Many of the adverse health effects of excess weight are associated with abdominal obesity independent of total weight.
Visceral obesity, in particular, produces inflammatory molecules which promote insulin resistance and the Metabolic Syndrome.
Thus, abdominal adiposity is an important target for reducing risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD).
One modifiable risk factor that may contribute to abdominal adiposity is chronic psychological stress.
Now a study by UCSF researchers, Jennifer Daubenmier and Elissa Epel found that mastering simple mindful eating and stress-reduction techniques helped prevent weight gain even without dieting.
24 of the 47 chronically stressed, overweight and obese women met eligibility criteria for the study were randomly assigned to mindfulness training and practice, and the other 23 served as a control group.
The training included nine weekly sessions, each lasting 2 1/2 hours, during which the women learned stress reduction techniques and how to be more aware of their eating by recognizing bodily sensations -- including hunger, fullness and taste satisfaction. At week six they attended an intensive seven-hour, silent meditation retreat.
They were asked to set aside 30 minutes daily for meditation exercises and to practice mindful eating during meals.
On Average, Mindful, Obese Women Did not Gain Weight in Study
Among women in the treatment group, changes in body awareness, chronic stress, cortisol secretion and abdominal fat were clearly linked. Those who had greater improvements in listening to their bodies' cues, or greater reductions in stress or cortisol, experienced the greatest reductions in abdominal fat.
"In this study we were trying to cultivate people's ability to pay attention to their sensations of hunger, fullness and taste satisfaction as a guide for limiting how much they eat," Daubenmiersaid. "We tried to reduce eating in response to emotions or external cues that typically drive overeating behavior."
In a separate, ongoing study with lower-income, pregnant women who are overweight, Epel, Daubenmier and colleagues are teaching similar mindful-eating techniques. Pregnancy is a time when heavy women tend to gain an excessive amount of weight and later find it very hard to lose it. Furthermore, excessive weight gain during pregnancy can harm the baby's health.
"We are intervening at a critical point, when the health of the next generation is being shaped,"Epel said. "We hope to improve the health of both the mothers and their babies."
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The above story is written by the Zestfulness Team with materials from the University of California - San Francisco news center on December 7, 2011
The article has been published on October 2, 2011 in the online edition of Journal of Obesity: Jennifer Daubenmier, Jean Kristeller, Frederick M. Hecht, Nicole Maninger, Margaret Kuwata, Kinnari Jhaveri, Robert H. Lustig, Margaret Kemeny, Lori Karan, Elissa Epel. Mindfulness Intervention for Stress Eating to Reduce Cortisol and Abdominal Fat among Overweight and Obese Women: An Exploratory Randomized Controlled Study. J Obes. 2011;2011:651936.
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