Mindfulness Exercises Could Reduce Diabetes Risk

Mindful exercise, eating, and stress-reducing practices could help obese patients reduce their diabetes risk.

Mindful exercise, eating, and stress-reducing practices could help obese patients reduce their diabetes risk.

Participants in a recent study were taught how to meditate and focus better on their eating and exercise habits. To reduce stress, they learned about sitting meditation, loving kindness, and yoga.

The participants were also taught how to enhance their awareness of hunger, stomach fullness, taste, cravings, emotions, and eating triggers. Meanwhile, the mindful exercise revolved around mindful walking, awareness of sensory experience, posture, and alignment.

The researchers behind the study, which was published in Obesity, found that these mindfulness exercises had positive effects on 2 factors linked to diabetes and cardiovascular disease: fasting blood glucose and ratio of triglycerides to high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels.

The researchers observed nearly 200 obese adults in order to determine whether adding mindfulness-based eating and stress management practices to a diet and exercise program would improve weight loss and metabolic syndrome components. The participants were enrolled in a 5.5-month program that included mindfulness training for half of them. The programs had identical diet and exercise guidelines.

At the 18-month point, the researchers determined that the mindfulness exercises did not seem to lead to substantial weight loss, as those who participated in them had a nonstatistically significant weight loss of around 3.7 pounds compared with the control group. However, fasting blood glucose was positively impacted.

“Whether eating snacks while watching the game or grazing by the dessert tray at the office event, we often find ourselves overeating not because we’re hungry, but because the food looks delicious, we’re distracted, or we wish to soothe away unpleasant feelings,” said study leader Jennifer Daubenmier, PhD, in a press release. “Our study suggests that mindful eating can go further than making healthy food choices and recognizing when we’re full; it could improve glucose levels and heart health to a greater extent than behavioral weight loss programs that do not teach mindful eating.”

The researchers also said that Americans might experience more mindless eating because of day-to-day environments and stressors. For example, when high calorie foods are available, they may be too distracted to really comprehend what they are eating and how much they are consuming.

Even though longer-term studies with larger participant cohorts are needed to confirm the findings, they do point to some of the potential health benefits of using mindfulness, the researchers said.