People who work night shifts or constantly change shifts have a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes compared to those not on such schedules, suggests a new study.

Working shifts disrupts many key body chemicals, causing a ripple effect that may result in diabetes as well as gastrointestinal disorders and cardiovascular disease, the study authors wrote.

The study, led by Zuxun Lu of Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China, accounted for several factors, such as workers' shift schedules, their body mass index, family history of diabetes and their level of physical activity.

Although the results didn't prove a direct cause-and-effect relationship, Lu and his colleagues found that any amount of shift work was linked to a 9 percent greater risk for developing diabetes complications. Furthermore, men showed a substantially higher risk at 37 percent.

"The overall literature in this subject right now has been fairly convincing that there is in fact an association between a misalignment of circadian rhythm and risk for diabetes," Dr. Peter Butler, director of the Larry L. Hillblom Islet Research Center at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, told Reuters Health.

Shift work is very common our society. In the U.S., about 15 million people are shift workers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And roughly 30 million Americans have diabetes.

These work hours may interfere with eating and sleeping patterns, thereby throwing off our circadian rhythms.

Despite the heightened risk, Butler added that there are ways to counter this effect.

"There are many risks that come into play and circadian misalignment is just one risk, but if you counter that by regular exercise and good diet, you'd reduce that risk very substantially."

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