Spanish car manufacturing giant SEAT has improved the health of 600 of its staff members in a study which aimed to confirm the benefits of a healthy Mediterranean style diet as opposed to one full of saturated fats and processed foods.
In the 'MedCARS' study, 600 members of staff were forced to ditch Spanish favourites such as chorizo, processed meats and white bread in exchange for healthier options usually found in the Mediterranean diet such as whole wheat bread, avocados, hummus, olive oil, nuts and fresh fish.
They were also provided with personal trainers to make sure that they also got plenty of exercise during the trial, another prerequisite for robust cardiovascular health. Vending machines at the plants were also emptied of unhealthy products and replaced with healthy alternatives for staff to snack on.
The pioneering study, which began in April 2018 was carried out by the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona, IrsiCaixa, ITAE Empresas and scientists from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Two sets of 300 staff members were recruited into the program from Seat's Zona Franca de Barcelona factory with the other 300 from their El Prat site with 17% of participants female and 83% male. The average age of the workers was 44 years.
Each of the participants were given five litres of virgin olive oil each month and 30 grams of nuts to consume each day. They were also provided with food vouchers so that they could shop for healthy food produce at the supermarket and took part in motivational group support sessions.
After only six months, the SEAT workers lost weight, reduced their waist circumference and dramatically reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease. Triglycerides, which are a form of fat found in the blood and of which are produced when calories are not used, were also reduced significantly.
Dr. Ramon Estruch, Internal Medicine consultant at the Hospital Clínic, has found that improved cardiovascular health dramatically improves sleep quality along with mental and emotional wellbeing.
Dr. Estruch believes that the programs should be extended to other companies to improve the overall health of the Spanish population.
With around 18 Million of the country’s citizens classed as overweight or clinically obese, it is measure that would go a long way in tackling the obesity crisis currently facing the country's health service.