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Study: Lifestyle interventions may reduce sick days and disability for people with diabetes and obesity

A new study published in the February issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine shows that medical nutrition therapy (MNT) provided by a registered dietitian can substantially reduce work loss and disability days for people with diabetes and obesity. The study, called “Improving Control with Activity and Nutrition” – ICAN, for short – was conducted by a group led by Anne Wolf, MS, RD, instructor of research at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, and was partially funded by The American Dietetic Association.

As part of the study, one group of workers met with a registered dietician both individually and in groups to discuss health assessments and goals, while a control group received standard care with written educational materials. The annual cost of the lifestyle intervention program was $328 per person.

Study participants were asked how many days they missed work or were physically limited at work because of their obesity or diabetes at the beginning of the study, and again at four, six, eight and 12 months. As the study progressed, the group in the lifestyle intervention program experienced a significant drop in both lost workdays and disability days. Overall, researchers found that these study participants reduced their number of lost workdays by 64.3% and disability days by 87.2%.

The researchers calculate that for every dollar an employer invests in such a lifestyle modification program for employees with diabetes, the employer would see a return of $2.67 in productivity.