Mindfulness-Based Diabetes Education Reduces Stress, Glucose

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Mindfulness-Based Diabetes Education Reduces Stress, Glucose

An approach to diabetes education that incorporates the concepts of mindfulness and acceptance may result in less diabetes-related distress and better blood glucose control, according to a recent analysis published in the journal Diabetic Medicine.

The article’s authors noted that in people with type 2 diabetes — the focus of the analysis — fear of diabetes complications and the burden of managing the disease can contribute to psychological distress, which isn’t always conducive to effective diabetes management. Because of the well-documented risk of diabetes distress that comes with the condition, some leaders of diabetes education programs have made an effort to incorporate mindfulness and acceptance strategies. For the latest analysis, the researchers were interested in evaluating the effect of these diabetes education programs on both self-reported diabetes distress and blood glucose control.

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A total of nine studies were included in the analysis, each of which randomly assigned participants to either a standard diabetes education program or one with an additional component — acceptance and commitment therapy, mindfulness‐based cognitive therapy, mindfulness‐based stress reduction, or self‐directed mindfulness practice. While the details of these strategies differ, each is aimed at reducing diabetes distress by helping people recognize their feelings about diabetes and accept the disease for what it is. The combined analysis had a total of 801 participants, with an average age ranging from 50 to 66 and an average diabetes duration ranging from four to 10 years. Most participants had an A1C level (a measure of long-term blood glucose control) above 7%, indicating less than optimal glucose control.

Mindfulness and acceptance programs linked to lower diabetes distress

The researchers found that compared with people assigned to a standard diabetes education program, those in a mindfulness- or acceptance-based program had significantly lower levels of reported diabetes distress, based on the scoring measures used in the studies. They also had lower overall A1C levels, which were maintained for up to one month after the diabetes education program ended. Since each study in the analysis followed a different design, it wasn’t possible to conclude that any one particular approach to mindfulness or acceptance was better than the others — just that all of them, combined, had better results than standard diabetes education programs when it came to the two key outcomes. But three to six months after the diabetes education programs ended, there were no observed differences between the standard and mindfulness- or acceptance-based education groups.

The researchers concluded that mindfulness- and acceptance-based approaches to diabetes education may help promote lower diabetes distress and better self-management. More studies are needed, they wrote, to examine the effectiveness of specific programs in a variety of patient populations, including people from a variety of cultural, social, and economic backgrounds.

Want to learn more about managing stress? Read “Stress and Diabetes: Relaxation Techniques,” “Three Ways to Cope With Stress”  and “Stress: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”

Living with type 2 diabetes? Check out our free type 2 e-course!

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips

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A freelance health writer and editor based in Wisconsin, Phillips has a degree from Harvard University. He is a former Editorial Assistant for Diabetes Self-Management and has years of experience covering diabetes and related health conditions. Phillips writes on a variety of topics, but is especially interested in the intersection of health and public policy.

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