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Genetics - The missing link in workplace wellness

15 June 2010 Michelle Schreuder-Rankin

Chronic disease, overweight and absenteeism in the workplace significantly affect companies around the world. And South African companies are no different. In fact recent national statistics translate into a grim picture for the health and longevity of working South Africans, and ultimately the South African economy. In 2007, it was estimated that absenteeism from work cost the South African economy R20 billion for the year*.

However the good news, according to Ashley Galliard of Physicorp Corporate Wellness, is that more and more South African companies are starting to recognise the importance of a healthy workforce and are creating opportunities for their employees to access wellness services by bringing these services to the office.

Traditionally, executive wellness programmes focused around diet, exercise and lifestyle interventions, says Galliard. However, it is now well-established that an individual's genes play a significant role in their response to diet, and their risk for chronic disease. By including nutrigenomic testing in executive wellness programmes, Physicorp provides the missing link, taking corporate wellness to the next level by enablingthe best information to be used in planning the most effective diet,exercise and lifestyle interventions for each individual."

For this reason, Physicorp recently partnered with South African genetic-testing company, DNAlysis, to provide genetic testing for corporates. DNAlysis has developed two genetic tests, DNA Health and DNA Diet that provide the missing link in health and wellness. "In recent years, scientists have proven that no single diet or weight-management lifestyle is optimal for everyone," says DNAlysis's Yael Joffe. "Understanding your own genes gives you the power to maximise weight loss and optimise your health by adjusting your diet and lifestyle to your own unique set of genes. One-size-fits-all is out; and personalised nutrition is in. Weight loss and optimal health today are all about designing lifestyle habits for your unique genetic make-up."

While 98% of Fortune 500 companies have comprehensive employee wellness programmes in place that take into account individual needs, Physicorp is the first corporate wellness company in South Africa to incorporate genetic testing into its service offering, with the ultimate goal of improving the health status of the company.

DNA Health tests a number of genes involved in seven key biological processes, including cholesterol regulation, bone health, vitamin B metabolism and insulin sensitivity. The results provide information on an individual's risk factors for various lifestyles diseases, as well as individual recommendations on diet and nutritional supplementation.

DNA Diet incorporates a simple genetic test that tests for specific genes that impact metabolism and fat loss. The results provide personalised dietary recommendations, an eating plan to achieve optimal weight loss for that particular individual and guidance as to the type and amount of exercise required, based on the individual’s unique genetic make-up.

According to Galliard, "DNA Diet and DNA Health provide specific information for each individual, which fits perfectly within our model for success, providing a valuable tool for each individual for the prevention of chronic lifestyle-related illnesses, most importantly heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and related diseases, and helping us to improve the overall vitality within the workforce."

"Genetic testing is the missing link between educated guesswork and personalised wellness programmes, tailored to each individual's unique requirements. Recognising our diversity and varied needs is the key to a healthier company all round, including the bottom line!"

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