Obesity — and its impacts on heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic diseases — remains an important challenge for many employees. Of course, it also is an important focus area for a well-run workplace wellness program — an area where results not only can help improve personal health, but also a company’s bottom line.
Specifically, we’ve noted the State of Obesity report that headlines: “Workplace wellness programs boost employee health and productivity and reduce absenteeism.”
The report states: “Research demonstrates that multicomponent workplace wellness programs can be an important strategy in preventing and reducing obesity. A number of reviews have found these initiatives can pay for themselves by increasing productivity and reducing absenteeism. They also have been shown to reduce weight, body fat and BMI, and increase physical activity. Many state health departments have developed resources to assist employers in creating effective wellness programs, such as the Work Well Texas program discussed in a subsequent section.”
The result? According to MedPage Today: “People with a high genetic risk for obesity lost more weight than those with low genetic risk when they stuck to a long-term healthy diet.”
Indeed, the authors write: “Business investments are also needed to create healthier communities. There need to be increased investments and incentives for the food industry to build supermarkets and set up farmers’ markets in low-income communities. Examples of business initiatives include incentivizing fitness companies to develop gyms and other recreation facilities in underserved neighborhoods; supporting transportation initiatives to work with government on all levels to plan and build communities that encourage walking, biking and taking public transportation; and engaging the healthcare industry to support a broad range of community programs.”
Obesity can be particularly challenging, it seems, for individuals who have a genetic disposition for it. The question becomes: Are diets effective in the face of genetic challenges?
A new study in the British Medical Journal investigates “whether improving adherence to healthy dietary patterns interacts with the genetic predisposition to obesity in relation to long term changes in body mass index and body weight.” It’s titled Improving adherence to healthy dietary patterns, genetic risk, and long term weight gain: gene-diet interaction analysis in two prospective cohort studies.
As the authors write: “These data indicate that improving adherence to healthy dietary patterns could attenuate the genetic association with weight gain. Moreover, the beneficial effect of improved diet quality on weight management was particularly pronounced in people at high genetic risk for obesity.”
They add: “Our study provides reproducible evidence from two prospective cohorts of US men and women that improving adherence to healthy dietary patterns could attenuate the genetic association with body mass index increment and weight gain, and the beneficial effect of improving diet quality on weight management was more prominent in people at high genetic risk. Our findings highlight the importance of improving adherence to a healthy diet in the prevention of weight gain, particularly in people genetically predisposed to obesity.