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Less stress might mean lower blood sugar for overweight women

Programme incorporates meditation, other anxiety-reducing techniques

An eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program not only reduces stress, but could also lower blood sugar, U.S. researchers say.

"Our study suggests that MBSR could be a useful tool for preventing or treating diabetes in patients with overweight or obesity,” lead author Dr. Nazia Raja-Khan from Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, Pennsylvania, said by email.

MBSR, an intensive instructor-led training program, incorporates meditation, body awareness and other anxiety-reducing techniques. It was originally developed decades ago at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester to help patients manage pain and stress while being treated for cancer and other serious illnesses, but the course is now offered in a wide variety of settings nationwide.

MBSR training has been shown to reduce stress and therefore might reduce the risk of heart disease in overweight or obese individuals, though this has yet to be proven, Raja Khan’s team writes in the journal Obesity, online July 7.

The researchers assigned 86 women to eight weeks of either MBSR training or a health education program focusing on diet and exercise. They told both groups that the main focus of the study was stress reduction.

After eight weeks and again after 16 weeks, they compared changes in stress levels, mood, quality-of-life, sleep quality, blood pressure, blood sugar, weight and other measures.

Not surprisingly, after eight weeks, the MSBR group had a greater improvement in mindfulness and a greater decrease in feelings of stress, compared with the health education group. Perceived stress remained lower in the MBSR group after 16 weeks.

Women in the MBSR group also had lower blood sugar (by about 9 mg/dL) after eight and 16 weeks compared to before the training, while women in the health education group had no change in blood sugar.

 

After MBSR or health education, both groups had less overall psychological stress, less anxiety and better sleep, but neither group had lost weight, lowered their inflammation or cholesterol levels or improved their responses to insulin.

“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,” Raja-Khan told Reuters Health.

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