Previous studies have shown that long-term elevated cortisol levels lead to increased abdominal obesity, hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular risk.
Now, a new study has found that shift work at a young age is associated with elevated long-term cortisol levels and increased BMI.
This is the first study that shows that working in shifts leads to changes in long-term cortisol levels, suggesting that the stress hormone cortisol might be one of the factors contributing to the increased cardiovascular risks of shift workers.
Researchers at Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, collected hair samples from 33 shift workers and 89 day-workers, extracted cortisol from the hair samples with methanol and measured cortisol levels using an ELISA cortisol kit.
They found that long-term cortisol levels were significantly increased in individuals working in shifts, especially in study participants younger than 40 years.
"Our findings show that cortisol might play an important part in the development of obesity and increased cardiovascular risk for those working in shifts," said lead author Laura Manenschijn, MD.
"Unraveling the role of cortisol in the health problems found in shift workers could result in new approaches to prevent cardiovascular damage in this specific group," she said.
The study is accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.