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Yoga makes diabetics healthier

Not just sport, but yoga too can make you healthier. In a controlled trial researchers at Manipal University in India showed that yoga reduced the negative health effects of a chronically high glucose level.

Yoga makes diabetics healthier

The researchers did an experiment with 120 men and women aged between 40 and 75, all of whom had diabetes-2.

Half of them did yoga three times a week for three months, and did poses such as tadasana, padahastasana, vrikshasana, trikonasana, parsvotanasana, vajrasana, vakrasana, gomukasana, paschimotasana, uttanapadasana, pwanamuktasana, bhujangasana, shalabasana, dhanurasana, viparitakarani and shavasana, and breathing techniques such as sitkari, bhramari and anuloma viloma pranayama.

At the end of the three months the fasting-plasma glucose level [FPG] of the group that had done yoga had gone down a little, as had the post-prandial glucose level. That meant that the cells of the subjects who had practised yoga had started to listen a little better to the insulin in their bodies.

Insulin is a hormone that enables muscles, brain cells, organs and fat tissue to absorb glucose. This is probably also why the BMI in the yoga group went down by half a point.

Yoga makes diabetics healthier

A marker for the amount of glucose in the blood is the concentration of HbA1c, or glycated haemoglobin. This is haemoglobin that the body has attached glucose to. A too high concentration of HbA1c indicates that high levels of glucose have been circulating in the blood. Doctors are of the opinion that diabetics should stay under the 7 percent.

In the Manipal University study yoga reduced the HbA1c concentration from 8.5 to 8 - but not to 7.

Reading between the lines the researchers find the effect disappointing. "The effect on glycemic control compared with results obtained by other lifestyle interventions such as aerobic exercise and resistance training", they write.

"In the current study, mean percentage reduction in HbA1c was 1.4 percent in the yoga group. From a clinical perspective, this represents a small change. However, long-term, regular practice of yoga can sustain the improved glycemic control brought about by standard care."

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Yoga makes diabetics healthier

Yoga makes diabetics healthier
A chronically raised glucose level causes oxidative stress [call it cellular rust] and speeds up processes of aging.

A marker of oxidative stress is the concentration of malondialdehyde [structural formula shown here] in the blood. This went down by 20 percent in the yoga group, and that's a worthwhile effect.

So although yoga only has a small positive effect on the glucose and insulin balance, somehow yoga manages to reduce the damage caused by a raised glucose level.

Diabetes Care. 2011 Oct;34(10):2208-10.

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