6 Jan 2017

'Workplace cake culture' causing health problems - dentists

11:14 am on 6 January 2017

Celebrating a work colleague's birthday with cake can sweeten a day at the office, but UK dentists want to combat "cake culture", saying it's contributing to health problems.

Employees should make a New Year's resolution to "combat cake culture" in 2017, said Prof Nigel Hunt.

Employees should make a New Year's resolution to "combat cake culture" in 2017, said Prof Nigel Hunt. Photo: 123RF

The Faculty of Dental Surgery said eating cake and biscuits at work was fuelling obesity and poor oral health.

Tips to cut back on sugar included keeping it as a lunchtime treat and hiding snacks out of view.

But 2016 Great British Bake Off runner-up Jane Beedle said cake could "bring joy to the office".

Prof Nigel Hunt, dean of the faculty at the Royal College of Surgeons, said it may be a case of managers wanting to reward staff, colleagues wanting to celebrate or people bringing presents back from their holidays that sees sugary snacks going into the workplace.

But he said it was detrimental to employees' health and they should make a New Year's resolution to "combat cake culture" in 2017.

Prof Hunt said sharing a cake with workmates and celebrating birthdays or other occasions with cake is one of the most common and the largest intakes of sugar that some people are experiencing over the course of a working day.

"While these sweet treats might be well meaning, they are also contributing to the current obesity epidemic and poor oral health," Prof Hunt added.

He said what was needed was a cultural change so people would have a greater responsibility for looking after their own health and wellbeing.

Prof Hunt said donuts or biscuits could be substituted with healthier treats such as nut or fruit platters.

He said those still choosing to celebrate with cake could consider reducing the portion size.

Prof Hunt said research has also shown that having unhealthy food out of sight also reduces the amount of it people consume, as they are less likely to snack continuously.

"We need a culture change in offices and other workplaces that encourages healthy eating and helps workers avoid caving in to sweet temptations such as cakes, sweets and biscuits."

The Faculty of Dental Surgery has released tips to cut down on sugar consumption in the workplace:

  • Consider low-sugar alternatives
  • Reduce portion sizes
  • Avoid snacking and keep sugar as a lunchtime treat
  • Keep a "sugar schedule" to limit sugar intake
  • Think about where sweet treats are positioned - if they are nearby and visible, people may eat more

'All about moderation'

But Jane Beedle told BBC Radio 2: "I don't think a little bit of homemade cake is going to kill anybody.

"I think we are all inclined to just shove things in our mouths because they just happen to be available. I think that is what we have got to try and do is resist things that are not worth the calories."

Another former Bake Off contestant, Christine Wallace, from the 2013 series, said: "I think this is yet another example of the 'nanny' state trying to shape our lives when it really isn't really necessary.

"Cakes that are bought into the workplace are usually for a birthday or some other special occasion and what do you do when there is an 'occasion' - you have cake...

"It is all about moderation, having small instead of large, not having too often and delighting in the huge enjoyment you get when you do."

The 2014 series winner Nancy Birtwhistle said banning cake was "not the solution" adding: "I firmly believe that snacking between meals, sugary drinks and junk food are at the root of our obesity and dental caries problem - not the occasional slice of celebratory cake."


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