Study into intermittent fasting for weight loss in shift workers is seeking volunteers

Associate Professor Maxine Bonham was awarded an NHMRC Project Grant worth $1.43 million to study a novel weight loss intervention in shift workers. It will be the world’s first study to examine the “5:2” diet in shift workers as a  way to reduce their increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

One and a half million Australians are in shift work roles and their lifestyle makes them at greater risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes when compared with day workers. The SWIFt Study (Shifting Weight using Intermittent Fasting) is a collaboration between Monash University and the University of South Australia which will investigate a novel weight loss regime in night shift workers that combines energy restriction and meal timing.

According to Associate Professor Bonham, the experience of a typical shift-worker is not conducive to weight loss.

“Shift-workers tend to eat at all different times of the day and night, suffer disrupted sleep and do not always have access to healthy foods in the workplace”

To effectively manage weight loss in this population, the researchers propose intermittent fasting (IF), a weight loss strategy that has been popularised as the “5:2” diet. According to Associate Professor Bonham, despite the success of IF, its use in populations that have a high incidence of obesity and unusual working schedules has not been tested. “The flexibility in choosing ‘fasting’ days will enable shift workers to tailor their dietary strategy around shift schedules. Specifically, designating ‘fasting’ days to correlate with night shift work in order to avoid night time eating may enhance the potential for weight loss and improved metabolic health over other weight loss strategies,” she said.

This project represents an important innovative dietary approach in the treatment of obesity and metabolic disease in shift workers as currently this significant proportion of the workforce are underserved in relation to the provision of nutrition and lifestyle advice.

For more information, or to volunteer, please visit the study website, or read more detail on Lens.

About Monash University

Monash University is Australia’s largest university with more than 80,000 students. In the 60 years since its foundation, it has developed a reputation for world-leading high-impact research, quality teaching, and inspiring innovation.

With four campuses in Australia and a presence in Malaysia, China, India, Indonesia and Italy, it is one of the most internationalised Australian universities.

As a leading international medical research university with the largest medical faculty in Australia and integration with leading Australian teaching hospitals, we consistently rank in the top 50 universities worldwide for clinical, pre-clinical and health sciences.

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