Evaluating firefighters’ lifestyles
Greg Lessons, who is a firefighter for the London Fire Brigade, won the prize after he presented his dissertation to the Nutrition Society, which is dedicated to delivering its mission of advancing the scientific study of nutrition and its applications to the maintenance of human and animal health.
“For my dissertation, I created, implemented and evaluated a dietary and lifestyle worksite intervention to lower high prevalence of obesity for London firefighters,” said Greg.
Greg’s 17 years working as a London firefighter has led him to realise the endemic problem of over-nutrition at fire stations across London. The only previous research in the literature echoed Greg’s suspicion, reporting a higher prevalence of overweight and obesity within a county fire brigade compared with the general population. He also realised there was a correlation between firefighters being at further risk of coronary heart disease and on-duty heart attacks caused by exposure to excessive heat whilst fighting fires.
“It became obvious to me that the modifiable risk factor of obesity must be addressed,” Greg explained.
“However, this seems to have been overlooked by UK researchers thus far. To my knowledge, my study is the first in the UK to deliver a worksite intervention for firefighters to reduce obesity.”
Following his one-month intervention, results showed significant reductions in body mass index, body fat percentage, total calories consumed and intakes of high sugar/fat/salt foods. A result which Greg was particularly thrilled with was that of four firefighters from the intervention group crossing over into more desirable waist circumference risk classifications. This significantly decreased their risk of suffering from heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and several cancers.
Greg was encouraged to enter the competition by his former lecturer Dr Dee Bhakta, course leader for Human Nutrition (Public Health/Sports) MSc, after he submitted his work in May 2017, a few months ahead of his graduation. Greg was one of 12 finalists who were selected from universities around the UK.
He presented his work on Tuesday 5 December at the Royal Society of Medicine. As a result of delivering the best presentation, Greg’s dissertation abstract will be published in the next edition of the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society journal, which is published annually. The next edition will be in 2018.