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Study: Night owls at greater risk of diabetes

“The differences in fat metabolism between ‘early birds’ and ‘night owls’ shows that our body’s circadian rhythm (wake/sleep cycle) could affect how our bodies use insulin."



By Pol Allingham via SWNS

Night owls are more likely to develop diabetes than people who get to bed early, according to new research.

Scientists say that being a late-night or early-morning person can reveal your diabetes risk.

Not only did they discover night owls were less active than early birds, they found they were less sensitive to insulin hormone - both were predictors in type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

It was shown that those who stay up later are worse at using fat for energy, and their fats can build up in the body along with the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Meanwhile, early birds were found to be more reliant on fat for energy, more active in the day, and more aerobically fit.


Researchers at Rutgers University split participations into two groups, early and late, based on their chronotype - otherwise known as the human’s natural propensity to seek activity and sleep at different times.

Using advanced imaging, assessed body mass, body composition, insulin sensitivity, and fat and carbohydrate metabolism using breath samples.

Over a week the team monitored participants to figure out their daily activity patterns.

To minimize diets impacting the results, calorie and nutrition-controlled diets and overnight fasting were required.

The group was tested at rest before completing two 15-minute hits of exercise on a treadmill, one moderate and one high intensity.

Inclines on the running machine were upped 2.5 percent every two minutes until the participant reached exhaustion.

Scientists discovered early birds use more fat for energy - both when resting, and during exercise.

They were also more insulin sensitive.

Meanwhile, night owls were insulin resistant, and their bodies required more insulin to decrease blood glucose levels.

technology, bedtime and rest concept - teenage girl in pajamas with smartphone lying in bed at night
(Ground Picture via Shutterstock)

Night owls’ bodies also preferred carbohydrates as their energy source, rather than fats.

Writing in Experimental Physiology, the team said night owls’ impaired ability to respond to insulin and use more fuel can indicate a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

“The differences in fat metabolism between ‘early birds’ and ‘night owls’ shows that our body’s circadian rhythm (wake/sleep cycle) could affect how our bodies use insulin," aid study senior author Professor Steven Malin, of Rutgers University.

“A sensitive or impaired ability to respond to the insulin hormone has major implications for our health.

“This observation advances our understanding of how our body’s circadian rhythms impact our health.

“Because chronotype appears to impact our metabolism and hormone action, we suggest that chronotype could be used as a factor to predict an individual’s disease risk."

He added: “We also found that early birds are more physically active and have higher fitness levels than night owls who are more sedentary throughout the day.

"Further research is needed to examine the link between chronotype, exercise and metabolic adaptation to identify whether exercising earlier in the day has greater health benefits.”

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