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Type 2 diabetes and obesity have been increasingly plaguing office workers, as a result of their sedentary lifestyles, together with unhealthy diets.
A new study has found that getting employers to join an intervention programme as a group is an effective way to lead a healthier life.
The study, published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, showed that when employees enrolled in a workplace intervention programme as a group, they lost more weight, showed greater reduction in fasting blood sugar and ate less fat than employees who received only written health guidelines for diabetes prevention.
Carla Miller, professor of human nutrition at The Ohio State University and lead author of the study divided a batch of prediabetic workers, that is, people with higher than normal blood sugar levels, into two groups.
With 69 employees enrolled in the study, those in the lifestyle intervention met in groups of 10 to 15 participants weekly with dietitians who served as lifestyle coaches.
They were encouraged to set small goals each week to work toward overall goals on weight loss, reduce fat consumption and an increase in physical activity.
In contrast, the control group was invited to attend one informational session on weight-loss principles and received a booklet developed by the National Diabetes Education Program containing guidelines on losing weight.
On average, the workplace intervention group lost about 5.5% of its body weight and kept it off for three months, compared to less than half a percent of weight lost by the control group.
The intervention group members also lowered their fasting glucose levels by more than double that of the control group.
“Adults spend a large portion of their time at work. This study shows it is not only feasible to implement a comprehensive lifestyle intervention at the work site – it is an effective way to prevent disease,” said Miller in a press release.
“Participants who attended more group discussion sessions and monitored their food and physical activity lost more weight, and weight loss is the primary way to prevent the development of type 2 diabetes,” she added.
The intervention group also lowered fat intake and added more fiber to its diet diets than did employees in the control group.
“That first month is critical,” Miller said. “And this current study suggests the regular access to lifestyle coaching plays a role in helping people lose weight.”
This finding also suggests, she said, that once people at risk for diabetes lose weight, they need ongoing support to avoid gaining it back.