According to a recent study, people with type 2 diabetes can significantly improve their blood sugar control by engaging in mind-body activities like yoga.
Although previous studies have focused solely on yoga, this study, which was just published online in the Journal of Integrative and Complementary Medicine, also examined the advantages of other mind-body techniques for these individuals, such as qi gong and meditation.
According to one of the researchers, Richard Watanabe, PhD, the study is “the first to establish that there is a fairly consistent effect [on haemoglobin A1c, a sign of diabetes] regardless of the modality you utilise.”
So, Watanabe, a professor of population and public health sciences at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles, says, “I think one of the important messages… is that any sort of mind-body intervention seems to be helpful, which makes this a much more flexible tool than telling a patient that they should [just] do yoga.”
There are other possibilities, and if you’re too busy to make it to yoga, you may learn how to meditate and practise it anywhere. So once more, it [is]… a versatile tool to aid in blood sugar control for their patients, he adds.
According to a statement from the study’s lead author, Fatimata Sanogo of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, “The most striking discovery was the extent of the advantage these activities bring.” “We expected a benefit, but we never thought it would be this substantial,”
But how do mindfulness exercises lower A1c? Watanabe notes that further research must be done in order to fully understand this situation because it is not entirely obvious.
But, he continues, “I think that everyone’s hypothesis is that these ways reduce stress, therefore the assumption is that they reduce stress hormones and since these hormones do have an effect on glucose metabolism, reducing them utilising these modalities reduces A1c and blood sugar levels.
In contrast, mind-body techniques may enhance insulin sensitivity. You essentially make insulin more effective at boosting glucose uptake by insulin-sensitive tissues, according to Watanabe.
Therefore, should doctors recommend any of the mind-body techniques examined in the study? Maybe, says Watanabe.
Our findings imply that the mind-body intervention’s effects will be in addition to the standard of treatment patients are receiving, so it can’t hurt, the researcher says. He adds that it is incredibly difficult for diabetic patients to continually monitor their blood sugar levels and manage what they consume.
He claims that “it merely makes it harder to control blood sugar.” Therefore, in my opinion, doctors must assess their patients’ needs and assist them in selecting the option that best suits their personality and way of life. It is the doctor’s responsibility to work closely with patients to identify the ideal option for each individual.
An Analysis of Studies
In what is known as a meta-analysis, the researchers found 28 studies that examined the use of mindfulness techniques in patients with type 2 diabetes and were published between 1993 and 2022.
Patients who need insulin to manage their diabetes as well as those who had comorbid conditions including heart disease or kidney problems were not included in any trials. Meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, and an ancient Chinese practise called qi gong—a form of slow-moving martial arts comparable to tai chi—were among the mind-body modalities examined.
The results showed that the overall decrease in average A1c was 0.84 percentage points using haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) as a test that tells patients what their average blood sugar levels have been over the past three months.
Additionally, all forms of mind-body activities were associated with A1c decreases. Patients who engaged in mindfulness-based stress reduction saw an average 0.48 percentage point drop in their A1c. In order to create a stable emotional state, be fully present, and be aware of one’s surroundings, this technique entails focusing on one’s breath as well as on a specific thought, object, or action.
Additionally, qi gong practise decreased A1c to a greater extent of 0.66 percentage points.
However, individuals who practised yoga saw the greatest A1c drop, at 1.0 percentage points, which is almost equivalent to the A1c reduction found with metformin, a medication commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes around the world.
In fact, over the course of the trial, the mean A1c varied by -0.22 percentage points for each extra day of yoga practised each week.
With mind-body techniques, fasting blood sugar levels considerably improved as well.
The average A1c and fasting blood sugar reductions were “clinically significant,” the study’s authors said, “suggesting that mind and body techniques may be a useful, supplementary nonpharmacological intervention for type 2 diabetes.”