Los Angeles, USA—Body-mind practices, particularly yoga, improve blood sugar control in type 2 diabetes to a similar extent as drugs such as metformin, according to a new study, published by PhD candidate Fatimata Sanogo. the Keck School of Medicine (USC), and colleagues in the Journal of Integrative and Complementary Medicine .
“To our knowledge, this is the first study that has examined different modalities of body-mind interventions and the first to show that there is a very consistent effect on HbA1c regardless of the intervention used,” told the American edition of Medscape the Dr. Richard Watanabeprofessor of biostatistics (Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California – Los Angeles) and lead author of the study.
“Our study having shown that it doesn’t matter what type of procedure patients choose, it’s really up to the doctor to work with his patients and help them choose what’s right for them. It is therefore a much more flexible tool than telling a patient that he must do yoga if his schedule does not allow him to do it. There are other options, so if you’re a busy person and can’t make it to a yoga session, take some time to learn meditation and you can practice it anywhere,” added Dr Watanabe.
The regularity of yoga practice makes the difference
A total of 28 studies involving patients with type 2 diabetes and published between 1993 and 2022 were included in the meta-analysis. Patients who were taking insulin or who had medical complications of diabetes were excluded from all of these studies.
A significant mean reduction in HbA1c of 0.84% was observed for all types of mindfulness interventions (P < 0.0001).
For mindfulness-based stress reduction, HbA1c was reduced by 0.48% (P = 0.03), while the practice of qi gong – a traditional Chinese gymnastics that combines slow movements, breathing exercises and concentration – was associated with a 0.66% drop in HbA1c (P = 0.01). For meditation, A1c decreased by 0.50% (P = 0.64).
However, the greatest decrease in HbA1c was observed with yoga, where it decreased by 1.00% (P < 0.0001), roughly the same degree of glycemic control achieved with metformin, the authors point out.
Indeed, for each additional day of yoga practiced per week, the average HbA1c level differed by -0.22% (P = 0.46) between the people who took part in the body-mind interventions and the others.
A reduction in fasting blood sugar (GJ) has also been seen with yoga and other practices. “The mean change in fasting blood glucose corresponded to the mean change in HbA1c of -22.81 mg/dl (P<0.0001),” the authors continue.
The researchers found that the duration of yoga didn’t matter, but the frequency did, so it’s the regularity “with which you do yoga that makes the difference”, pointed out Dr Watanabe .
Dr. Watanabe and coauthors also point out that because most patients were actively taking metformin before and during the studies, the observed effect on HbA1c represents an additional reduction compared to medication.
“This raises the question of whether mind-body practices can be useful when initiated early in the treatment of diabetes, alongside conventional lifestyle treatments,” they suggest.
Although more research is needed to investigate this specific point, “our results suggest that these mind-body practices could be a good preventative measure,” he said. Psychocorporal practices could also effectively prevent type 2 diabetes in patients at risk according to the authors.
Does meditation help alleviate psychological distress?
It is unclear how mind-body practices improve blood sugar control, but one possible theory is that patients experience a decrease in their psychological distress when undertaking such practices, and in doing so, they more compliance with the treatment regimen prescribed to them.
A few of the studies reviewed found that mind-body work led to a significant decrease in serum cortisol, the stress hormone that could plausibly mediate the benefits of mind-body practices through reduced inflammation.
In addition, “People with diabetes live with what we call ‘diabetes distress,’” explained Dr. Watanabe, managing blood sugar is very stressful. You have to watch what you eat, you have to measure your blood sugar, and for the person, it becomes stressful. And that stress only contributes to the difficulty of controlling blood sugar.”
This raises the question of whether mind-body practices can be helpful when initiated early in the treatment of diabetes, alongside conventional lifestyle treatments.
Funding and links of interest
The authors reported no relevant financial relationships.
This article originally appeared on Medscape.com under the title Yoga and Other Mind-Body Work Good for Diabetes Control. Translated and adapted by Mona El-Guechati
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Yoga and psychocorporal practices, beneficial against type 2 diabetes
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