Body practices such as yoga and meditation are becoming an increasingly popular means of promoting health and combating diseases, including type 2 diabetes.
Some mental body practices may be almost as effective as commonly prescribed medications at lowering blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes, according to a new study by a team from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, which was recently published in the Journal of Integrative and Complementary Medicine.
The team analyzed data from studies conducted around the world between 1993 and 2022. They found 28 studies in which people with type 2 diabetes began a body practice in addition to taking medication, and compared their results with those of people who received only medication to lower their blood sugar levels.
This study, the first to analyze a variety of practices, including meditation, qigong, yoga and mindfulness-based stress reduction, and their effects on blood glucose levels, found that all bodily practices resulted in significant reductions in blood sugar levels.
Taken as a whole, the bodily practices reduced hemoglobin A1c levels by an average of 0.84%, which is a measure of average blood glucose levels over the past 3 months. Yoga, the most studied technique, had the greatest effect, a decrease in hemoglobin A1c of about 1%. The authors noted that the 1% reduction is particularly remarkable because metformin, the most prescribed drug for diabetes, reduces hemoglobin A1c in people with type 2 diabetes by an average of 1.1%.
The study shows that bodily practices can be used as an additional nonpharmacological treatment for people with type 2 diabetes and possibly as a preventive measure.