A Look at Stress, Diabetes, and the Brain: What Are We Learning, and Can Yoga Offer a Solution?

Two articles in Evidence-Based Diabetes Management examine the relationships among stress, diabetes and the brain, and the growing body of research into yoga's positive effects on reducing stress and improving health.


A Look at Stress, Diabetes, and the Brain: What Are We Learning, and Can Yoga Offer a Solution?

PLAINSBORO, N.J. — Physicians and researchers are understanding more about how stress affects the brain, the body, and the severity of diabetes, and the most recent issue of Evidence-Based Diabetes Management takes a look at these relationships through the eyes of two Duke University researchers who have been studying them for three decades: Mark Feinglos, MD, and Richard Surwit, PhD. For the full story, click here.

The collaboration of a medical doctor and a psychologist to get at the mechanisms driving the epidemics of diabetes and obesity shouldn’t seem so unusual. But medicine—in practice and especially in reimbursement—tends to separate the brain and body. Drs. Feinglos and Surwit have worked against that tide to learn a great deal, some of which has been translated into new therapies.

Their interview in Evidence-Based Diabetes Management, a news publication of The American Journal of Managed Care, is accompanied by a story on the increase in scholarly work on the effects of yoga, including yoga therapy. Yoga is increasingly embraced by medical professionals as an alternative treatment to relieve stress or pain, and promote wellness. The number of research articles on yoga listed on PubMed has jumped six-fold over the past decade, and the insurer Aetna has even sponsored a story on yoga’s effects on its employees taking part in a wellness program. However, reimbursement for yoga by health insurers remains elusive.

Among the insights offered by Drs. Feinglos and Surwit:

  • An exploration of how the brain and central nervous system are involved in the etiology of diabetes suggests that something goes awry in the neurologic control of blood glucose that makes a person at risk for developing diabetes. Further studies may yield information on how existing drugs could be used to aid those with type 2 diabetes, particularly those who are obese.
  • Stress doesn’t affect everyone the same way. By itself, it will not cause diabetes, but it can speed up the disease process for those whose body characteristics put them at risk for diabetes or other ailments linked to stress.
  • Addressing how stress affects diabetes is difficult because it is time-consuming, and today’s primary care physicians are sorely pressed for time. A diabetic person who might benefit from seeing a nutritionist or a mental health professional to alleviate stress—and improve other health indicators—may or may not be referred to these specialists.
  • Fat intake has an important role in glucose management, and caffeine’s effects on diabetes are not yet fully understood.

CONTACT: Mary Caffrey (609) 716-7777 x 144



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