Is the business diet bad for the heart?
The corporate world can be one of continual meetings, social networking and travel. The options for healthy meals may fall by the wayside when relying on what can be found ‘on the road’. There is also the continual temptation of the indulgences of the catered meeting or expansive restaurant menu as part of greasing the wheels of business.
The typical Western diet is already known to be bad news for heart disease risk but is a ‘social business diet’ even worse?
Looking at how different dietary patterns are linked to early stage atherosclerosis, a Spanish research team scrutinised the diets of over 4,000 adults (aged 40 to 54 years) and how they were associated with measures of heart disease.
Being a Spanish study, it was no surprise that 40 percent of the people were following a Mediterranean-style eating pattern. Another 41 percent were eating more of a typical Western diet high in red and processed meats, butter, cheese and refined grains. For the remaining 19 percent, a new dietary pattern was observed and this was called the ‘social business eating pattern’.
The social business diet was high in red meat, convenience foods, snacks, alcohol, sugar-sweetened beverages and with many occasions of eating out (see the benefits of home cooked meals).
The headline finding revealed that people who followed a social-business eating pattern had a significantly worse cardiovascular risk profile. The higher risk from this diet stood fast even when making allowances for any differences in age, exercise levels, smoking status and many other dietary and lifestyle factors.
The study only looked at middle to high-income office workers, which was both a strength and weakness. A strength because it allowed the identification of a ‘social business’ eating pattern, but a weakness for how generalisable it is to the rest of the population.
Even though the study was just a cross-sectional snapshot of diet and cardiovascular disease risk, the findings fit well within what is known about individual diet choices and health.
It is probably time for the business world to look more closely at the corporate food culture.
Business does not always need to be fuelled by pastries, steaks and alcohol to get the job done nor does it need a switch to ‘green salads and tofu’, but there is a middle ground to look after the health of employees.
Last Reviewed: 28/10/2019
Norman Swan Medical Communications
Peñalva JL et al. Association between a social-business eating pattern and early asymptomatic atherosclerosis. Journal of the American College of Cardiology 2016;68:805-814.