Is taking cake to the office irresponsible?
Today (18 January 2023) there has been a call by the Food Standards Agency Chairwomen Prof Susan Jebb to stop taking sweet treats to the office, to avoid tempting colleagues.
This led to a response by a GP Dr Helen Wall that people should take personal responsibility for their health and it implied that one can choose to eat cake or not.
Is it fair to expect individuals to avoid the temptation of birthday cake or holiday chocolates in the office? And do people truly understand the impact of a piece of cake (or chocolate biscuits)?
We have a major health crisis in the UK with steeply rising Type 2 diabetes, obesity and other metabolic diseases which include heart disease. Diabetes UK forecasts that 10% of the UK adult population will have Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) by 2030: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/about_us/news/1-10-adults-living-diabetes-2030
Cancer Research UK forecasts that more than 21 million adults in the UK will be obese by 2040: https://news.cancerresearchuk.org/2022/05/19/new-analysis-estimates-over-21-million-uk-adults-will-be-obese-by-2040/
These figures are alarming.
How have we arrived at this shocking state of poor health in the UK?
This is largely driven by the Western diet of not just sugary foods but heavy starchy carbohydrates. This includes bread, crisps, pasta, rice, potatoes and of course biscuits and cakes. Refined white carbohydrates (white flour, of course, found in most cakes) are the worst culprits but even complex carbohydrates like wholemeal bread and potatoes add to the burden.
It is also driven by the reliance on heavily processed food which is nutrient poor and often laden with cheap fats and sugars.
Excess sugars in foods drives high, prolonged, sustained blood glucose levels and responding high sustained insulin levels. In time this leads to insulin resistance, diabetes (Type 2) and obesity. Together with raised inflammation and cardiovascular disease.
So surely cake in the office is an absolute “no no” then?
The occasional cake in the office should not be a problem IF everyone understood the importance of drastically reducing their intake of sugars and starches. The problem is the public educational message is not getting out there. There is still too much government focus on fats (being bad) and not nearly enough about sugars and starches.
This started in the 1980s that “fats are bad” and it has driven the rise in eating starchy sugary foods to replace the reduction in fats (and red meats). Manufacturers have a large part to play due to the replacement of fats for sugars in processed foods.
My opinion on cakes in the office
If people did not have a high starch/sugar diet day to day then the birthday cake becomes the “treat” and that is fine when it is in moderation.
I do not believe it is fair to expect people to rely on willpower. It needs a substantial change in the public message and education regarding the influence of a starchy diet on long term poor health outcomes.
It also requires support and advice so that people understand how to build a “balanced” healthy diet and how to replace these foods.
Changing habits and lifestyle takes time. Long-term health improvements are best achieved with the guidance and support of health professionals who have the knowledge to advise on realistic dietary changes that can be sustained for the long-term.
Then the office cake really is the occasional “treat” and it does not cause long-term harm.
Caroline Peyton, Peyton Principles.
Expert Nutrition & Gut Health.
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