Vegan Diet Dramatically Improves GEICO Employees' Health
So easy, a caveman could do it. That’s how dozens of GEICO employees felt when they followed a low-fat vegan diet in a worksite study, losing 11 pounds on average. The findings, published in July’s American Journal ofHealth Promotion, show that office workers can lose weight, lower blood pressure, and reduce absenteeism if their employer provides healthy low-fat vegetarian meals in the company cafeteria.
Reduced health care costs are likely for companies that offer worksite nutrition programs as the Government Employees Insurance Company (GEICO) did for this 22-week clinical study. Annual costs of obesity-related expenditures to businesses have been estimated at approximately $13 billion.
“GEICO’s workplace nutrition program helped employees lose weight and reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels,” says Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., an author of the new study. “If a company cafeteria offers low-fat vegetarian options every day, employees’ health improves and they miss less work.” Levin is director of nutrition education for PCRM. The Washington Center for Clinical Research, which conducted the study, is a PCRM subsidiary.
GEICO employees also missed fewer hours at work. At least two individual participants lost more than 40 pounds. Control group participants following an omnivorous diet gained weight and experienced a rise in blood pressure. In addition to diet changes, the intervention group benefited from cooking demonstrations and other educational sessions led by doctors and dietitians.
As the study authors explain, “Employers may be motivated to provide obesity-related interventions, because they often assume financial liability for health outcomes and costs. 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.”