Vegan Diet Dramatically Improves GEICO Employees’ Health
The answer to America’s obesity epidemic could be as close as the workplace cafeteria. A new study published in July’s American Journal of Health Promotion found that GEICO employees who switched to a vegan diet in a worksite nutrition program lost weight, reduced their blood pressure, and missed fewer days of work.
Government Employees Insurance Co. (GEICO) employees with body mass indexes above 25 were recruited to participate in the study conducted by the Washington Center for Clinical Research, a PCRM subsidiary. Sixty-eight employees at the Chevy Chase, Md., location were asked to follow a low-fat vegan diet for 22 weeks without changing their exercise routines. Participants also attended weekly nutrition presentations or cooking demonstrations and were offered low-fat vegan breakfast and lunch options in the company cafeteria. Study participants at GEICO’s Fredericksburg, Va., site were asked to continue their regular diet and exercise habits.
Employees in the intervention group lost about 11 pounds on average, reducing their risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. At least two participants lost more than 40 pounds, and they all missed fewer hours at work than control group participants. Control group participants followed an omnivorous diet and experienced weight gain and a rise in blood pressure.
Annual costs of obesity-related expenditures to businesses have been estimated at approximately $13 billion, but health care costs for employers who offer worksite nutrition programs are likely to be lower.
“Employers may be motivated to provide obesity-related interventions, because they often assume financial liability for health outcomes and costs,” according to the study’s authors. “Epidemiologic studies have shown that populations consuming low-fat, plant-based diets reduce body weight, improve plasma lipid concentrations, reverse coronary atherosclerosis, and improve type 2 diabetes management.”