Metabolic and Immunologic Effects of Meditation (SHINE) and Cell Aging Supplement Study

sunAchieving weight loss for obesity is successful for many individuals using a variety of nutritional approaches. What has proved much more difficult is maintaining weight loss. The UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine is testing whether adding training in mindful-eating and mindful walking to current state-of-the-art nutrition and exercise practices improves initial weight loss and maintenance of weight loss for obesity. The enhanced intervention draws on mindfulness-based meditation and Tai Chi traditions, but adapts them to ensure the program is practical, easy to learn, and works for broad audiences.

As an additional component of this study, we are testing whether mind-body practice influences cellular aging processes, such as telomere length. This work, performed in conjunction with UCSF Nobel Prize winner Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, builds on her research and other experts in cellular aging at UCSF that suggests that chronic stress accelerates cellular aging.

The overall model we are testing hypothesizes that by increasing awareness of automatic eating behaviors and hunger and satiety cues, participants can more easily maintain weight loss without relying as heavily on calorie counting. The study is also testing whether mindful walking approaches lead to more consistent practice of a walking exercise program. The study was recently featured as one of the innovative approaches to weight loss on the HBO documentary Weight of the Nation.

The enhanced intervention arm also aims at improving stress-management skills. This is aimed not only at stress eating behaviors, but at the concept that, in persons with obesity, stress hormone patterns may contribute to key ill-health effects including insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and increased inflammation. The study includes detailed studies of stress hormone patterns and fat distribution to further test these connections and assess whether the enhanced intervention program leads to a healthier pattern of fat distribution.

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