Why You Should Help Your Employees Reduce Their Added Sugar Intake 

As sweet as it is to have a sugar rush after eating an afternoon cookie, the crash that follows within the hour is anything but. That little pick-me-up that you hope will carry you through the rest of the day with energy and focus may actually make it more difficult. Excess refined sugar, or added sugar not found in food naturally, can not only impact mental clarity, but it may deter you from exercising, too.

A team of UCLA researchers found that rats who ate a junk-food diet rich in simple sugars or carbohydrates (versus complex carbohydrates), like those found in packaged foods like candy, cake and table sugar, were not only overweight compared to the other group, but they were less likely to work for a reward.

“A colleague of mine has found that if you impair the dopamine system in rats, they give up on harder tasks much sooner than rats that had not had an impairment,” said Aaron Blaisdell in a Los Angeles Times article about his team’s research. “Diets that induce obesity are likely deregulating that dopamine system.”

Eating too much junk food may also shrink your brain. A recent study shows that the hippocampus – the brain region known for learning and memory – is smaller in those who eat unhealthy diets. This may be the first study to show these results in humans, not just mice or research animals.

Encourage your employees to reduce their added sugar intake to improve motivation to exercise, enhance mental clarity and focus at work, and to shrink their risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

How can you address refined sugar in your wellness program to invigorate your workforce?

Speak About the Sweet Stuff: Promote the idea of reducing refined sugar with a short, easy-to-comprehend communications campaign. Share informational fliers, posters and emails covering topics like the most common foods with added sugar and healthy replacements. Educate your employees on the many names for sugar in packaged foods. You can also focus on whole food replacements, i.e., foods that are found in their natural state, such as lean meat (chicken, cooked turkey rather than lunch meat), fruits, vegetables, whole grains and more.

Point Them in the Right Direction: Share helpful resources with your employees, such as food substitution sites, or compile a grouping of recipes that use healthy alternative ingredients with comparable flavor. Gain their trust and participation with credible resources.

Bring the Popcorn (not the movie theatre kind, though): Host an educational movie day. Screen engaging documentaries like That Sugar Film or Fed Up to bring light to the hearty topic.

Share the Flavor of Fitness: You can promote exercise in a refreshing way by helping your employees see the opportunity for movement everywhere and in every situation. When your employees match their mood with a type of exercise, they optimize that rewarding feeling and are more likely to do it again. You might also focus on the immediate rather than long-term benefits of exercise because everyone wants to feel good now.