Is Yoga Good for Type II Diabetes Mellitus?
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Is Yoga Good for Type II Diabetes Mellitus?

Looking at some studies and trials to determine whether yoga can help to manage symptoms of Type II diabetes. The evidence suggests that it might have some positive effect only together with a traditional medical approach.

Type II diabetes is on the increase in the developed world; a sedentary lifestyle, a diet high in sugars and not enough exercising are considered to be some of its main causes. As there is no cure for Type II diabetes the patient, with the help of health professionals, will have to learn to manage its condition and symptoms for the rest of their life. Although drugs are given to help especially in the most severe cases, a lot can be done by improving the diet and doing some physical exercise.

Even health professionals who adhere most strictly to a completely evidence-based bio-medical way of thinking generally agree that a holistic approach is helpful when managing diabetes as this condition is influenced so much by lifestyle. It can be difficult to keep a patient motivated and positive when suffering from chronic conditions, therefore it is important that the patient's morale and well being are improved to ensure that the lifestyle changes required become permanent. That is one of the reasons why alternative and complementary medicine has been used more often in recent decades to help  improve general well being in Type II diabetes sufferers. Yoga is one of these mind-body approaches that is considered to be beneficial. Is that really the case?

Let's see the evidence first.

Badr Aljasir, Maggie Bryson and Bandar Al-shehri of the University of Ottawa in 2007 assessed several random controlled trials (the most used form of study in medicine, a random controlled trial or RCT must have at least two groups: one following the treatment and one who does not). In this case many studies were comparing people who practiced yoga with people who practiced other forms of exercise. Five studies were large enough to produce workable data. Unfortunately although generally yoga seemed to improve Type II diabetes symptoms on a short term basis (it has to be mentioned that these were short term studies and there is simply no data on long terms benefits) the data available was not enough to be statistically meaningful to reach a definitive conclusion. From this comparison, yoga (provided is done properly) does not seem to have negative effects and might have some small immediate positive effects on the general wellbeing of the patient.

More recent Indian studies seem to suggest that yoga together with a traditional medical approach can improve the outcomes and even help manage high blood pressure and other typical Type II diabetes symptoms. The main problem when assessing yoga is that while doing random controlled trials of a drug is easy to set up a group that instead of taking the tested drug is given a placebo (a sugar pill) without knowing it (the same as the individuals in the group who takes the real drug do not know whether they are given the sugar pill or not) and therefore cannot influence the outcome of the study. The groups in these trials know whether they are doing yoga or not and that might affect the final results.

From the little  evidence we have, yoga seems to compliment a traditional bio-medical way of managing the condition. Possibly as some people find it pleasant and relaxing it will improve their general well being and attitude and therefore make it easier to control the symptoms and managing the pain of any conditions they might suffer from. As Type II diabetes sufferers are strongly adviced to do regular exercise anyone practicing yoga will still see some benefits, at least comparable to that of other types of exercising. It is important to emphasise that yoga must be practised within a plan agreed with a health professional and together with other forms of treatment and never used to control diabetes on its own as there is no scientific evidence it would work and it could be extremely dangerous.

References: 

  • Badr Aljasir, Maggie Bryson, and Bandar Al-shehri Yoga Practice for the Management of Type II Diabetes Mellitus in Adults: A systematic review http://ecam.oxfordjournals.org/current.dtl
  • Indian Journal of Medical Research, p.636-640, May 2010

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Comments (4)

very informative article. Thanks,

Very useful information. Thank you for sharing. Write more!

absolutely right...always consult professionals

Edward ova
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