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Diabetes: Night-shift workers who eat only during the day may lower risk of type 2 diabetes

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People who work overnight are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, but the risk may be reduced by eating only between 7am and 7pm



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3 December 2021

A night-shift worker using a metal cutter on a subway line in Ankara, Turkey

Mustafa Kamaci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

People who work night shifts may be able to avoid the resulting harm to their blood sugar control by eating only in the daytime.

A small trial in people who simulated a night-working pattern by staying awake all night found that those who ate only between 7am and 7pm had normal blood sugar regulation after a single test meal. In this regimen, people woke up during the day to eat, but abstained from food during night-shift hours. But those who ate some meals at night, as is common in people who work night shifts, had worse blood sugar control.

The body tries to keep blood sugar within a certain range, as high blood sugar damages blood vessels, but if levels gets too low, cells go short of energy. Poor blood sugar control can progress to type 2 diabetes, which usually needs managing with diet and medications and can lead to heart disease.

Previous work has found that night-shift workers are more prone to poor blood sugar control and type 2 diabetes. So Frank Scheer at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, and his colleagues wondered if they could counteract the effects on blood sugar by keeping eating patterns more aligned with people’s normal “body clock”.

They asked 19 volunteers to eat a carefully measured test meal for breakfast, after which their blood sugar levels were measured. Then, the participants gradually shifted their waking patterns so that after three days, they were in a fully reversed pattern, sleeping in the daytime. The next day, the group was split in two.

About half had some meals in the daytime and some at night, which is how many night-shift workers behave. They then had the same test meal for their 7pm “breakfast”; their blood sugar levels rose by 19 per cent more than they did after the same test was carried out at the start of the experiment.

The others were given food only between 7am and 7pm, and were woken up twice during their main sleep in the day to eat a meal. They had no significant change in blood sugar response to the test meal.

Most night-shift workers wouldn’t like to wake up in the day to eat meals, says Scheer, so his group is going to test a new regime, in which people fit in all their food immediately before and after sleeping, while still keeping meals to between 7am and 7pm. “The next step is to develop a more practical meal schedule,” he says.

While it could be unpleasant to work all night without a meal, says Scheer, it may help to instead eat just small amounts at night and avoid carbohydrate-rich food that raises blood sugar quickly.

Jonathan Cedernaes at Uppsala University in Sweden says that while the results are interesting, “we don’t know based on this data how these metabolic outcomes would change if someone was in a fixed night-time schedule for a week”.

Journal reference: Science Advances, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abg9910

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Solar storms may cause up to 5500 heart-related deaths in a given year

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In an approximate 11-year cycle, the sun blasts out charged particles and magnetised plasma that can distort Earth’s magnetic field, which may disrupt our body clock and ultimately affect our heart



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17 June 2022

A solar storm

Jurik Peter/Shutterstock

Solar storms that disrupt Earth’s magnetic field may cause up to 5500 heart-related deaths in the US in a given year.

The sun goes through cycles of high and low activity that repeat approximately every 11 years. During periods of high activity, it blasts out charged particles and magnetised plasma that can distort Earth’s magnetic field.

These so-called solar storms can cause glitches in our power grids and bring down Earth-orbiting satellites. A handful of studies have also hinted that they increase the risk of …

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UK Covid infection rate rising, with more than a million cases in England | Coronavirus

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Coronavirus infections are rising in the UK, figures have revealed, with experts noting the increase is probably down to the more transmissible BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants.

The figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), based on swabs collected from randomly selected households, reveal that in the week ending 11 June an estimated one in 50 people in the community in England are thought to have had Covid – around 1.13 million people.

The figure is even higher, at one in 45, in both Wales and Northern Ireland, while it was highest in Scotland where, in the week ending 10 June, one in 30 people are thought to have been infected.

While the figures remain below the peak levels of infection seen earlier this year, when around one in 13 people in England had Covid, the findings are a rise on the previous week where one in 70 people in England were thought to be infected. Furthermore, the data reveals increases in all regions of England, except the north-east, and across all age groups.

Experts say that a key factor in the increase is probably the rise of the Covid variants of concern BA.4 and BA.5.

“Infections have increased across all four UK nations, driven by rising numbers of people infected with the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants,” said Kara Steel, senior statistician for the Covid-19 Infection Survey.

While Steel said it remained too early to say if this was the start of another wave, others have warned it may already have begun, with increased mixing and travelling among other factors fuelling a rise in cases.

Among concerns scientists have raised are that BA.4, BA.5 and another variant on the rise, BA.2.12.1, replicate more efficiently in human lung cells than BA.2.

Prof Azra Ghani, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, said the latest figures were not surprising, and might rise further.

“This increase in infection prevalence is likely due to the growth of the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants, which as we have seen elsewhere in Europe, appear to be able to escape immunity generated from previous Omicron subvariants,” she said.

“It is therefore possible that we will continue to see some growth in infection prevalence in the coming weeks and consequently an increase in hospitalisations, although these subvariants do not currently appear to result in any significantly changed severity profile. This does however serve as a reminder that the Covid-19 pandemic is not over.”

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NHS to offer women in England drug that cuts recurrence of breast cancer | Breast cancer

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Thousands of women in England with breast cancer are to benefit from a new pill on the NHS which reduces the risk of the disease coming back.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has given the green light to abemaciclib, which cuts the chance of breast cancer returning after a patient has had surgery to remove a tumour.

Trials showed that patients who had the drug with hormone therapy had a more than 30% improved chance of their cancer not coming back after surgery, compared with hormone therapy alone.

“It’s fantastic thousands of women with this type of primary breast cancer will now have an additional treatment option available on the NHS to help further reduce the risk of the disease coming back,” said Delyth Morgan, the chief executive of charity Breast Cancer Now.

“The fear of breast cancer returning or spreading to other parts of their body and becoming incurable can cause considerable anxiety for so many women and their loved ones.

“New effective treatments such as abemaciclib, which can offer more women the chance to further reduce the risk of the disease recurring, are therefore extremely welcome and this is an important step change in the drug options available for this group of patients.”

The twice-a-day pill is suitable for women with hormone receptor-positive, HER2-negative, node-positive early breast cancer at high risk of recurrence who have had surgery. About 4,000 women will benefit initially, Nice said.

Helen Knight, the interim director of medicines evaluation at Nice, said the draft recommendation came less than a month after abemaciclib received its licence.

“The fact that we have been able to produce draft recommendations so quickly is testament to the success of our ambition to support patient access to clinically and cost effective treatments as early as possible,” said Knight. “Until now there have been no targeted treatments for people with this type of breast cancer.

“Abemaciclib with hormone therapy represents a significant improvement in how it is treated because being able to have a targeted treatment earlier after surgery will increase the chance of curing the disease and reduce the likelihood of developing incurable advanced disease.”

Abemaciclib works by targeting and inhibiting proteins in cancer cells which allow the cancer to divide and grow. It normally costs £2,950 for a packet of 56 150mg-tablets, but the manufacturer, Eli Lilly, has agreed an undisclosed discounted price for NHS England.

“Thanks in part to this latest deal struck by NHS England, NHS patients will be able to access another new targeted drug for a common and aggressive form of breast cancer,” said Prof Peter Johnson, the cancer director of NHS England.

“Abemaciclib, when used alongside a hormone therapy, offers a new, doubly targeted, treatment option, helping to increase the chances of beating the cancer for good, as well as meeting the NHS’s commitment to delivering improved cancer care under our long-term plan.”

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