Obesity in the workplace costs U.S. employers $73.1 billion a year in loss of productivity, increased medical costs and absence from work.

Duke University researchers analyzed data from the 2006 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey and the 2008 U.S. National Health and Wellness Survey which included people who were normal weight, overweight and obese.

The researchers concluded that the per capita costs of obesity are as much as $16,900 for obese women and $15,500 for obese men.

The study published in the October 8 issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that the bulk of the cost was attributed to presenteeism: 56 percent for women and 68 percent for men.

"Much work has already shown the high costs of obesity in medical expenditures and absenteeism, but our findings are the first to measure the incremental costs of presenteeism for obese individuals separately by body mass index and gender among full time employees," study leader Eric Finkelstein said in a statement.

The results of the study indicate the amounts of money that company’s can save by investing in wellness programs that encourage their workers to adopt healthy lifestyles increasing physical activity and cutting out fatty foods from their diets.