Epel ES, Hartman A, Jacobs LM, Leung C, Cohn MA, Jensen L, Ishkanian L, Wojcicki J, Mason AE, Lustig RH, Stanhope KL, Schmidt LA (2019) JAMA Intern Med. 2019 Oct; doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.4434
Question Was a workplace sales ban on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) associated with a reduction in employee intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and improvement in their cardiometabolic health?
Findings In this before-after study and trial that included 214 adults who regularly drank SSBs, participants reported consuming less SSBs after a workplace sales ban and a reduction in waist circumference and sagittal diameter but no change in body mass index or insulin sensitivity. Those randomized to receive a brief motivational intervention had greater improvements.
Meaning A workplace sugar-sweetened beverage sales ban, especially if combined with a brief intervention, may be a feasible and effective way to improve employee health.
Importance Reductions in sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) intake can improve health, but are difficult for individuals to achieve on their own.
Objectives To evaluate whether a workplace SSB sales ban was associated with SSB intake and cardiometabolic health among employees and whether a brief motivational intervention provides added benefits to the sales ban.
Design, Setting, and Participants This before-after study and additional randomized trial conducted from July 28, 2015, to October 16, 2016, at a Northern California university and hospital assessed SSB intake, anthropometrics, and cardiometabolic biomarkers among 214 full-time English-speaking employees who were frequent SSB consumers (≥360 mL [≥12 fl oz] per day) before and 10 months after implementation of an SSB sales ban in a large workplace, with half the employees randomized to receive a brief motivational intervention targeting SSB reduction.
Interventions The employer stopped selling SSBs in all workplace venues, and half the sample was randomized to receive a brief motivational intervention and the other half was a control group that did not receive the intervention. This intervention was modeled on standard brief motivational interventions for alcohol used in the workplace that promote health knowledge and goal setting.
Main Outcomes and Measures Outcomes included changes in SSB intake, Homeostatic Model Assessment of Insulin Resistance (HOMA-IR), and measures of abdominal adiposity. The primary associations tested were the correlation between changes in SSB intake and changes in HOMA-IR.
Results Among the 214 study participants, 124 (57.9%) were women, with a mean (SD) age of 41.2 (11.0) years and a baseline mean (SD) body mass index of 29.4 (6.5). They reported a mean daily intake of 1050 mL (35 fl oz) of SSBs at baseline and 540 mL (18 fl oz) at follow-up—a 510-mL (17–fl oz) (48.6%) decrease (P < .001). Reductions in SSB intake correlated with improvements in HOMA-IR (r = 0.16; P = .03). Those not randomized to receive the brief intervention reduced their SSB intake by a mean (SD) of 246.0 (84.0) mL (8.2 [2.8] fl oz), while those also receiving the brief intervention reduced SSB intake by 762.0 (84.0) mL (25.4 [2.8] fl oz). From baseline to follow-up, there were significant reductions in mean (SE) waist circumference (2.1 [2.8] cm; P < .001).
Conclusions and Relevance This study’s findings suggest that the workplace sales ban was associated with a reduction in SSB intake and a significant reduction in waist circumference among employees within 10 months. The randomized clinical trial portion of this study found that targeting those at high risk with a brief motivational intervention led to additional improvements. Workplace sales bans may offer a promising new private-sector strategy for reducing the health harms of SSB intake.