DEC 14, 2015 11:13 AM PST

Here's How to Prevent Diabetes at the Office

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham
Want to lose weight and get healthy during work? New study suggests your chances of success will be better if you join or form a group at your workplace and work towards health goals together.
 
Workplace intervention leads to more successful weight loss

The study compared employees who participated in a group-based intervention program to those who received a standard weight loss booklet. As a baseline to measure improvement, all participants were screened and identified as having prediabetes, meaning that their blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes affects more than a third of Americans and has the potential to damage the heart and circulatory system even before the diabetes diagnosis. All participants were encouraged to lose 7% of their body weight over the 16-week study time frame.
 
Through randomization, half of the employees were enrolled in a 16-week lifestyle intervention program as a group. For these participants, the emphasis on weight loss was done through lower-fat dieting, increased exercise time, and weekly group discussions after lunch or after work. This group also benefited from weekly group meetings with dieticians who served as lifestyle coaches.

The other half of the employees made up the control group, who received a booklet developed by the National Diabetes Education Program containing guidelines on losing weight. This group did not meet except for one invited one informational session on weight-loss management. In essence, the control group attempted a form of self-guided, self-motivated weight loss.

Not surprisingly, the intervention group showed higher weight loss success, losing an average of 5.5 % of their body weight compared to the ~ 0.5% average by the control group. About 30% of participants in the intervention group reached the target of 7% body weight lost, while only about 2.9% of the control group reached that goal.

In addition, the intervention group reported a healthier diet with less fat and more fiber. They also reported higher physical activities than the control group during the study period. As a result, the intervention group had fasting glucose levels that were near normal, and were able to sustain it for longer after the study ended.


Adults spend a large portion of their time at work. This study shows that it is not only feasible to implement a comprehensive lifestyle intervention at the work site – it is an effective way to prevent disease. -- Carla Miller, professor of human nutrition at The Ohio State University and lead author of the study.

Another insight that the investigators gleaned from the study is that the first month in any intervention program is crucial. Dr. Miller noted that long-term success was correlated with improvements that happened early on. In her study, people who lose at least 2.5 % of their body weight within a month are more likely to achieve a 5 % weight loss by the end of an intervention and keep it off for at least three months after that.

And when it comes to diabetes risk, every small improvement can count for a lot. Dr. Miller notes that each percentage point of weight lost is equal to a 10% reduction for diabetes risk.

The results from this study reaffirm the idea that having some sort of structure and support group can be hugely beneficial to those looking to lose weight. And why not have that support group be at your workplace, where we spend so much of our time anyways?

Sources: Preventing Chronic Disease, Ohio State University release
About the Author
I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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