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Study: Night Shift Affects Physical Health

Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital have found a reason why night-shift workers often have higher rates of obesity, diabetes, and other health problems.

The research shows that when people sleep during the day and eat at night, their internal body clocks are thrown out of whack.

That can affect blood sugar levels and hormones that control appetite. And that can lead to weight gain or worse, according to Brigham and Women's Frank Scheer.

"The exciting part of our study," says Scheer, "is that we could explain so many of the different diseases that are observed in shift work — obesity and diabetes and also cardiovascular risk, and also an increase in blood pressure."

Scheer says night-shift workers should be screened frequently for these problems. The findings appear online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This program aired on March 3, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

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