Improve Metabolism and Reduce the Inflammatory Response with Yoga


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Kick-start your sluggish metabolism by engaging in physical exercise. Yoga moves and poses can help increase your metabolism and help you be more fit.” – Robin Reichert


Metabolic Syndrome is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It generally results from overweight and abdominal obesity and includes high blood pressure, insulin resistance and elevation of plasma cholesterol and triglycerides. It is an important risk factor as it increases the risk of developing type-2 diabetes five-fold and heart attack or stroke three-fold. Metabolic Syndrome incidence has been rising rapidly and it currently affects 34% of U.S. adults. Needless to say this is a major health problem. The good news is that timely treatment can prevent or reverse the risk. The simplest treatment is simply exercise and weight loss.


The immune system is designed to protect the body from threats like stress, infection, injury, and toxic chemicals. One of its tools is the Inflammatory response. This response works quite well for short-term infections and injuries. But when inflammation is protracted and becomes chronic, it can itself become a threat to health. It can produce autoimmune diseases such as colitis, Chron’s disease, arthritis, heart disease, increased cancer risk, lung disease, sleep disruption, gum disease, decreased bone health, psoriasis, and depression. Needless to say chronic inflammation can create major health problems. Indeed, the presence of chronic inflammation is associated with reduced longevity. So, it is important for health to control the inflammatory response, allowing it to do its job in fighting off infection but reducing its activity when no external threat is apparent.


Of course it is far better to prevent Metabolic Syndrome and chronic inflammation in the first place than to treat them later. Exercise can counteract their development and their consequent risks of disease. Yoga has been used to promote health and well-being for thousands of years. It has also been shown to be effective in treating Metabolic Syndrome. Mind-body techniques such as yoga, Tai Chi and meditation have been shown to adaptively reduce the inflammatory response. Most of these results were obtained from treating diseased individuals. It is important to establish if yoga can be effective in preventing Metabolic Syndrome and chronic inflammation through practice by healthy individuals.


In today’s Research News article “Effects of 8-Week Hatha Yoga Training on Metabolic and Inflammatory Markers in Healthy, Female Chinese Subjects: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” See:

or see summary below or view the full text of the study at:

Chen and colleagues recruited healthy women and randomly assigned them to either receive Hatha yoga practice for 8-weeks, twice a week for 60 minutes, or a control condition. Before and after the 8-week practice they had fasting blood drawn and clinical markers of insulin, glucose, triacylglycerol, HDL-cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, and total cholesterol, and inflammation markers of plasma cytokines and endothelial microparticles measured.


They found that yoga practice produced a significant reduction in Metabolic Syndrome indicators; plasma insulin, total cholesterol, and LDL-C, and insulin resistance levels, and also inflammation indicators; endothelial microparticles, proinflammatory cytokines, and inflammatory signaling proteins. Thus, yoga practice appears to reduce circulating markers of Metabolic Syndrome and also the inflammatory response.


These are exciting and significant results. Keep in mind that the intervention consisted of a total of only 16 hours of gentle Hatha yoga over 8 weeks. So, it doesn’t seem to require intensive long-term practice to produce these benefits. Yet, the yoga improved markers that indicate a significant reduction in the risk of Metabolic Syndrome and a reduction in chronic inflammation. This suggests that yoga practice can prevent physiological reactions that lead to disease and thus could promote health and well-being.


So, improve health by improving metabolism and reducing the inflammatory response with yoga.


“We think improved sleep could be part of the mechanism of what we were seeing. When women were sleeping better, inflammation could have been lowered by that. Reducing fatigue enables women to engage in other activities over time. So yoga may have offered a variety of benefits in addition to the yoga exercises themselves.” – Janice Kiecolt-Glaser


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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Study Summary

Chen, N., Xia, X., Qin, L., Luo, L., Han, S., Wang, G., … Wan, Z. (2016). Effects of 8-Week Hatha Yoga Training on Metabolic and Inflammatory Markers in Healthy, Female Chinese Subjects: A Randomized Clinical Trial. BioMed Research International, 2016, 5387258.



We aimed to determine the effects of an 8 wk Hatha yoga training on blood glucose, insulin, lipid profiles, endothelial microparticles (EMPs), and inflammatory status in healthy, lean, and female Chinese subjects. A total of 30 healthy, female Chinese subjects were recruited and randomized into control or yoga practice group. The yoga practice included 8 wks of yoga practice (2 times/wk) for a total of 16 times. Fasting blood samples were collected before and after yoga training. Plasma was isolated for the measurement of lipid profiles, glucose, insulin, EMPs, and inflammatory cytokines. Whole blood was cultured ex vivo and stimulated with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and Pam3Cys-SK4. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were isolated for the measurement of TLR2 and TLR4 protein expression. Yoga practice significantly reduced plasma cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, insulin levels, and CD31+/CD42b− EMPs. Cultured whole blood from the yoga group has reduced proinflammatory cytokines secretion both at unstimulated condition and when stimulated with Pam3Cys-SK4; this might be associated with reduced TLR2 protein expression in PBMCs after yoga training. Hatha yoga practice in healthy Chinese female subjects could improve hallmarks related to MetS; thus it can be considered as an ancillary intervention in the primary MetS prevention for the healthy population.


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