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Workers Lose Weight, Improve Diabetes on Plant-Based Diet

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New GEICO Multicity Study:
Workers Lose Weight, Improve Diabetes on Plant-Based Diet

From Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM)
July 2013

Companies that offer employees a low-fat, plant-based diet in the office can help workers lose weight and improve diabetes, according to a new study by Physicians Committee doctors and scientists published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

In the study, employees from the Government Employees Insurance Company (GEICO) in 10 cities across the United States were offered the chance to follow a low-fat vegan diet. Instructors provided by the Physicians Committee taught weekly group classes and worked with cafeteria managers to make vegan options available. The experience led to marked improvements in body weight, cholesterol levels, and, in individuals with diabetes, blood sugar control.

“The workplace is an ideal location for nutritional interventions. It is where many individuals make dietary choices, receive health information, and spend much of their day,” say the study authors, including Ulka Agarwal, M.D., director of clinical research for the Physicians Committee. “Employers have an economic interest in employee health, particularly given that obesity is associated with increased use of sick leave and disability expenditures, reduced job productivity, and increased absenteeism.”

In a recent study, the total cost of obesity in the workplace was estimated to be $73.1 billion.

The study authors conclude that their findings should encourage other employers to follow suit with similar programs.

In a 2010 Physicians Committee study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, GEICO employees following a low-fat vegetarian at work lost 11 pounds on average, placing them at lower risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.