The technique which helps stress and anxiety is an effective way of reducing weight and blood sugar levels.
A group of diabetes sufferers, trained in Mindfulness Meditation, achieved the same weight loss and reduced sugar levels as a second group with specific nutrition goals.
The second group, also with diabetes, were giving nutrition information about the right food choices and scientific information about the complications of the condition.
They were given calorie-intake goals, told what food would stop blood sugar spikes and information about common complications like heart disease, kidney and nerve damage, eye problems and stroke.
The Mindfulness group were encouraged to cultivate “inner wisdom” or mindful awareness to their eating.
Their sessions included guided meditation with an emphasis on experiences and emotions associated with food. They were also given CDs to help with home meditation practice.
“We tried to generate awareness, staying in the moment, and living and eating in response to hunger instead of habits and unconscious eating,” said Carla Miller, associate professor of human nutrition at Ohio State University.
All the participants were adults aged between 35 and 65 years and had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes for at least a year.
They were also overweight and had higher than normal blood glucose levels in the previous two to three months.
The interventions took place over three months and the improvements were similar for both groups at the six month follow up point.
There was a clinically significant drop in blood sugar levels “equivalen to what you would get on some diabetes medications”, said Prof Miller.
“If the reduction were sustained over time it would mean a dramatic reduction in complications associated with diabetes.”
She also said that participants adapted well to the concept of mindfulness even though it is generally considered an alternative health practice.
“The fact that both interventions were equally effective suggests that we should let people choose.
“If mindful meditation is appealing and people think that approach is effective, then it very well could be the best choice for them.”
The study is published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.