Sunflower Mandala

A brief but comprehensive lifestyle education program based on yoga reduces risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus

Research paper by Ramesh L Bijlani, Rama P Vempati, Raj K Yadav, et al. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2005;11(2):267-274. doi:10.1089/acm.2005.11.267


 

In this short-term study, investigators at the Integral Health Clinic in New Delhi, India, examined the effects of an 8-day lifestyle modification program, based on the principles of yoga, on biological markers for cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus. At the end of the program, significant improvements were seen in key variables, leading investigators to conclude that  “a simple, inexpensive, essentially educational intervention can make an appreciable contribution to primary prevention as well as management.”

Data were collected from 98 subjects who attended a lifestyle intervention program between May 2001 and November 2002. The participants ranged in age from 20 to 74 years and included both males and females. The 8-day outpatient course was offered to groups of 6 to 8 patients at a time for 3 to 4 hours daily. The comprehensive program included: 

  • Educational sessions about yoga, nutrition, stress management, and disease management
  • Yoga practice sessions with asana, pranayama, meditation, and deep relaxation 
  • Educational films and handouts
  • A one-to-one session with a physician for individualized advice 

Meals were not provided, but participants were encouraged to adopt a predominately vegetarian diet that included primarily grains, leafy green vegetables, and fruit. 

…[S]ignificant improvements were seen in key variables, leading investigators to conclude that  “a simple, inexpensive, essentially educational intervention can make an appreciable contribution to primary prevention as well as management.”

Fasting blood samples were drawn on day 1 of the program to assess baseline values, then again on day 10 to assess the effects of the intervention.  (The program included a 2-day weekend break.) Complete fasting plasma glucose (FPG) data were collected for 77 of the 98 participants; other study data were complete for all 98 participants.

Data analysis revealed that FPG, serum total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol, total cholesterol/high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol ratio, and triglycerides were significantly lower post-intervention. HDL was significantly higher post-intervention. (These changes were more apparent in subjects with hyperglycemia or hypercholesterolemia.)

“Mental stress . . . has been shown to raise serum cholesterol, and mental relaxation through meditation and other relaxation techniques has been shown to lower serum cholesterol. Therefore, it is not surprising that the biochemical profile of the patients improved when attention was paid to physical activity, stress reduction, and diet,” the investigators wrote.

Because the study did not include a control group, the investigators could not assess all factors that could have contributed to the observed changes, such as the subjects’ belief in the efficacy of the intervention (ie, placebo effect), the psychological benefit of receiving group support, and the opportunity to spend time in a non-stressful environment. “There is need for further studies to examine the long-term compliance and impact of the intervention,” they concluded. 

Summary by Louise Fecher



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