The unhealthy rise of the 'Homer Simpson work diet'

Nov 17 2004 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Our lunch breaks are getting shorter. In fact according to a new survey, the time taken by workers for lunch has fallen by a quarter over the past five years.

A poll of 500 office staff by recruitment firm Jobs@Pertemps showed that most workers take less than half an off hour for lunch while one in five take no meal break at all.

As a result, a growing number grab a sandwich at their desk, but then snack on unhealthy biscuits and sweets during the afternoon.

The survey found that a mere seven per cent opt for healthy snacks such as fruit, with most heading straight for cake, doughnuts and chocolate

One in ten people who eat in the afternoon said they were still hungry after lunch, while half needed a "sweet fix" to give them more energy.

But desktop eaters might reconsider if they knew was lurking on their desks. Researchers in the USA found earlier this year that average desk plays host to 400 times more germs than a lavatory seat and 100 times more bacteria than a kitchen table, with munching a sandwich in the office largely to blame.

As for needing a sweet fix, perhaps a power nap would be a better option. In Japan, a study by the National Institute of Industrial Health found that for workers who took a 15-minute nap during the post-lunch period, "perceived alertness was significantly higher in the afternoon after the nap than after no nap."

Jan Para, a director of Pertemps, said: "The demands of the job are making it more and more tempting to work through lunch, and either grab a quick bite at the desk or simply go without.

"But this can be counterproductive, as not eating properly can leave workers drained and hence not as effective.

"Our research also indicates that some workers are adopting the Homer Simpson work diet, regularly eating sweets, biscuits and doughnuts to get them through the day.

"Obviously, this isn't too helpful for their waistlines or their general health. Managers can help by offering free fruit for employees."