Mindfulness-based therapy may help reduce stress, appetite and body weight in children with obesity and anxiety, according to a new study. The results: obese kids who followed a calorie-restricted diet and did mindfulness therapy lost more weight and were less stressed and hungry, than children on a calorie-restricted diet alone.
The findings suggest that mindfulness has potential to help obese children lose more weight through dietary changes, which may help reduce their risk of health issues such as high blood pressure or elevated blood sugar.
Childhood obesity increases the risk of a number of detrimental medical conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, and can also be associated with stress and anxiety. Previous studies suggest many eating disorders associated with obesity, such as binge eating, can be driven by elevated stress levels that make it more difficult to stick to diet regimens.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a psychological technique that uses meditation to increase personal awareness. It has successfully helped reduce stress associated with other diseases, such as cancer and anorexia nervosa. Combining both diet and mindfulness treatment strategies may lead to improved weight loss results in obese children
About the study
For the study, researchers investigated the effect of mindfulness-based therapy on stress, appetite and body weight of children with obesity and anxiety. Children selected for the study completed a questionnaire to measure levels of anxiety and their body mass index was recorded.
A group of 33 children were taught mindfulness skills in 2-hour guided sessions, once a week, for eight weeks, alongside a typical calorie-restricted diet. Another group of 12 children completed an eight week calorie-restricted diet only.
The combined therapy led to significantly greater reductions in weight, anxiety and in levels of two hormones related to stress and appetite, cortisol and ghrelin. The children in the diet-only group experienced an increase in anxiety and a smaller weight reduction.
The results suggest that restricted diets may actually increase anxiety in obese children. However, practicing mindfulness, as well dieting, may counteract this and promote more efficient weight loss.
These findings provide evidence that mindfulness, by reducing appetite and stress hormones, may be useful for managing anxiety and weight in obese children who are on a calorie-restricted diet.
Keep in mind this is preliminary data only. The study was small; it compared just 33 children on the combined therapy with 12 dieting alone.
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