Practitioners

Corporate wellness should care about type 2 diabetes and metabolic health – here’s why.

What if your team’s performance and ability to deliver at work were reduced because of their diet and lifestyle choices? And what if you could help steer them in the right direction and get increased productivity as a result? 

Studies have shown a correlation between how well someone can perform cognitively and their metabolic health status and with that in mind, employers need to consider the impact of the health of employees to achieve the company’s success. 

And over time, frequent blood sugar spikes can lead to serious health problems, including obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Every year, 619,000 employees experience a new illness or disease that they believe to be caused by or exaggerated by their job and metabolic health problems are no exception.

 

Today, there are 13.6 million Brits at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and countless more on a slippery slope towards this based on food and lifestyle choices. 

 

Type 2 diabetes used to be something to worry about in later life but in the 21st century, more people are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at a younger age than ever before – even in their 20s or 30s!

 

However, it’s not only blood sugar that needs to be considered. If blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol are all high, alongside higher body weight, it can lead to metabolic and cardiovascular issues – and more potential for poor performance and ill health. 

 

So, how healthy is your workforce?

 

Metabolic health impacts performance and profits 

To be metabolically healthy means that your body can respond to food in a beneficial way. When food is the fuel and the toolkit to function, metabolic health is key.

Yet poor metabolic health is a growing problem throughout the nation and one that impacts the physical health and cognitive performance of talented employees.

 

One of the fundamental aspects of metabolic health is blood sugar fluctuations that can lead to:

  • lack of energy
  • brain fog
  • poor focus and memory
  • low immunity
  • chronic pain
  • mental health issues 
 

These symptoms make it hard for employees to feel good day-to-day and are common culprits for poor performance or absence from work.

 

These warning signs of blood sugar issues can exist on average for 10-15 years before more serious diagnoses and medical conditions develop. This means more people are affected than they realise but it also gives plenty of time to stop the slide towards conditions like type 2 diabetes. 

 

If symptoms linked to blood sugar fluctuations are present day in and day out, it can result in presenteeism – where employees have turned up for work but are highly unproductive while they’re there. It’s a very damaging combination for performance, productivity and company profits. 

 

But it’s not only about blood sugar. High cholesterol, and blood pressure levels as well as high body weight are a problem too. This ‘triple threat’ can significantly increase the risk of serious illness – including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. 

 

1 in 3 adults have high blood pressure and 6 in 10 adults have high cholesterol – both heavily influenced by food and lifestyle choices. Yet most people with these health issues don’t have symptoms and are completely unaware that they’re affected until it’s impacting their day-to-day performance heavily or for a longer duration. 

 

Find out more about the impact.

What Can Businesses Do To Support Metabolic Health?

So if metabolic health is significantly affected by food and lifestyle, what can corporate wellness programmes do about it? 

Food and lifestyle can be the problem and the solution. But first, let’s take a step back to understand the link. 

 

Food:

Type 2 diabetes develops over time. When someone is diagnosed, it may feel as though it’s happened overnight but in reality, blood sugar levels will have been creeping up consistently for years or even decades. Some foods are guaranteed to spike blood sugar levels and you won’t be surprised by which ones. Sugary foods, fizzy drinks and fast foods are obvious culprits and alongside blood sugar spikes, they also drive inflammation in the body. 

 

There was a news story in early 2023 headlining that ‘bringing cake into the office is as harmful as passive smoking. Whether you agree or disagree with this statement there’s no escaping the sugary nature of office foods that may be disrupting the long-term high-performance and metabolic health – despite the short-term social comradery it brings.

 

Additionally, an over-reliance on caffeine can impact blood pressure and contribute to adrenaline and cortisol, which will drive blood sugar fluctuations and be a catalyst for headaches, brain fog and the 3pm fatigue! How many of your team are attached to the coffee machine?

 

Lifestyle:

Beyond the obvious sugary foods and drinks, other factors can be more surprising. As well as food, type 2 diabetes can be driven by factors such as sleep, lack of movement, lack of muscle mass and stress. 


Poor sleep can reduce blood sugar control by as much as 30%, meaning poor sleep night after night can have a significant impact on metabolic health and risk of type 2 diabetes – let alone how employees feel and perform the following day. 


Regular movement is key to regulating blood sugar but many employees don’t move at all during the working day. When they go home, they’re often spending even more time being sedentary – on top of the 8 hours of inactivity at work. 


Given that physical inactivity is one of the leading causes for global mortality and is linked to 3.2 million deaths each year, this needs to change. 


Being more active at work isn’t only important from a metabolic health perspective. It can also boost focus by 21% and improve time management by 72%. 


Stress in the workplace is another problem. As part of the fight-or-flight response, stress results in the release of more stress hormones – particularly cortisol and adrenaline – and this can make it harder for insulin to work properly and for blood sugar levels to be stable.

Chronic stress can result in blood sugar levels staying elevated, raising the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Occupational stress is a driver for high cholesterol, high blood pressure and weight gain too so it cannot be ignored. 


It may not be possible to avoid work-related stress completely but being able to manage the stress response and become more resilient to stressors can help employees to improve their health and happiness at work. 


Company culture

Office culture can contribute to poor blood sugar control, with snacks and biscuits readily available and regular invitations for after-work drinks. The nod to health with a ‘Fruit Friday’ trolley may seem like a good way to offset the rest of the week but for some, snacking on certain fruits, alongside the rest of their choices, may make blood sugar issues worse.


You need to consider the whole picture.


Create a Culture of Wellness

Corporate wellness programmes and leadership initiatives enable companies to lead through example. If the company culture promotes healthy nutrition and lifestyle and it’s backed up with a corporate wellness programme, it’s much easier for employees to take control of their health and boost their productivity.


As it’s a ‘slow burn’, there is plenty of opportunity to improve your employees performance and health concurrently, preventing further complicated metabolic issues. When the average person spends 3,507 days at work in their lifetime, there is an opportunity for workplace wellness and these days it’s even demanded by employees as surveys show it’s a priority on par with salaries. 


Help employees take control and avoid the dip in performance that comes with poor blood sugar control. With the right nutrition and lifestyle choices, health can be turned around, which means they feel better, can perform better and will contribute to bigger company profits.

Your company can use nutrition and lifestyle to improve performance and boost profits

Employers can play a big part in supporting their teams to be healthier. A big impact comes from employees given the opportunity to take control of their health.

With regular wellness checks, they can know their metabolic numbers, understand when to take action and how. At Integral Wellness. we can help businesses to empower employees to take control of their health and perform at their very best, providing a boost for performance, productivity and profits.

Take a look at our guide to corporate wellness to see how we can work with or alongside you to help your staff make healthier choices.

Download your copy.