Diabetes Education That Incorporates Mindfulness Helps Reduce Stress and Lower HbA1c, Study Shows

Mindfulness and acceptance don’t really sound much like modern medicine, but a recent study shows that incorporating these practices into diabetes education can actually decrease stress and lower HbA1c.

The study, posted in Diabetic Medicine, used data from nine preexisting randomized control trials which included mindfulness- or acceptance-based interventions for a total of 801 adults with type 2 diabetes. In each of these trials, there was a control group made up of diabetes patients receiving standard care and education, and diabetes distress or glycemic level were measured as primary outcomes.

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“The results of our meta-analysis indicate that mindfulness- and acceptance-based interventions may more effectively reduce diabetes distress and HbA1c levels than diabetes education or treatment as usual, both immediately and up to 1-month post-intervention, with small to medium effect sizes,” Wai Tong Chien, BN (Hons), PGDip (NEd), MPhil, PhD, RMN, RTN, FAAN, FHKAN, director of the Nethersole School of Nursing at the Chinese University of Hong Kong wrote, along with colleagues. “This novel finding clarifies the current inconclusive evidence regarding the clinical effectiveness of mindfulness- and acceptance-based interventions for both diabetes distress and HbA1c.”

The researchers found that there was a significant difference between patients’ reported levels of distress and their HbA1c levels when they participated in mindfulness- or acceptance-based interventions as opposed to traditional interventions. There was no significant difference, however, three to six months after the intervention ended.

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The researchers also noted reductions in anxiety and depression among people who had mindfulness or acceptance-based approaches in their diabetes education plans. However, the research does have some limitations.

“The short-term positive effects observed in our meta-analyses might be overestimated because of the pooling of the included studies with small sample sizes, which were underpowered to detect individual intervention effects,” the researchers wrote.

More randomized control trials will be needed to get a better understanding of the effects of mindfulness- and acceptance-based interventions. The impacts of these interventions on larger and more diverse populations should also be studied in the future.

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