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Pro-Inflammatory Diets May Partly Explain Shift Workers' Disease Risks

People who work shifts are more likely to have a diet that promotes chronic inflammation, says a study in the February Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM). Their diet may contribute to the health risks tied to shiftwork, including increased risks of high blood pressure, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

Researchers looked at the relationship between shiftwork and pro-inflammatory diet using data from a nationwide sample of employed adults. Based on diet questionnaires, researcher Michael Wirth of the University of South Carolina, Columbia, and his colleagues calculated a "dietary inflammatory index" (DII) for each person. The greater the DII score, the more pro-inflammatory the diet.

With adjustments for other factors, shift workers had an elevated DII, compared to day workers. The difference was significant for rotating shift workers (those who worked varying shifts): average DII 1.07, compared to 0.86 for day workers.

Women had higher DII values than men. Among women, the DII was higher for evening or night shift workers compared to day workers: 1.48 versus 1.17.

Western-style diets with higher levels of calories and fats have been linked to increased inflammation, compared to Mediterranean diets high in fruits and vegetables. 

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