Strong correlation between diet and mindfulness practices

Tannenbaum, S. L., et al. (2014). Mindful Vegetarians. In 142nd American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting and Exposition (November 15-November 19, 2014).

From the Abstract. Vegetarian diets are a lifestyle choice made for various reasons, including health. Mindfulness practices may encourage lifestyle choices through cultivating awareness. This study explores the association between mindfulness practice and vegetarianism.

Nationally representative data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) Alternative Medicine Supplement (years 2002, 2007, 2012) were pooled for adults aged 18+. For the previous 12-month period, participants were asked if they followed a vegetarian diet for at least 2-weeks, and if they engaged in mindfulness-based practices such as yoga and meditation (n=67,625). Yoga/meditation practice information was combined into the following categories: 1) neither, 2) yoga only, 3) meditation only, 4) both. Analyses were adjusted for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, survey year, and complex survey design effects.

The prevalence of yoga, meditation, and vegetarian diet was 7.5%, 7.6%, and 1.9%, respectively. Compared to participants not engaged in either practice in the past 12-months, individuals practicing only yoga were more likely to be vegetarian. Those practicing both were most likely to have been vegetarian within the past year.

There may be many reasons why mindfulness practitioners tend to be vegetarians, as such practice might increase one’s compassion towards other beings (animals), a desire to decrease environmental impact, and as a manifestation of self-care. Regardless, given such a strong correlation between diet and mindfulness practices, both factors should be considered in health outcome and mortality lifestyle.

Meditation for migraines

Wells, R. E., et al. (2014). Meditation for Migraines: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain. Epub ahead of print.

From the Abstract: Our objective was to assess the safety, feasibility, and effects of the standardized 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course in adults with migraines.

Stress is a well-known trigger for headaches. Research supports the general benefits of mind/body interventions for migraines, but there are few rigorous studies supporting the use of specific standardized interventions. MBSR is a standardized 8-week mind/body intervention that teaches mindfulness meditation/yoga. Preliminary research has shown MBSR to be effective for chronic pain syndromes, but it has not been evaluated for migraines.

We conducted a randomized controlled trial with 19 episodic migraineurs randomized to either MBSR (n = 10) or usual care (n = 9). Our primary outcome was change in migraine frequency from baseline to initial follow-up. Secondary outcomes included change in headache severity, duration, self-efficacy, perceived stress, migraine-related disability/impact, anxiety, depression, mindfulness, and quality of life from baseline to initial follow-up.

CONCLUSIONS: MBSR is safe and feasible for adults with migraines. Although the small sample size of this pilot trial did not provide power to detect statistically significant changes in migraine frequency or severity, secondary outcomes demonstrated this intervention had a beneficial effect on headache duration, disability, self-efficacy, and mindfulness.

Review of mindfulness meditation as a self-help treatment for anxiety and depression

Edenfield, T. M., & Saeed, S. A. (2012). An update on mindfulness meditation as a self-help treatment for anxiety and depression. Psychology research and behavior management, 5, 131. Full text.

Abstract: In recent years, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments have increased in popularity. This is especially true for treatments that are related to exercise and mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) in the treatment of both mental and physical illness. MBIs, such as Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which are derived from ancient Buddhist and Yoga philosophies, have become popular treatments in contemporary psychotherapy.

While there is growing evidence that supports the role of these interventions in relapse prevention, little is known about the role that MBIs play in the treatment of acute symptoms of depression and anxiety. Even less is known about the importance of specific components of MBIs (eg, mindfulness meditation [MM]) and the overall impact that these interventions have on the experience or expression of psychological distress. Moreover, few studies have rigorously evaluated the dose-response relationship that is required to effect positive symptom change and the mechanisms of change that are responsible for observed improvements.

This review will define meditation and mindfulness, discuss the relationship between stress and health and how MM relates to therapeutically engaging the relaxation response, and review the empirical findings that are related to the efficacy of MM in the treatment of depression and anxiety symptoms. Given the paucity of research that examines the applications of these treatments in clinical populations, the limitations of applying these findings to clinical samples will be mentioned.

A brief review of the issues related to the possible mechanisms of change and the dose-response relationship regarding MBIs, particularly MM, will be provided. Finally, limitations of the extant literature and future directions for further exploration of this topic will be offered.

Improves stress symptoms in women with breast cancer

Carlson, L. E., et al. (2013). Randomized Controlled Trial of Mindfulness-Based Cancer Recovery Versus Supportive Expressive Group Therapy for Distressed Survivors of Breast Cancer (MINDSET). Journal of Clinical Oncology, 31(25), 3119-3126. Excerpts from Abstract:

Purpose. To compare the efficacy of the following two empirically supported group interventions to help distressed survivors of breast cancer cope: mindfulness-based cancer recovery (MBCR) and supportive-expressive group therapy (SET).

Patients and Methods. This multisite, randomized controlled trial assigned 271 distressed survivors of stage I to III breast cancer to MBCR, SET, or a 1-day stress management control condition. MBCR focused on training in mindfulness meditation and gentle yoga, whereas SET focused on emotional expression and group support. Both intervention groups included 18 hours of professional contact. Measures were collected at baseline and after intervention by assessors blind to study condition. Primary outcome measures were mood and diurnal salivary cortisol slopes. Secondary outcomes were stress symptoms, quality of life, and social support.

Results. Women in MBCR improved more over time on stress symptoms compared with women in both the SET and control groups. Per-protocol analyses showed greater improvements in the MBCR group in quality of life compared with the control group and in social support compared with the SET group.

Reduces stress and depression in family caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients

Danucalov, M.A.D., et al. (2013). A Yoga and Compassion Meditation Program Reduces Stress in Familial Caregivers of Alzheimer’s Disease Patients. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, online. Full text.

From the Abstract: Familial caregivers of patients with Alzheimer’s disease exhibit reduced quality of life and increased stress levels. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of an 8-week yoga and compassion meditation program on the perceived stress, anxiety, depression, and salivary cortisol levels in familial caregivers.

A total of 46 volunteers were randomly assigned to participate in a stress-reduction program for a 2-month period (yoga and compassion meditation program—YCMP group, or an untreated group for the same period of time (control group). The levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and morning salivary cortisol of the participants were measured before and after intervention. The groups were initially homogeneous; however, after intervention, the groups diverged significantly. The YCMP group exhibited a reduction of the stress, anxiety, and depression levels, as well as a reduction in the concentration of salivary cortisol.

Our study suggests that an 8-week yoga and compassion meditation program may offer an effective intervention for reducing perceived stress, anxiety, depression, and salivary cortisol in familial caregivers.

Brief chair yoga or guided meditation improve markers of stress

Melville, G. W., et al. (2012). Fifteen Minutes of Chair-Based Yoga Postures or Guided Meditation Performed in the Office Can Elicit a Relaxation Response. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. (Abstract]. Published online. Read full text.

This study compared acute (15 min) yoga posture and guided meditation practice, performed seated in a typical office workspace, on physiological and psychological markers of stress. Twenty participants completed three conditions: yoga, meditation, and control (i.e., usual work) separated by ≥24 hrs. Yoga and meditation significantly reduced perceived stress versus control, and this effect was maintained postintervention. Yoga increased heart rate while meditation reduced heart rate versus control.

Respiration rate was reduced during yoga and meditation versus control. Domains of heart rate variability were significantly reduced during control versus yoga and meditation. Systolic and diastolic blood pressure were reduced secondary to meditation versus control only. Physiological adaptations generally regressed toward baseline postintervention.

In conclusion, yoga postures or meditation performed in the office can acutely improve several physiological and psychological markers of stress. These effects may be at least partially mediated by reduced respiration rate.

Convincing evidence

Elkins, G., et al. (2010). Mind-body therapies in integrative oncology. [Abstract]. Current Treatment Options in Oncology, 11(3-4):128-40.

There is growing interest in mind-body therapies as adjuncts to mainstream cancer treatment, and an increasing number of patients turn to these interventions for the control of emotional stress associated with cancer. … [A] growing number of well-designed studies provide convincing evidence that mind-body techniques are beneficial adjuncts to cancer treatment.

Note: The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services defines mind-body medicine as the

  • interactions among the brain, the rest of the body, the mind, and behavior;
  • ways in which emotional, mental, social, spiritual, experiential, and behavioral factors can directly affect health.