Reduce Intake of Sweets and Blood Glucose Levels with Mindful Eating

Reduce Intake of Sweets and Blood Glucose Levels with Mindful Eating


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Mindful eating helps us learn to hear what our body is telling us about hunger and satisfaction. It helps us become aware of who in the body/heart/mind complex is hungry, and how and what is best to nourish it.” – Jan Chozen Bays


Eating is produced by two categories of signals. Homeostatic signals emerge from the body’s need for nutrients and usually work to balance intake with expenditure. Hedonic eating, on the other hand, is not tied to nutrient needs but rather to the pleasurable and rewarding qualities of food. Overeating sweets is a good example. Mindful eating involves paying attention to eating while it is occurring, including attention to the sight, smell, flavors, and textures of food, to the process of chewing and may help reduce intake. Indeed, high levels of mindfulness are associated with lower levels of obesity and mindfulness training has been shown to reduce binge eating, emotional eating, external eating and hedonic eating.


Obesity has become an epidemic in the industrialized world. In the U.S. the incidence of obesity, defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or above has more than doubled over the last 35 years. Currently more than 2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese and around 35% of the population meets the criteria for obesity. Obesity has been found to shorten life expectancy by eight years and extreme obesity by 14 years. This occurs because obesity is associated with cardiovascular problems such as coronary heart disease and hypertension, stroke, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and others. Hence there is a great need to find ways to prevent obesity from occurring and reversing it when it does.


The best available treatment for overweight and obesity is obviously weight loss. But, as anyone who has tried well knows, losing weight with diet and exercise is extremely difficult. So, it is important to identify means to assist with weight loss. In today’s Research News article “Effects of a mindfulness-based intervention on mindful eating, sweets consumption, and fasting glucose levels in obese adults: data from the SHINE randomized controlled trial.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at:

Mason and colleagues examine the effectiveness of mindfulness training in assisting with a diet and exercise weight loss program.


They recruited obese individuals (BMI > 30) and randomly assigned them to receive either a diet and exercise weight loss program supplemented with mindfulness training or diet and exercise only. The weight loss program consisted of a 5.5 month program with modest dietary restriction aimed at reducing intake by 500 Kcal per day and with a program to increase expenditure by increasing daily activity levels and with a structured aerobic exercise program. The mindfulness intervention consisted of a Mindfulness Based Eating Awareness Training  program. involving guided eating meditations and discussion of mindful eating practices of (1) attending to physical hunger, stomach fullness, and taste satisfaction, (2) increasing awareness of these practices in “mini-meditations” prior to meals, and (3) identifying food craving, and emotional and other triggers to eat.” The participants were measured before and after treatment and 6 months later for body weight, mindful eating, eating of sweet foods and deserts, and fasting blood glucose levels.


They found that the mindfulness group demonstrated a significant increase in mindful eating, particularly in eating awareness, that was maintained 6 months after the end of treatment. Eating of sweets and fasting blood glucose levels significantly declined 6-minths after treatment in the mindfulness group while the control group significantly increased. They also found that the change in mindful eating, to a small extent, mediated the influence of mindfulness training on blood glucose levels. The diet and exercise program was moderately successful. At the end of training the mindfulness group lost 5.2 Kg while the control group lost 4.0 Kg. It was disappointing, however, that there was not a significant difference between the groups in body weight reduction. So, although the mindfulness training appeared to be effective in reducing intake of sweets and blood glucose levels, it did not improve weight loss beyond the effects of diet and exercise alone.


This is an excellently designed and executed study with an active control condition. It revealed that supplementing diet and exercise with mindfulness training slightly improves weight loss, but not significantly. It is possible that there was a floor effect where the diet and exercise program produced maximal results for both groups so any effect of mindfulness could not be detected. But, the weight loss was modest and there was plenty of room for greater loss. Hence, it would appear that mindfulness training is a helpful addition to a diet and exercise program, but does not produce major improvements in body weight loss.


So, reduce intake of sweets and blood glucose levels with mindful eating.


“Many of the habits that drive overeating are unconscious behaviors that people have repeated for years, and they act them out without even realizing it. The process of mindfulness allows a person to wake up and be aware of what they’re doing. Once you’re aware, you can change your actions.” – Megrette Fletcher


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary

Mason, A. E., Epel, E. S., Kristeller, J., Moran, P. J., Dallman, M., Lustig, R. H., … Daubenmier, J. (2016). Effects of a mindfulness-based intervention on mindful eating, sweets consumption, and fasting glucose levels in obese adults: data from the SHINE randomized controlled trial. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 39(2), 201–213.



We evaluated changes in mindful eating as a potential mechanism underlying the effects of a mindfulness-based intervention for weight loss on eating of sweet foods and fasting glucose levels. We randomized 194 obese individuals (M age = 47.0 ± 12.7 years; BMI = 35.5 ± 3.6; 78 % women) to a 5.5-month diet-exercise program with or without mindfulness training. The mindfulness group, relative to the active control group, evidenced increases in mindful eating and maintenance of fasting glucose from baseline to 12-month assessment. Increases in mindful eating were associated with decreased eating of sweets and fasting glucose levels among mindfulness group participants, but this association was not statistically significant among active control group participants. Twelve-month increases in mindful eating partially mediated the effect of intervention arm on changes in fasting glucose levels from baseline to 12-month assessment. Increases in mindful eating may contribute to the effects of mindfulness-based weight loss interventions on eating of sweets and fasting glucose levels.

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