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Evidence Summary

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Yoga combined with other diabetes management approaches improves blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes

Kumar V, Jagannathan A, Philip M, et al. Role of yoga for patients with type II diabetes mellitus: A systematic review and meta-analysis Complement Ther Med. 25:104-112.

Review question

Can yoga improve blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes?  

Background

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that results in high blood sugar. Yoga is one complementary and alternative treatment approach for diabetes management. Previous research shows that yoga leads to short-term improvements in management of type 2 diabetes, including blood sugar levels, insulin sensitivity and quality of life. This review provides an update on the topic, including newly published evidence.     

How the review was done

This is a systematic review and meta-analysis of 17 randomized control trials published between 1992 and 2013. The number of participants in each study ranged from 21-231. Age range of participants was 30 - 75 years.

Key features of the included studies:

  • Studies took place in India (15 trials), the United Kingdom (1 trial) and the Republic of Cuba (1 trial).
  • Study participants took part in yoga (e.g. asana, pranayama, relaxation, meditation techniques) or breathing techniques along with one or more other diabetes management approaches, including standard diabetes care and education on lifestyle modification, diet control and medication management.
  • Yoga training differed between studies in program length (40 days - 6 months), frequency (from 1-7 days/week) and session duration (45 - 120 minutes). 
  • Researchers measured changes in participants’ blood sugar levels (FBS, PPBS and HbA1c).
  • Results were compared to control groups who only received standard care/treatment for type 2 diabetes.

What the researchers found

Participants who took part in yoga had significant improvements in blood sugar levels and the researchers recommend yoga as an addition to standard diabetes treatment. Breathing training (on its own) had no effect on the same blood sugar outcomes. Quality assessment of the included studies revealed a high risk of bias. More high quality research with greater numbers of participants, longer follow-up period and consideration of other factors (e.g. yoga intensity and participant adherence to the programs) will help to measure whether yoga is an effective option for long-term diabetes management. 

Conclusion

Doing yoga in addition to conventional diabetes management improves blood sugar levels in the short term in people with type 2 diabetes and yoga is recommended as an add-on to standard care/treatment.




Glossary

Control group
A group that receives either no treatment or a standard treatment.
Meta-analysis
Advanced statistical methods contrasting and combining results from different studies.
Risk of bias
Possibility of some systematic error in the studies.
Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

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