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Shift work weight gain: study aims to tip the scales

Australian researchers are looking into ways to shift the weight gain associated with shift work.

University of South Australia researcher Dr Crystal Yates said the nature of working at night makes it harder for people to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle.

“Night shift workers not only work irregular hours but have the added challenges of irregular sleeping and eating patterns, making traditional weight loss plans hard to follow,” Yates explained.

“Our research shows that when a person routinely eats at irregular hours, they’re more likely to gain weight.

“Plus, we know that shift workers often snack on high energy, sugary foods at night, which can increase their chance of weight gain.”

Monash University associate professor Maxine Bonham said these workers do not always have access to healthy foods in the workplace.

ICU nurse Louise Vos, who took part in a pilot study, attested to the dietary struggles that come with working nights and in a hospital with limited health food options.

“And when you get home you are often too tired to prepare a healthy meal or to exercise,” she said.

For that study, Vos was asked to rearrange her eating habits to avoid eating overnight, for a window of five hours, whilst on night shift work.

Now, the research team has secured a $1.43 million grant from the NHMRC to compare three diet strategies – continuous energy restriction with two novel intermittent fasting approaches – to help shift workers lose weight and improve their health.

The team is looking for 420 shift workers in Adelaide and Melbourne to join the SWIFt (Shifting Weight in shift workers) Study.

Those interested can learn more here.

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