Sunday, August 1

The trucker’s diet: fast food and ultra-processed foods affect your driving performance


The study found that people who followed diets based on staple foods and plenty of vegetables were associated with less fatigue. Whereas animal protein diets and snacks were associated with increased fatigue and concentration problems.

Photo: Image by Peter H on Pixabay / Pixabay

It is no secret to say that truck drivers, on many occasions they follow a not entirely healthy lifestyle. Long working hours, little rest and time at home, are factors that favor poor diets and are characterized by a high consumption of fast and ultra-processed foods. As with the fried foods that are the basis of a traditional breakfast in the trucking community. In fact a new study suggests that diets based on junk food and unhealthy snacks, are factors that actively contribute to fatigue and thus the risk of dangerous driving is increased. Which is considered a key factor in an increased risk of accidents.

The research was published online in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine. And its main objective was to sensitize the population about the prevention of automobile accidents, there is somewhat alarming data in which it is estimated that close to 1.35 million people die each year in traffic collisions. And clearly, professional drivers are at greater risk because of the time they spend behind the wheel.

While the researchers noted that there are several known contributing factors – gender, age, experience, driving skills, and attitudes – these are important and need to be considered. It has been proven that the lifestyle that characterizes the truckers’ routine can also be a factor. Especially considering that long-distance driving often it involves sleep deprivation, unhealthy eating habits, and limited physical activity. Furthermore, this study is very relevant. The reality is that few research works have been carried out, in which it is endorsed the potential impact of dietary patterns in driving behaviors among professional truck drivers.

As part of the study, the researchers evaluated whether dietary patterns, fatigue, and driving behavior could be linked. The sample had the participation of 389 truck drivers from a transportation company in Suzhou, China. In addition, most of the drivers were between 31 and 60 years old, with 6 to 10 years of experience in their profession and an annual count of between 50,000 and 100,000 km on the road.

What did the study consist of? Each driver was asked to specify in the past 12 months how much and how often they ate any of the 25 foods listed on a Food Frequency Questionnaire. They also completed the Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory, that assesses physical and mental fatigue on a 5-point scale, as well as two validated questionnaires on driving behaviors and attitudes towards other drivers on the road.

In said questionnaire, the dietary patterns were classified into the following groups: rich in vegetables; basic foods (high consumption of carbohydrates, unrefined grains, dairy products and eggs; animal proteins (fish and poultry); and sandwiches (fried foods, desserts and sugary drinks). It is worth mentioning that although it was in a much smaller percentage of the participants , diets of staple foods and rich in vegetables were strongly associated with safe driving behaviors. The animal protein diet was strongly associated with higher rates of errors, concentration failures, and minor traffic offenses, while the snack diet was strongly associated with unsafe driving behaviors.

Another salient aspect of the study is that the team of researchers carried out a measurement of fatigue levels according to each dietary pattern and found the following findings: diets of staple foods and rich in vegetables were associated with less fatigue, while diets of animal protein and snacks were associated with greater fatigue.

Although it is an observational study and therefore cannot establish a cause, only a correlation. It is a good parameter to understand more in depth how lifestyle relates to job performance And it can be key in preventing accidents. The study relied heavily on recall and self-report, however it is important to add that the researchers did not obtain any information on potentially important factors, such as smoking, physical activity, shift patterns, and job stress.

Fortunately, there are some discoveries that were very useful to researchers. They point out that eat lots of unhealthy snacks It is often associated with erratic meal times and altered metabolism, which could affect many tasks that require vigilance, alertness, and concentration.

Finally through these analyzes it is also possible include proposals for healthy eating patterns, like betting on a plant-based and Mediterranean diet. Taking into account that some dangerous driving behaviors can be predicted with dietary patterns characterized by a high intake of fats and sugars, it is worth making sustainable changes that will improve the quality of life of drivers and of course, significantly reduce the risk of accidents.

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