PerspectiveIn the Journals

‘Mindful eating’ may reduce cardiometabolic risk in adults with obesity

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March 9, 2016

Adults with obesity randomly assigned to a mindfulness intervention program — including sitting meditation, yoga and mindful eating practices — saw greater improvements in both fasting glucose and triglyceride levels than adults in a standard weight-loss intervention program, according to study findings published in Obesity.

“Mindful eating techniques, in combination with a regular mindfulness meditation practice, may bolster the long-term effects of diet and exercise weight-loss programs for obesity on risk factors for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, including fasting glucose levels and the ratio of triglycerides to HDL cholesterol,” Jennifer Daubenmier, PhD, assistant professor at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, told Endocrine Today.

Daubenmier and colleagues analyzed data from 194 adults with obesity and without diabetes, randomly assigned to intervention programs with or without mindfulness training and identical diet–exercise guidelines for 5.5 months. Both interventions included 16 2-hour to 2.5-hour sessions (12 weekly, three biweekly and one monthly), plus one all-day session for either mindfulness training (sitting meditation practice, yoga, mindful eating practices and mindful walking) or control session (additional nutrition and physical activity information, progressive muscle relaxation and limited cognitive behavioral training). Diet components in both groups recommended healthy food choices that emphasized modest calorie reduction; exercise components emphasized increasing daily activity and moderate-intensity exercise. The primary outcome was 18-month weight change.

Jennifer Daubenmeir

Jennifer Daubenmier

Within the cohort, 100 participants were assigned to the mindfulness training group (mean age, 47 years; 79 women; 65 white; mean BMI, 35.4 kg/m²); 94 were assigned to the control group (mean age, 48 years; 81 women; 50 white; mean BMI, 35.6 kg/m²). Participants in the mindfulness group reported meditating an average 2.1 hours per week and eating 57% of meals mindfully.

In multiple imputation analysis, participants in the mindfulness group lost more weight vs. controls at both 12 months (–4.4 kg vs. –2.5 kg) and 18 months (–4.2 kg vs. –2.4 kg), although results were not statistically significant. Participants in the mindfulness group saw significant improvement in fasting glucose vs. controls, with a between-group difference of –3.07 mg/dL (95% CI, –6.27 to 0.13) at 12 months and –4.1 mg/dL (95% CI, –7.32 to –0.89) at 18 months. Researchers also observed significant between-group differences for the ratio of triglycerides to HDL at 12 months (–0.57; 95% CI, –0.95 to –0.18) and 18 months (–0.36; 95% CI, –0.74 to 0.03).

Estimates for other metabolic risk factors were not statistically significant, including waist circumference, blood pressure and C-reactive protein, according to researchers.

“Doctors and other health care professionals may want to learn more about mindful meditation and mindful eating techniques to advise their patients,” Daubenmier said. “Patients may benefit from practicing these techniques as they integrate them with a diet plan advised by their doctors.”

Daubenmier noted that study results suggest that the training of mindfulness instructors may influence how participants respond to the program.

“Some of our data suggest that participants who were taught by mindfulness instructors rated as more helpful lost more weight than those taught by less helpful participants,” Daubenmier said. “Given the growing interest in mindful eating, online programs could be developed and tested to reach more people.” – by Regina Schaffer

For more information:

Jennifer Daubenmier, PhD, can be reached at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, P.O. Box 1726, San Francisco, CA 94143; email:

Disclosure: One of the researchers reports participating in a paid webinar on mindful snacking for Allidura Consumer.

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Susan Albers-Bowling

Susan Albers-Bowling

This study is great news for endocrinologists and other professionals who are looking for a healthy, lasting technique to recommend to their patients instead of restrictive dieting. Unfortunately, dieting often can only be sustained for a short time and can lead to frustration. Instead, mindful eating is a balance between changing what people eat with how they eat. The skills are about adapting habits around food, which is likely why the study found results that continued for over 18 months. Also, mindfulness skills show people how to deal with stress, which is often the biggest trigger of emotional eating and overeating. Given the participants’ improvements in fasting glucose and triglyceride levels, it’s worth considering teaching people mindful eating to help point them in a positive direction toward health. The added bonus is that when people feel better physically and see success, there is a big boost their mood and quality of life overall.

Susan Albers-Bowling, PsyD
Women’s Health Center,
Cleveland Clinic

Disclosure: Albers-Bowling reports no relevant financial disclosures.