Firefighters are the heroes of our community, protecting us around the clock. But these 24-hour shifts are hard on the body and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, as well as cancer. In collaboration with the San Diego Department of Fire Rescue, scientists from the Salk Institute and the University of California at San Diego Health conducted a clinical trial and found that time-restricted eating improves firefighters’ health and well-being measures. The lifestyle intervention only required firefighters to eat within a 10-hour window and did not include skipping meals.
New findings published in cell metabolism On October 4, 2022, it may also have repercussions for shift workers, such as military personnel; healthcare professionals, food service, and transportation; telecommunications personnel; and new parents, whose schedules often mimic shift work when caring for a new baby.
“Clinicians and researchers are always thinking about the magic pill that can treat or reduce disease,” says Salk. “Our study showed shift workers with high blood pressure, blood sugar or cholesterol could benefit from a simple lifestyle intervention called restricted eating. in time.” Professor Satchidananda Panda, co-author of the study and recipient of the Rita and Richard Atkinson Chair. “It’s not a pill, but a healthy habit that can significantly reduce these three risks of disease without any harmful side effects.”
Nearly every cell in the body has a 24-hour biological clock that produces circadian (circadian) rhythms. These rhythms regulate behavior (eg, when you are active and when you rest) and physiology (eg blood pressure, blood sugar, and muscle function). Circadian rhythms are coordinated with the environment in part by regular, timed cycles of light and dark, eating, and fasting. Disruptions in these cycles, which can occur with shift work, can affect health, leading to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Roughly 30 percent of Americans consider shift workers, where an individual must remain awake for two to three hours between 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. for at least 50 days a year. Increasing sleep and decreasing calorie intake is often challenging, but previous studies have suggested that time-restricted eating (eating over a certain period of time) may provide a simple behavioral change to improve health.
“We were excited to participate in this clinical trial because our department is always looking for innovative ways to improve the health of our firefighters,” says David Bacon, chief of the San Diego Health and Safety Battalion.
In this clinical trial, 150 firefighters from the San Diego Rescue Department used the myCircadianClock app on their phones to track their food intake for three months. Half of the group ate during the 10-hour window, while the other half (the control group) did not change anything and ate during the 14-hour window. Both groups were encouraged to follow a Mediterranean diet known for its health benefits. The study included both healthy individuals and those who were overweight or had health conditions such as high blood pressure, cholesterol and/or blood glucose.
“Most clinical trials exclude shift workers, but these are the individuals most susceptible to disease. Therefore, it was necessary for us to test our lifestyle intervention in shift workers with a continuum of disease risk,” says first author Emily Manoogian. Staff scientist at the Panda Lab in Salk. “Because shift workers are incredibly busy, using an app to track their habits, and to monitor them at their stations rather than the clinic, if possible, enabled these individuals to more easily participate in the experiment.”
Researchers found that time-restricted eating during a 10-hour eating period was possible without adverse effects and helped the firefighters reduce the volume of VLDL (“bad”) cholesterol by 1.34nm (the smallest arteries were less likely to clog up VLDL), improve their mental health, and reduce They drink about three drinks a week. Time-restricted eating also significantly improved blood sugar and blood pressure in firefighters who had elevated levels at the start of the study. The researchers concluded that time-restricted eating may provide a greater benefit to those at risk for cardiovascular and other chronic diseases.
“We’ve shown that time-restricted eating is a feasible way for shift workers, such as firefighters, to improve cardiovascular health and well-being,” says Pam Taub, co-author and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. Medicine and a cardiologist at the University of California, San Diego Health. “These findings are likely to extend to a larger population, including health care workers such as nurses and others with abnormal sleep-wake patterns.”
“Participation in this study was an amazing experience that provided valuable information that we can use to make better choices to improve our health,” says Mark Dombrowski, San Diego Fire-Rescue Team Leader.
In the future, the authors plan to expand the use of time-restricted eating to multiple firefighting areas to help more firefighters improve their health.
Other authors include Nico R. Gutierrez, Azarin Shawqi, Sinran Wang, Giallo Sui, and Zahawi Ho of Salk; and Adina Zadorian, Hannah C. Low, Ashley Rosander, Ariana Pazarjade, Cameron Ormiston, Jason J. Fleischer, and Shahrukh Gulshan from the University of California, San Diego.
The work was funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (EMW-2016-FP-00788), the Larry L. Hillblom Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, the Salk Women in Science Fellowship, the National Institutes of Health (DK118278, CA 258221, and CA236352), and the Robert Foundation Wood Johnson, the Wu Tsai Human Performance Alliance, the Jo and Clara Tsai Foundation, the William H. Donner Foundation, and the Martha P. Mack Foundation.
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