A Penn State University study found that women with overweight or obesity had significantly lower levels of stress and fasting glucose after participating in a mindfulness-based stress reduction [MBSR] program. Researchers evaluated the effects of MBSR on cardiometabolic outcomes in 86 women with overweight or obesity. The 8-week MBSR program—which consists of group training in mindfulness, stress reduction, mindful movement and meditation—includes weekly 2.5-hour sessions, one 6-hour retreat and a recommendation of daily home practice.

Participants were randomly assigned to receive MBSR or health education. A registered dietitian taught the health education classes, which included exercise sessions, meal planning and stress management and lasted the same number of hours as the MBSR program. Researchers told all participants that the programs’ purpose was not weight loss but rather stress reduction and determining the effect of that on glucose, blood pressure and overall health. Investigators collected biometric data and evaluations of mindfulness and stress at baseline, after the 8-week intervention and at 16 weeks.

Data analysis showed that only MBSR students had significantly lower stress and blood-glucose levels and demonstrated increased mindfulness at 8 and 16 weeks. Only health education participants had significantly lower systolic blood pressure at 8 weeks. Limitations of the study included its short duration and the fact that more members dropped out of of health education than out of MBSR.

Study authors noted that the MBSR program and increased mindfulness lowered glucose levels in women with obesity and overweight, indicating that MBSR may be an effective tool for preventing or treating type 2 diabetes. Authors suggested that increased mindfulness could have made it easier for MBSR group members to stick with diet and exercise guidelines, resulting in the glucose improvement.

The study appeared in Obesity (2017; doi: 10.10
02/oby.21910). More research is recommended.

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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