Recent research led by Monash University and published in Advances in Nutrition has found a significant correlation between rotating shift work and poor dietary habits.
The study systematically reviewed dietary habits and energy intake, revealing that rotating shift workers consume more kilojoules and have unhealthier eating patterns compared to regular day workers.
Key Findings: Dietary Habits of Rotating Shift Workers
Higher Energy Intake: Rotating shift workers were found to consume on average 264 more kilojoules per day than day workers. This small increase can lead to significant weight gain over time.
Unhealthy Eating Patterns: The study noted that shift workers often have irregular meals, rely more on snacking or eating at night, consume fewer core foods (like dairy, meat, fruits, and vegetables), and have higher intake of discretionary foods such as fried and fatty foods, confectionery, sweetened drinks, and alcohol.
Meal Timing and Frequency: Rotating shift workers tend to eat more meals per day, with frequent snacking at night. Most of their kilojoule intake happens in the second half of the day.
Implications for Health
The study highlights the increased risk of chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes among shift workers.
This risk is partly attributed to the timing of food intake, with a greater proportion of daily energy consumed at night leading to weight gain and impaired glucose metabolism.
Tania Whalen, with 20 years of experience in shift work, echoes the challenges mentioned in the study. She notes the convenience of grabbing junk food during shifts and the difficulty in preparing and maintaining fresh food for long work hours.
Insights from Monash University Researchers
Angela Clark, Ph.D. candidate and Research Dietitian, and her supervisor Professor Maxine Bonham conducted the research. Clark points out the need for workplace support to address the dietary challenges faced by shift workers.
She suggests that while the disruptive nature of shift work can’t be changed, improvements in diet and eating patterns can make a significant difference.
Conclusion: Addressing Shift Work’s Dietary Challenges
The study underscores the importance of understanding and mitigating the adverse effects of shift work on dietary habits.
By acknowledging the unique challenges faced by rotating shift workers, there’s potential for developing targeted interventions to promote healthier eating habits and reduce the risk of diet-related illnesses.
This research is crucial for the well-being of shift workers, who play a vital role in keeping our society functioning around the clock.
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The research findings can be found in Advances in Nutrition.
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