Shift work linked to overeating and higher illness risks

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Monash University has led research showing that shift workers who rotate shifts tend to eat more junk food, and fewer nutritious foods, and have an increased risk of diet-related illness.

The review showed that rotating shift workers had higher average 24-hour energy intake than day workers.

For each recorded day of kilojoule intake, rotating shift workers consumed 264 more kilojoules than regular day workers, leading to a 0.5-kilogram weight gain over a year with just 100 extra kilojoules daily.

Shift workers have unhealthier dietary patterns than day workers with irregular meals, more snacking or eating at night, less core food consumption, and more eating of discretionary foods.

In Australia, 1.4 million employees (16 percent) have shift work as their primary occupation.

Rotating shifts, which have schedules that vary weekly, are the most common form of work for both men and women.

Shift work may increase convenience or pay more, but it also puts workers at an increased risk of chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Some shift workers acknowledge the challenges of shift work and often find it easy to grab junk food such as chocolate during a shift.

In this study, the team compared the total daily kilojoule intake of workers on rotating shift schedules with those on daily work schedules.

They found that rotating shift workers may be eating more kilojoules, with a large proportion at night, explaining their increased risk of chronic diseases.

The diets of rotational workers tend to contain less protein and carbohydrates and more fat than day workers.

The foods and drinks typically consumed by rotating workers were more fried and fatty foods, confectionary, sweetened drinks, and alcohol, with fewer core foods such as dairy, meat, fruit, and vegetables.

Shift workers have less access to healthy food and may rely more on vending machines, takeaway, and convenience foods.

The team suggests understanding the impact of extra kilojoule consumption could go a long way toward much-needed workplace support.

Improving diets and eating patterns could help shift workers better cope with the disruption to their lifestyles caused by shift work.

The team is now testing the effectiveness of three weight-loss strategies for night shift workers. Top of FormBottom of Form

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The study was published in Advances in Nutrition.

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