Mind-Body Practices Linked to Lower Glucose in Type 2 Diabetes

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Mind-Body Practices Linked to Lower Glucose in Type 2 Diabetes

Mind-body practices like mindfulness-based stress reduction, yoga, and qigong are linked to lower blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes, according to a new analysis published in the Journal of Integrative and Complementary Medicine.

The role of stress in blood glucose control is poorly understood, but there is evidence that it may play an important role in many people. Diabetes-related distress is linked to higher A1C (a measure of long-term blood glucose control) in young adults with type 1 diabetes, and reducing diabetes distress has been shown to improve blood glucose control in people with type 1. Other studies have confirmed that diabetes-related distress can be treated and reduced. Mindfulness-based diabetes education has also been shown to reduce both stress and glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Reducing stress isn’t always easy, but there are several approaches you can try — including mindfulness or relaxation techniques and eating more fruits and vegetables, especially certain herbs, roots, and fungi that some research has shown may be beneficial.

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For the latest analysis, researchers reviewed previously published articles on mind-body practices and type 2 diabetes — looking only at intervention studies, in which participants were assigned to adopt a stress-reduction technique and its effects were evaluated. There were 28 such studies that met the researchers’ criteria for inclusion in their analysis. The researchers then combined that data from all of these studies, and calculated glucose-related benefits from mind-body techniques overall, as well as from specific practices.

Statistically significant reductions in A1C related to mind-body techniques

The average change in A1C linked to mind-body practices in the studies was a reduction of 0.84%, which they found to be both statistically significant and clinically relevant — meaning that this reduction is large enough to have meaningful effects on the health of people with diabetes. A reduction in A1C was also seen in each of the mind-body practice subgroups — mindfulness-bases stress reduction was linked to an average drop of 0.48%, yoga was linked to an average drop of 1.00%, and qigong (an ancient Chinese practice) was linked to an average drop of 0.66%.

The researchers also found that the frequency of mind-body practices mattered when it came to A1C reduction. For every additional day each week that participants practiced yoga, they experienced an average additional A1C reduction of 0.22% over the course of the study period.

Fasting blood glucose also improved in participants who adopted mind-body practices, with an average reduction of 22.81 mg/dl. But no additional improvement in fasting blood glucose was linked to more frequent yoga practice, unlike what was seen for A1C.

“Mind and body practices are strongly associated with improvement in glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes,” the researchers concluded, adding that these practices may be effective as interventions in much the same way that doctors prescribe diabetes drugs.

Want to learn more about managing stress? Read “Stress and Diabetes: Relaxation Techniques,” “Seven Easy Ways to Destress and Feel Better Fast,”  and  “Time to Focus on Emotional Health.”

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips on social media

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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