Reducing stress through mindfulness could help lower blood sugar levels and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, researchers say.
A US team from Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, Pennsylvania, has been looking at the effect of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) programmes on health markers.
The eight-week course combines meditatio, body awareness and other anxiety-reducing techniques, and was developed to help people with serious illnesses manage their stress and pain.
Lead author Dr Nazia Raja-Khan said: “Our study suggests that MBSR could be a useful tool for preventing or treating diabetes in patients with overweight or obesity.”
As part of the study, 86 overweight women were split into two groups: the first group was assigned to a course of MBSR training and the second was asked to take part in a health education program which focused on diet and exercise.
Their stress levels, mood, sleep quality, blood pressure, weight and blood sugar levels were all measured after eight weeks and then again at 16.
The results showed that stress levels and blood sugar levels in the MSBR group were lower when compared with those following the health programme. There were also positive changes to overall psychological stress, anxiety and sleep in both groups. But weight, inflammation levels, cholesterol levels and responses to insulin remained the same.
The authors noted: “In women with overweight or obesity, MBSR significantly reduces stress and may have beneficial effects on glucose. Future studies demonstrating long-term cardiometabolic benefits of MBSR will be key for establishing MBSR as an effective tool in the management of obesity.”
MBSR training has previously been shown to have a significant impact on stress reductio, which is why the research team wanted to see if it could reduce the risk of heart disease in overweight or obese individuals.
Speaking to Reuters Health, Raja-Khan said: “Further studies are needed to determine more long-term benefits of MBSR in overweight/obesity and to confirm the role of MBSR in diabetes prevention and treatment.”
The findings of the trial have been published in the journal Obesity.

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