaborated on time-restricted feeding research for several years. In January 2020, they published a study in Cell Metabolism that found that restrict eating time to 10 hours a day reduced body weight and improved blood pressure and cholesterol levels in people with metabolic syndrome.

In the current study, they focused on this type of intermittent fasting for San Diego firefighters, who work in 24 hour shifts. There were 137 workers ultimately enrolled in the study; 70 followed time-restricted feeding: they ate all their meals within a 10-hour time frame; while 67 were in the control group. All participants were encouraged to follow a Mediterranean diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats. The participants were followed for 12 weeks.

Shift work made it difficult for firefighters to get to the lab during regular business hours. To solve this, the researchers went to the fire stations to place portable devices on the participants to collect their activity, sleep and blood glucose levels. They also customized an app that allowed firefighters to log their food and sleep and take study surveys. The app also allowed researchers to send study materials and guide participants on recommended lifestyle choices.

The participants did not report any problems with concentration, reaction times, or other problems, and their quality of life improved overall.

“Firefighters are a fairly healthy group of people, but we found that for those who had underlying cardiometabolic risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and hyperglycemia, there was some benefit to time-restricted feeding, especially in terms of improvement in glucose levels and blood pressure“, says Taub. “Even those who were healthy without underlying cardiomebolic risk factors had improvements in quality of life and bad cholesterol, “he adds.

Professors Taub and Panda would like to conduct similar research on other shift workers, especially those in health. “Humans have lived with circadian rhythms for at least 200,000 years, and these rhythms clearly have a profound effect on us. Shift workers, whether astronauts or caregivers, are vital to our society. It’s time to think about how we can help them improve their health,” concludes Panda.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Recent News

Editor's Pick