Aberdeen researchers to study why some people eat too much
Aberdeen University to examine effects of workplace stress as part of study on overeating and obesity
Workers to be quizzed on what triggers chocolate urges
Hundreds of workers across the north-east are to be quizzed on the daily niggles that send them reaching for a chocolate bar or the biscuit tin.
Aberdeen University is examining the effects of workplace stress as part of a major new European study on overeating and obesity.
The scientists at the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health will also be looking at how and why food can be addictive and pulling together results from research programmes in seven countries to share with governments, food and drink producers and health professionals.
Professor Julian Mercer, head of obesity research at the Rowett Institute, said: “There are a number of issues that need to be looked at, including work culture and its effect on food consumption, as well as the different attributes of food that make it hard to restrict your intake.
“Ideally, if we had the information, it could allow producers to design food that is palatable but doesn’t have the properties that could make you over-consume.
“Imagine a bar of chocolate that was just as rewarding to eat but which didn’t make you feel you have to have the whole block.”
Researchers plan to quiz 450 people from Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire for the workplace stress and eating study – a third of them shift workers who may have unusual eating patterns.
Nutrition scientist Dr Alexandra Johnstone, who is leading this part of the project, hopes to recruit volunteers from three large workplaces.
One will have achieved a Healthy Working Lives Award, promoting good health in the workplace, as Dr Johnstone and her colleagues are interested to see if this status makes a difference to individuals’ eating habits.
“We will be looking out for people who reach for a snack when they feel stressed and workers who don’t bother with food when they feel under pressure,” she said.
“We will also explore any differences between men and women.
“Some of our volunteers will be shift workers and we will be examining whether it is tiredness rather than hunger that causes some of them to crave more food in the middle of the night.
“Or maybe it is a lack of facilities that sees them head for the vending machine.”
The £5million NeuroFAST – Neurobiology of Food Intake, Addiction and Stress – project is bringing together internationally-recognised experts in areas such as psychology, genetics and nutrition from the UK, Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Hungary and Spain.
The Aberdeen team has been awarded more than £800,000 for their share of the work.