Yoga, Obesity, and Metabolic Syndrome

Can Yoga Practice Reduce Obesity And Metabolic Syndrome?

Christine Wiese Yoga Research 1 Comment

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How does yoga practice affect markers of metabolic syndrome?

Research Study At A Glance

The Research Question Asked

Can one year of yoga practice reduce obesity and the indicators of metabolic syndrome?

Type of Study

Clinical study – randomized control trial

Study Participants (Sample)

Sample size: 79

Study participants:

  • Age 58±8 years old
  • Female and male
  • All study participants were clinically obese
Methods

Metabolic peptide levels in blood serum extracted from study participants who completed one year of yoga practice three times per week were compared to metabolic peptide levels of a control group who did no yoga practice.

Results

Multiple markers of metabolic syndrome, including waist circumference, resting heart rate, and levels of four metabolic peptides, were positively influenced in the yoga treatment group compared to the control group.

Conclusion

One year of yoga practice positively improved markers of metabolic syndrome and reduced waist circumference, which suggests that yoga practice can be used to help counteract metabolic syndrome and can contribute to reducing obesity.

Yoga, Obesity, and Metabolic SyndromeBackground

Metabolic syndrome is a name for a group of conditions, which together can be a precursor to type-2 diabetes and can be associated with heart disease and stroke. Metabolic syndrome is commonly associated with clinical obesity. The level of certain chemicals in the body which are involved with metabolism, called metabolic peptides, can tell us something about whether an individual is experiencing metabolic syndrome.

Research question

Can one year of yoga practice reduce obesity and the indicators of metabolic syndrome?

Research methods

Participants were randomly assigned to either the yoga treatment group or the control group. The yoga treatment group did a hatha yoga asana practice three times/week for one hour. Each yoga practice was led by a yoga instructor and participants practiced in small groups of approximately 10 participants per group. The research paper did not report whether any participants had previous yoga experience prior to participating in the study.

Participants in the treatment group completed one year of yoga practice. Those in the control group did no yoga. All participants were middle-aged (58±8 years old) and clinically obese. Indicators of metabolic syndrome (β-cell function, insulin resistance, levels of four metabolic peptides, and insulin level) were analyzed for differences between the treatment and control groups. The levels of individual body chemicals which were measured were isolated from blood serum. Serum was retrieved from participants before yoga treatment and then again after one year of yoga treatment.

Results

After one year of yoga practice done three times per week, significant differences in measures of metabolic syndrome were reported between the group that did yoga practice and the control group, which did no yoga practice. Waist circumference and resting heart rate were reduced in the yoga practice group compared to the control group. Additionally, there were positive changes in metabolic peptides in the yoga practice group when compared to the control group. The metabolic peptides ghrelin, unacylated ghrelin, and growth hormone increased, and acylated ghrelin and obestatin decreased in the yoga practice group compared to the control group. There were no differences in insulin levels between the yoga practice treatment group and the control group.

Why is this relevant to yoga practitioners?

This paper contributes to a larger body of research that shows that yoga has health and wellness benefits beyond simply gaining muscular strength and increasing flexibility. The common sedentary nature of our life, combined with the time pressures we often face due to busy work and life schedules, can result in us making less than optimal lifestyle choices with respect to food and movement. As a result of those lifestyle choices, obesity and metabolic syndrome have become a serious health concern. Yoga practice offers us a tool for addressing these aspects of health and wellness.

Conclusion

This research offers encouraging results for those who are struggling to manage metabolic syndrome and/or obesity. While lifestyle choices and other conditions that predispose us to metabolic syndrome also need to be addressed, it’s encouraging that yoga practice was able to counteract some measures of metabolic syndrome and obesity. Yoga practice offers one tool in an overall management plan for metabolic syndrome and obesity, with little to no negative side effects, that could contribute to generating a positive feedback loop and potentially even contribute to creating better lifestyle habits over the long-term.

Reference citation

Yu, A.P., F.N. Ugwu, B.T. Tam, P.H. Lee, C.W. Lai, C.S.C. Wong, W.W. Larn, S. Sheridan, and P.M. Siu. 2018. One year of yoga training alters ghrelin axis in centrally obese adults with metabolic syndrome. Frontiers in Physiology. 9:1321.

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