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Swap cookies for cashews: Workplace ‘cake culture’ blamed for rise in obesity

Eating a cut cake
Chad Johnston | Getty Images

British dentists are calling for an end to "cake culture" in the workplace as they claim the sugary treats are contributing to health problems such as obesity, tooth decay and diabetes.

The Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons in London put out a statement Tuesday identifying the workplace as one of the main places where people consume a lot of sugar each day.

Professor Nigel Hunt, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons said the culture of sweet treats was, to a point, understandable.

"Managers want to reward staff for their efforts, colleagues want to celebrate special occasions and workers want to bring back a gift from their holidays. While these sweet treats might be well meaning, they are also contributing to the current obesity epidemic and poor oral health," he said in a press release Tuesday.

Hunt called for company bosses to foster a healthier environment.

"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," Hunt said.

A health survey for England carried out in 2015 found that almost two out of every three adults in England are either obese or overweight.


Cutting sugar at work

  1. Consider low-sugar alternatives: Rather than always buying sugary goods like biscuits and sweets, consider substituting them for lower-sugar alternatives such as nuts and fruit.
  2. Reduce portion sizes: Choose the small bag rather than the big one.
  3. Avoid snacking and keep sugar as a lunchtime treat: If someone does bring cake or sweets to the office, avoid snacking throughout the day and only consume sugary goods at lunchtime.
  4. Develop a sugar schedule to help limit your team's sugar intake: For example, if there are birthdays on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, arrange to have cake at Friday lunchtime to celebrate all three.
  5. Location: Research suggests that people will eat more sweets if they are nearby and visible. Therefore, managers should think about where sugary products are positioned in the office.

Do what Google did

The statement from The Faculty of Dental Surgery praised U.S. tech giant Google for its efforts to reduce calorie consumption among staff.

It said that at Google's staff canteens, sweets were placed in opaque containers making them less visible and harder to reach, with healthy alternatives much more prominent.

Another tactic employed was to reduce the size of plates in canteens.

As a result, the faculty said, Google claimed in 2013 that its New York employees ate 3.1 million fewer calories over the course of seven weeks.