Numerous studies have shown massage therapy to be an effective means of effecting relaxation and stress reduction.

A new, unrelated research study indicates that stress reduction and mindful eating curb weight gain among overweight women.

In a study by UCSF researchers published online in the Journal of Obesity, mastering simple mindful-eating and stress-reduction techniques helped prevent weight gain even without dieting.

Women in the study who experienced the greatest reduction in stress tended to have the most loss of deep belly fat. To a greater degree than fat that lies just under the skin, this deep abdominal fat is associated with an elevated risk for developing heart disease or diabetes.

“You’re training the mind to notice, but to not automatically react based on habitual patterns—to not reach for a candy bar in response to feeling anger, for example,” said UCSF researcher Jennifer Daubenmier, PhD, from the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine. “If you can first recognize what you are feeling before you act, you have a greater chance of making a wiser decision.”

Daubenmier led the current study with UCSF psychologist Elissa Epel, Ph.D. The study, published online in October, is part of ongoing UCSF research into how stress and the stress hormone cortisol are linked to eating behavior, fat and health.

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