For many people losing weight can be a stressful process. Maybe you or someone you know is working on losing weight to regulate their blood sugar levels? Perhaps you’re working hard to lose weight and combat pre-diabetes or already managing a diagnosis of diabetes? The health stakes can be high when it comes to weight loss and the stresses encountered on a daily basis can all too easily derail our best efforts. So how can mindfulness help?
Why put Mindfulness in Your Toolkit?
Recent research from Pennsylvania University suggests mindfulness may be a useful techniques in supporting overweight individuals to reduce blood sugar levels.
Breaking down the research
Penn State University worked with a group of 86 women who were categorized as being either overweight or obese. The women were randomly placed in one of two groups for eight weeks and then continued with eight more weeks of home practice. The goal of both groups was to reduce stress and stress-related health problems.
The first group undertook an eight week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course. The weekly MBSR sessions were delivered by a qualified instructor who taught the group how to use techniques, such as breathing and meditation, to manage stress.
The second group received eight weekly health education sessions, during which they learned about general stress management and obesity related health issues, along with diet and exercise.
After 16 weeks some of the women had dropped out, 71% of women completed the eight week sessions and 62% stuck at the practice for the full 16 weeks. 83% of women completed the mindfulness training compared to the 59% of women who completed the health education sessions.
Both groups of women were asked to report on their perceived stress levels on a scale from 1 to 10. The MBSR group reported a decrease of 3.6 points compared to a 1.3 decrease in the health education group. The MBSR group also showed a decrease in fasting blood sugar levels. Both groups found that the sessions improved mood, decreased psychological distress and sleep problems.
Interestingly, all of the tests on other outcomes, such as weight, BMI, cholesterol, pro-inflammatory biomarkers, stress hormones, waist circumference and blood pressure, all showed no significant changes.
Conclusions About Mindfulness, Stress and Blood Sugar Levels from the Penn Research Team
Despite the small size of the group in this study , the research team were encouraged by the low drop-out rate in the MBSR group and suggested that this may be a more successful way to consistently engage people in habit changing behaviours. Whilst acknowledging that further research, with a larger group, is needed, they concluded, “If, as our study suggests, MBSR lowers glucose in people who are overweight, or those with obesity, then it could be an effective tool for preventing or treating type 2 diabetes.”
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