Study Examines Strategies for Preventing Obesity Due to Shift Work

A study will examine how obesity can be prevented in people working shifts. The study is part of the SHIFT2HEALTH project. It is being supported with a total of 10 million euros, around 1.5 million of which will go to institutions in the state of Bremen.

In Germany, the proportion of the workforce working shifts is around 15 percent, which is slightly lower than the European average of 17.7 percent. Research has shown that shift work is an independent risk factor for the development of excess weight and obesity. Obesity is associated with cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Launched in June 2023, SHIFT2HEALTH aims to develop strategies that reduce and ideally prevent obesity in shift workers. The University of Vienna is coordinating the project, which involves a total of 15 partners from seven European countries. SHIFT2HEALTH focuses on two key sectors where shift work is common: healthcare, where the majority of the workforce is female, and industrial companies, where the majority of the workforce is male.

"Shift work poses an enormous challenge to the body, regardless of the actual activity performed during the work," explains Prof. Ansgar Gerhardus from the Institute of Public Health and Nursing Research at the University of Bremen. "The interference with the day-night rhythm or sleep-wake rhythm especially leads to fluctuations in hormone balance."

Unhealthy eating habits, such as snacking on junk food, high sugar consumption, and a preference for spicy and sweet-fatty foods, are the consequences that are probably the main reasons for the occurrence of excessive weight and obesity. "However, the reasons behind the strong craving for sweet, fatty, and snack foods have not yet been comprehensively elucidated. To address this, we want to conduct a large cross-sectional study with 1000 shift workers together with our partners from Austria, the Netherlands, Poland, and Denmark," says Dr. Hannah Jilani from the Institute of Public Health and Nursing Research.

Based on the cross-sectional study, strategies will then be developed and tested in an intervention phase in the two participating companies in Bremen and Bremerhaven. "We are very pleased to have found two cooperating partners from the field at the same time," says Imke Matullat from the Technology Transfer Center (ttz) Bremerhaven, which is also involved in the study. "We want to actively involve employees in the research by means of surveys and focus groups, and thus take their wishes and needs into account for the new nutrition strategy. This should increase the acceptance of strategies and allow employees to benefit directly from the latest academic findings."

The focus of the research is the microbiome. This is the whole of the bacteria in the intestine and is crucial for human health. The project partners from Belgium and Austria will take a closer look at the microbiome of shift workers and search for factors that can indicate developing obesity and accompanying diseases at an early stage. Within a project period of five years, the SHIFT2HEALTH consortium aims to develop new ways and possibilities for shift workers - as well as other people with disturbed biorhythms - to break out of the vicious circle of unhealthy eating behavior and lifestyle in order to lead a healthy life.

Further Information: (in German only)


Dr. rer. nat. Hannah Jilani
Institute of Public Health and Nursing Research (IPP)
Faculty of Human and Health Sciences
University of Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-68806
Email: jilaniprotect me ?!uni-bremenprotect me ?!.de

Imke Matullat
Competence Field Manager
Sensors & Consumer Research
ttz Bremerhaven
Phone: +49 471 80934-550
Email: imatullatprotect me ?!ttz-bremerhavenprotect me ?!.de

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