Hypoglycemic effect of sitting breathing meditation exercise on type 2 diabetes at Wat Khae Nok primary health center in Nonthaburi Province - Chaiopanont (2008)

Key Points

  • A slow breathing exercise significantly reduced postprandial glucose levels in type 2 diabetic patients

  • The slow breathing exercise also significantly reduced blood pressure in these patients

The Breathing Diabetic Summary

It is sometimes hard to find well-written, well-designed scientific studies on breathing and diabetes.  However, because this is such a small field, we have to take what we can get.  And, given everything we have learned so far, we can take what we can from each paper (with a grain of salt, of course) and make connections to other studies.  So, this paper is being included because it does have good findings, just not the best study design.

The authors cite a previous paper (which I could not find online) that showed that a sitting breathing exercise lowered the blood glucose of diabetics.  They wanted to see if the same exercise could lower the postprandial blood glucose of type 2 diabetics in their health care center.

They had 50 patients test their glucose, then eat a small meal (again, not a perfect way to perform an oral glucose tolerance test), and then test again 30 minutes later.  They also measured the patients’ blood pressure.  For the first test, after the meal they taught the patients about diabetes self care (this was the control) and then tested their glucose 30 minutes later.  For the 2nd and 3rd tests (each a week apart), they taught the patients to perform a sitting breathing exercise for 30 minutes after the meal.  The breathing exercise consisted of inhaling slowly for a count of 5, holding for a count of 3, and exhaling slowly for a count of 5.

They found that after the breathing exercise, there was a significant reduction in postprandial blood sugar and blood pressure.  This is similar to the Wilson et al. (2013) study. There was not a reduction after the self-care education.  The authors suspect that the reduction in blood glucose was due to activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, something we have seen many times in previous studies.  Thus, although the study did not have a perfect design (do any?), they did find that slow breathing lowered glucose following a meal.

Overall, this study shows that slow breathing can reduce blood glucose and blood pressure in type 2 diabetics following a meal. These effects are likely due to suppression of the sympathetic nervous system and activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, thus reducing stress hormones and reducing the body’s endogenous production of glucose.

Abstract from Paper

Objective: To evaluate the hypoglycemic effect of Somporn Kantaradusdi-Triamchaisri technique1 (SKT1) of sitting breathing meditation exercise on type 2 diabetic patients.

Material and Method: This quasi experiment study was performed on type 2 diabetic patients at Wat Khae Nok primary health center from April to May 2007 for a two-week period every Tuesday of the week (3 visits). At the first visit, the patients were educated about diabetes self care after breakfast. At the second and third visit, the participants were trained to practice SKT1 as intervention after breakfast. Post prandial plasma glucose and blood pressure before and after the intervention were recorded. Descriptive statistics and paired t-test were used to analyze the study data.

Results: Fifty patients participated in the present study, 11 were males and 39 females. They had a mean age of 63.1 years (range 42-80). The present study revealed that SKT1 significantly reduced levels of postprandial plasma glucose by 19.26 + 30.99 mg/dl, (p < 0.001) in the second visit, and 17.64 + 25.48 mg/dl, (p < 0.001) in third week visit. Furthermore, systolic blood pressure in the second visit was significantly decreased by 6.49 + 11.77 mmHg, (p < 0.001). Diastolic blood pressure in the third visit was also significantly decreased by 3.04 + 9.79 mmHg, (p < 0.05).

Conclusion: The present study showed that SKT1 practice in type 2 diabetic patients had a post prandial hypoglycemic effect and a slight reduction to systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Journal Reference:

Sompong Chaiopanont, (2008) Hypoglycemic effect of sitting breathing meditation exercise on type 2 diabetes at Wat Khae Nok primary health center in Nonthaburi Province, J Med Assoc Thai, 91 (1), 93 – 97.