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Mindful eating another approach for controlling diabetes

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Mindful eating could be a better choice for some people with diabetes.

Results of a new study suggest people living with diabetes can manage their weight and blood sugars with mindful eating. Researchers compared two different approaches for managing diet and activity for people living with the disease, finding that both work equally well.

Ohio State University researchers found paying attention to cues related to hunger and fullness was just as effective as a traditional self-management diabetes program.

For the study, one group of participants applied mindful meditation techniques for making decisions about eating and food choices.

A second group focused on counting carbohydrates and fats and reading food labels to control blood sugar levels, which is the traditional approach for managing diabetes.

The results showed the two approaches were equally effective for managing diabetes blood sugars and controlling weight.

Carla Miller, associate professor of human nutrition at Ohio State University and lead author of the study said in a press release, “We studied two very different approaches, and we found they both worked. This means people with diabetes have choices when it comes to eating a healthy diet.”

Miller explained the study participants in the mindful eating group were asked to ‘really tune into” their bodies before meals. They were asked to make conscious choices based on how hungry they felt and to stay aware of when they felt full, in addition to using their knowledge to make optimal choices related to nutrition.

The participants were between age 35 and 65 and had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes for at least one year. Enrollees in the study had to be overweight with the hemoglobin A1C level of at least 7%.

Both of the groups received eight weekly and two biweekly 2 ½-hour sessions for three months.

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The mindful eating group worked with a trained facilitator during which they practiced guided meditation, supplemented by CDs to listen to at home.

Each session included a discussion about calorie, carbohydrate and fat intake and portion control. A focus was how to choose healthy foods during holidays and other situations. Emphasis was placed on the importance of regular physical activity.

Participants in the ‘Smart Choice’ group lost more weight – 6 pounds vs. 3.5 pounds, which Miller says was not significant.

Both groups dropped their HgA1C levels by approximately 0.8 to 0.8 percent.

“That was a clinically meaningful reduction in Hba1c, equivalent to what you would get on some diabetes medications," Miller said. "If the reduction were sustained over time, it would mean a dramatic reduction in complications associated with diabetes."

Miller says the finding is important. Mindful eating was well received by the diabetic participants. She suggests there is more than one approach to managing the disease. “If mindful meditation is appealing and people think that approach is effective, then it very well could be the best choice for them."

Miller points out there are ‘so many environmental cues’ telling us to eat that we ignore physiological signals of hunger. She explains being mindful means stopping eating long enough to know if you’re really hungry rather than eating out of habit.

The finding suggests mindful meditation can help people control diabetes and supports a 2009 study showing practicing yoga has similar benefits for weight loss and controlling eating.

Ohio State University
November 8, 2012

Image credit: Morguefile



Interesting article. I’m not surprised that mindfulness meditation was so effective at changing people’s eating behavior. This is something we’ve addressed here at the Mindfulness Meditation Institute. We’ve recently developed a technique that achieves dramatic behavioral changes in just a matter of days. We call it writing meditation. Dr. Elisha Goldstein wrote about it on his article, “Wiring the Brain for Better Relationships.” The particular meditation he discussed in his article is geared more for healing the wounds from our past, and improving our relationships. However, we’ve developed a writing meditation specifically for mindful consumption. What the writing meditation does is reprogram our subconscious in a way that seems to be much more effective than simply reading, hearing, or reciting the affirmations. Everyone who has tried the writing meditation has seen changes in their behavior in less than a week. What’s so amazing about the writing meditation is that these changes take place without any conscious effort, and the exercise takes only about 10 minutes per day. Charles A. Francis The Mindfulness Meditation Institute
Thank you Charles. This is important information for anyone trying to change behaviors!