Mindfulness is linked to better blood sugar levels and cardiovascular health. Mindfulness is the inherent trait of being aware of one’s present thoughts and feelings. The study from Brown University looked at 399 people, using health indicators that included dispositional mindfulness and blood glucose. The researchers found that higher scores of mindfulness were associated with low scores of blood glucose levels.
The study is part of Brown University’s ongoing research to see if mindfulness can help to improve cardiovascular health. Their hypothesis is that people practicing higher degrees of mindfulness may have better motivation to exercise, resist high-fat cravings and sugar treats, and stick with a diet and exercise plan set out for them by their doctors.
The researchers set out to uncover the factors that link mindfulness and lower glucose levels. They found that obesity risk and sense of control contribute to the association. They also found those who practiced daily mindfulness were less likely to be obese and had better sense of control.
The authors wrote, “This study demonstrated a significant association of dispositional mindfulness with glucose regulation, and provided novel evidence that obesity and sense of control may serve as potential mediators of this association. As mindfulness is likely a modifiable trait, this study provides preliminary evidence for a fairly novel and modifiable potential determinant of diabetes risk.”
The enrolled participants underwent psychological and physiological testing, including glucose tests and the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), which is a questionnaire to assess dispositional mindfulness. Other data collected looked at demographic and health traits, including body mass index, smoking, education, depression, blood pressure, perceived stress, and sense of control.
The researchers found that participants with high MAAS scores were 35 percent more likely to have glucose levels less than 100 milligrams per deciliter, compared to those with low MAAS scores.
Lead researcher Eric Loucks said, “There’s been almost no epidemiological observational study investigations on the relationship of mindfulness with diabetes or any cardiovascular risk factor. This is one of the first. We’re getting a signal. I’d love to see it replicated in larger sample sizes and prospective studies as well.”
Previous research conducted by Brown University found that dispositional mindfulness also improved overall cardiovascular health. The researchers found that those who took part in dispositional mindfulness had better scores on cardiovascular health indicators as well as overall health scores.
Eric Loucks, who was also leading this previous study, said, “Mindfulness is changeable, and standardized mindfulness interventions are available. Mostly they’ve been looked at for mental health and pain management, but increasingly they are being looked at for cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity, smoking, and blood pressure.”
The study looked at 382 participants who answered the Mindful Attention Awareness Scare (MAAS). The participants also underwent tests to determine seven factors related to cardiovascular health. These factors include smoking avoidance, physical activity, body mass index, fruit and vegetable consumption, cholesterol, blood pressure, and fasting blood glucose.
The researchers looked at the association between MAAS scores and cardiovascular risk factors. Those with higher MAAS scores had 83 percent greater prevalence of good cardiovascular health, compared to those with lower MAAS scores. Higher MAAS scores were also associated with better outcomes of body mass index, physical activity, fasting glucose, and avoiding smoking. The lack of association between MAAS scores and blood pressure or cholesterol may be explained by the fact that these two factors don’t affect how someone feels in a typical moment, unlike smoking and being overweight does.
Fruit and vegetable consumption, too, was associated with higher MAAS scores, but the range was far too wide to be statistically significant.
The findings were published in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine.
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