Stress: Is it Creating a a Sugar Binge Epidemic?

Posted by: Charlie Burrows

There are many physical ailments that can be brought on by stress; headaches, tiredness, fatigue, muscle pain etc. The fact that so many symptoms can be attributed to stress makes it one of the biggest potential “killers” in modern society in that it could even bring on a heart attack, particularly in older more susceptible patients.

We all know that diet is a key factor with how someone will react to serious medical treatments and it looks like yet again, diet is front and center when it comes to not only dental health but also mental as well as physical well-being.


Stress = Sugar

A recent study has shown that almost 30% of adults in Britain eat sugary foods and snacks when they become stressed. In light of these results, there is a call for employers to help and support their staff and to watch for signs of stress in the workplace. Combating stress can be difficult as there isn’t a catch-all method or a way to identify it easily because it can present in various forms, as a result from different situations for different people.

Work environments vary and the study showed that office workers were more likely to have sweets and sugary drinks than those in retail for example. Desk bound jobs are expected to be the most likely for sugar binging due to the nature of the working day. Afternoons are always the worst time, as workers become sluggish after lunch, or perhaps after consuming a lot of caffeine in the morning and the subsequent crash later in the day, particularly if they haven’t had a good lunch.

Appetite increases due to Cortisol levels when stress occurs and this leads to workers consuming sugary snacks and drinks for an energy boost. This type of bingeing then creates a sugar spike that eventually leads to a quick “come-down” and then leaves you craving more. Unfortunately, it’s more than just your health that it impacts over time, it’s also your teeth.


Sugar = Cavities (and more)

Sugary drinks and food are known contributors to cavities and poor dental health and that’s why it’s worrying to see from this recent study that more and more people will put their health at risk as well as their teeth, due to stress at work. The sugar in Coke and other sodas can strip away the enamel on the tooth as well as creating acid from the bacteria in the mouth and eventually rots those teeth by attacking them and affecting the dentin and any fillings. Cavities can occur over time when the teeth are attacked constantly by sugar and the stress study shows that cavities are set to rise if this problem continues.


Stress in the workplace – can it be prevented?

Of course stress can be prevented to some degree but as we mentioned earlier, different people have different tolerances to various situations and so it’s difficult to have an all-encompassing solution to fix this issue. Stress has and always will be part of the workplace but can employers incorporate ways to help staff reduce their stress levels?

The key factor is food and the fact that it is relied upon as a crutch when things get tough at work is the cause for a potential epidemic in dental cavities. Whether a member of staff is tired, or overworked or just struggling with something, it’s food that they turn to and so maybe employers should look at providing either a free or subsidised fruit station, or healthy food in their canteens to help those people wanting a healthier lunch, to stay fuller for longer and to prevent people snacking. Wholegrain foods, salads and complex carbs (such as potato and brown pasta) are a good way to keep you fuller for longer and the fact is that quick snack foods with fats and sugars, such as sausage baps and chips and beans, along with other traditional canteen-style foods will just bloat you and create a sluggish afternoon. By providing access to healthier, better foods, staff won’t want to leave the premises at lunch time and go shopping at fast food outlets for their lunch because it’s quick and easy.

Perhaps by employers managing staff work time better, such as ensuring they get enough help on projects or maybe assistance in various tasks so it’s not all down to one person, could help fight the likelihood of stress becoming a factor.

Ultimately, however employers in the UK decide to address this issue, there is an urgency and perhaps the most simple solution is the best; employers could just talk to their staff and give them support and help to prevent people sliding down into a sugar binge session every afternoon. If this isn’t resolved soon, we could be seeing an increase across the board in cavities and other dental health problems, which could put even more strain on an already struggling NHS dental service.

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