OBJECTIVE: To detect premature gluco-metabolic defects among night shift workers with disturbances in circadian rhythms.
DESIGN AND METHODS: We performed a hypothesis-generating, cross-sectional analysis of anthropometric, metabolic, lipid, and inflammation parameters, comparing active (a-NSW, n = 111) and former (f-NSW, n = 98) rotating night shift workers with diurnal workers (controls, n = 69). All participants were hospital nurses. We also evaluated the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) and assessed expression of transcription factors REV-ERBα and BMAL1 in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), as indicators of the molecular clock.
RESULTS: Both a-NSW and f-NSW participants had significantly higher glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) and white blood cell counts (WBC) (p < 0.001 for both), PSQI global score (p = 0.001) and diastolic blood pressure levels (p = 0.024) compared with controls. Expression of REV-ERBα/BMAL1 RNA in PBMC was significantly higher in a-NSW (p = 0.05) than in f-NSW or control participants. Multivariate regression analysis showed that working status and PSQI were independent determinants of higher HbA1c levels (p < 0.001).
CONCLUSIONS: We demonstrated that young, healthy night shift workers show subclinical abnormalities in HbA1c and changes in peripheral clock gene expression.