Yoga may help boost the health of people with diabetes, a condition estimated to affect 8.3 percent of the U.S. population. A mind-body practice often used to reduce stress, yoga is purported to improve blood sugar control among diabetes patients. While research on yoga and diabetes has yielded mixed results, some studies suggest that adding yoga to standard care may be useful for diabetes management.
Research on Yoga and Diabetes
To date, a limited number of studies have tested yoga's effects on people with diabetes. The available research includes a 2008 report from Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, in which scientists analyzed five clinical trials (with a total of 363 participants) on the use of yoga for type 2 diabetes control. Although they found that yoga may be of some benefit to people with diabetes, the report's authors note that study results were inconclusive (partly due to flaws in study design).
For a study published the following year in Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders, 35 people with type 2 diabetes took part in a 40-day yoga camp. By the study's end, participants showed a significant reduction in body mass index and improvement in overall well-being. Study results also showed that yoga helped alleviate anxiety.
Findings from several other small studies indicate that yoga may benefit diabetes patients by trimming body fat, aiding in blood sugar control, fighting insulin resistance, and improving nerve function.
Using Yoga for Diabetes
It's too soon to recommend the use of yoga for diabetes control. Although taking up yoga may offer certain health benefits to diabetes patients (such as reduced stress and an improvement in blood pressure), using yoga as a substitute for standard diabetes care can have serious health consequences.
Is Yoga Safe for Diabetes Patients?
Yoga is generally considered safe. However, certain yoga poses may cause muscle and/or joint damage if not executed properly. If you have diabetes—or any other chronic health condition—talk to your physician about finding a yoga program that's right for you.
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Malhotra V, Singh S, Tandon OP, Sharma SB. "The beneficial effect of yoga in diabetes." Nepal Med Coll J. 2005 Dec;7(2):145-7.
Malhotra V, Singh S, Tandon OP, Madhu SV, Prasad A, Sharma SB. "Effect of Yoga asanas on nerve conduction in type 2 diabetes." Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2002 Jul;46(3):298-306.
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. "National Diabetes Statistics, 2011". NIH Publication No. 11–3892. February 2011.
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