October 30, 2017
2 min read

Mindfulness-based interventions reduce body weight in overweight, obesity

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Adults with overweight or obesity who participated in mindfulness-based intervention experienced at least 3% weight loss that persisted through follow-up, with a reduction in disordered eating behaviors, according to a recent meta-analysis.

In a systematic review, Kimberly Carriere, a doctoral student in the department of psychology at McGill University in Montreal, and colleagues analyzed data from 19 studies with 1,160 participants examining the effects of mindfulness-based interventions on weight loss, with mindfulness as the primary treatment method and weight loss as the primary outcome. Interventions included mindfulness-based stress reduction, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, the mindfulness-based eating awareness treatment program and derivatives of such programs (14 randomized controlled trials). Across studies, 529 participants were assigned to an intervention and 548 served as controls. Two studies compared mindfulness-based intervention with waitlist control groups, seven compared the interventions with standard weight-loss programs, one used a diabetes self-management program and one used psychoeducation for nutrition and exercise. Five studies compared interventions with an active control group. Mindfulness therapies varied, and treatment hours ranged from 5 to 43.75, with a mean of 15.39 hours. The average follow-up time was 16.25 weeks.

Most studies were conducted in 2010 or later (n = 15), with the remaining conducted in 2008. Most were general population studies (n = 11), followed by students (n = 4), breast cancer survivors (n = 1), type 2 diabetes (n = 1), military employees (n = 1) or premenopausal women (n = 1). Most participants were women (71.68%).

After the mindfulness-based interventions, participants lost an average of 6.8 lb, or 3.3% of baseline body weight. Average weight loss at follow-up was 7.5 lb, or 3.5% of baseline body weight. Participants in the lifestyle interventions lost an average of 9.6 lb, or 4.7% of baseline body weight.

In pre-post analyses, researchers found the mindfulness-based interventions had a moderate effect on weight loss (n = 16; Hedge’s g = 0.42; 95% CI, 0.26-0.59)

There was a larger effect observed in studies that combined both informal and formal meditation practices in interventions (n = 6; Hedge’s g = 0.55; CI 95%, 0.32-0.77) vs. interventions that used formal meditation practice alone (n = 4; Hedge’s g = 0.46; CI, 0.1-0.83). Informal mindfulness exercise did not affect weight loss, according to researchers.

There were large mindfulness effects observed for obesity-related eating behaviors, defined as emotional eating, binge-eating and restrained eating, across all studies. However, heterogeneity for these effects was high, the researchers wrote, suggestion caution in drawing conclusions.

Researchers also found that mindfulness-based interventions had a moderate effect on anxiety and small effect on depression symptoms, but results were not significant at follow-up.

“Although average weight loss was modest at post-treatment, continued decreases in weight at follow-up is encouraging and highlights the potential of using mindfulness training to support weight loss and its maintenance,” the researchers wrote. – by Regina Schaffer

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.