When employers take food and nutrition seriously, their workersreally do get healthier.

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But how much healthier? A research team at the University ofMinnesota focused on one key indicator of health — obesity — to see if arelationship existed between it and an employer’s efforts tointegrate better nutrition into theworkplace.

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The result: In this study of 1,538 young employees, 17 percentof the young workers at companies that made an extra effort on thenutrition front were obese, compared to 24 percent of millennialsat companies that made little or no effort to impact employeenutrition.

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The study looked at millennials employed by twotypes of companies: One group that addressed nutrition in multipleways, through onsite food, internal nutrition campaigns and so on;and the other where either one or no nutrition initiativeexisted.

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The researchers found that other factors beyond the employers’control weighted into the matter, including whether a fast-foodjoint was located nearby, whether employees went home for lunch,and “soda availability.”

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Overall, the researchers concluded, nutrition-savvy employershad to be making a significant difference given the gap between theobesity rates.

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“A more healthful workplaceenvironment overall, including physical attributes andperceived social norms, may contribute to more favorableweight-related behaviors and lower prevalence of obesity amongyoung adults. Employer-initiated and community-initiated policiesmay represent one way to create healthier workplace environmentsfor young adults,” was the study’s conclusion.

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Dan Cook

Dan Cook is a journalist and communications consultant based in Portland, OR. During his journalism career he has been a reporter and editor for a variety of media companies, including American Lawyer Media, BusinessWeek, Newhouse Newspapers, Knight-Ridder, Time Inc., and Reuters. He specializes in health care and insurance related coverage for BenefitsPRO.