Yoga is as Effective at Blood Sugar Control as Common Drug

Incorporating yoga and other mind-body practices into a medical regimen can help type 2 diabetes patients manage their blood sugar levels more effectively. A recent study suggests that yoga reduces A1C levels as well as common diabetes drugs.

The study is a review conducted by the Keck School of Medicine at the University of California. The aim of the analysis was to establish how mind-body practices like yoga, meditation, and qigong compare to common diabetes medications in terms of their ability to promote blood sugar control.

Yoga For Diabetes older woman practicing yoga

Among all of the mindfulness practices, yoga ranked the highest. The reduction of A1C levels in patients practicing yoga was comparable to that of metformin, the most widespread diabetes medication, with yoga ranking only 0.1% below metformin.

What role does A1C play in diabetes?

The hemoglobin A1C test is a measurement that shows average blood sugar levels over the course of the past 3 months. When a person’s A1C levels are below 5.7%, this is considered normal, whereas 6.5% or higher indicates diabetes. 

For diabetes patients, the aim is to keep A1C levels below 7%, but only about half of patients manage to reach this goal. As lead author Fatimata Sanogo stated in a press release about the importance of additional diabetes interventions, “Type 2 diabetes is a major chronic health problem and we are not doing a good enough job at controlling it.”

How was the study conducted?

Yoga For Diabetes older couple with yoga mats

The metanalysis analyzed the results of 28 studies from 1993 to 2022. Apart from yoga, other mind-body practices like qigong, meditation, and mindfulness-based stress reduction were studied. All the mind-body practices had a positive effect on participants’ blood sugar levels, yielding an average reduction of A1C of 0.84%.

In the study, participants who practiced yoga lowered their A1C levels by 1%. While this may seem minor, a typical diabetes medication like metformin lowers A1C levels by 1.1%. Therefore, a decrease of one percent is rather significant.

Overall, the study suggests that incorporating any type of mindfulness practice, especially yoga, into a person’s daily regimen can make a world of a difference in managing their blood sugar levels more effectively. The authors stress that mind-body practices are not a replacement for treatments prescribed by a doctor, such as medications, including insulin, and dietary restrictions.

Related article: 7 Exercises That Are Effective for Controlling Diabetes

Why are mind-body practices beneficial for diabetes?

Yoga For Diabetes elderly man and woman practicing yoga outdoors

Believe it or not, yoga and other mindfulness practices attack diabetes in several ways. 

First and foremost, any mindfulness practice has a profound stress-reducing effect that can have a beneficial influence on blood sugar. The science behind the stress-blood sugar loop is solid: stress leads to the release of the stress hormone cortisol from the adrenal glands, which can then increase blood sugar levels. Yoga and mindfulness meditation can bring those cortisol levels down to normal levels, and this, in turn, can lower blood sugar levels.

Another way in which yoga can benefit diabetes is by utilizing excess blood sugar by exercising. As you practice yoga or Tai chi, your muscles will utilize the excess sugar, thereby lowering blood sugar levels. This may be why a more physically active practice like yoga had a greater benefit than strictly stress-reducing mindfulness approaches in the study.

The Takeaway

Yoga For Diabetes woman unrolling a yoga mat

Mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation can reduce blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes patients.

If you suffer from this condition or have a higher risk of developing it, consider adding yoga to your daily regimen. Remember that you will experience the greatest benefits if you practice regularly and consistently.

We have a wonderful list of yoga poses for diabetes that you can try at home right here - 10 Beginner Yoga Poses That Help Fight Diabetes.

H/T: Verywell Health

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