Researchers from the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles conducted a 4-week pilot study to determine whether Interactive Guided Imagery could be effective for stress reduction (and therefore reduce the metabolic disease risk associated with obesity and hypercortisolism) in overweight Latino adolescents.

Six male and six female subjects, ages 14-17, with a body-mass index over the 95th percentile, were randomly assigned to the experimental guided imagery group (IGI, n = 6), or the nonintervention control group (C, n = 6).

The intervention group received four weekly 45-minute stress-reduction IGI sessions. Salivary cortisol was assessed immediately before and after each session. Acceptability was assessed by adherence to the protocol and by qualitative interviews.

Subjects attended all sessions and expressed acceptance of the IGI intervention. There were significant within-group reductions in salivary cortisol in the IGI group in three of the four sessions, and no reductions in cortisol in the control group.

For all four sessions combined, there was a significant between-group effect for the change in salivary cortisol in the imagery group versus the control group (p = 0.007). Effect sizes of the cortisol change in imagery group were moderate to very high in the four sessions.

The researchers conclude that interactive guided imagery may be feasible and effective in acutely reducing salivary cortisol levels in overweight Latino adolescents. Future studies (with a greater number of subjects and placebo controls) will need to determine whether stress-reduction interactive iamgery can result in longer-term reductions in chronic stress and measures of HPA activity.

Citation: Weigensberg MJ, Lane CJ, Winners O, Wright T, Nguyen-Rodriguez S, Goran MI, Spruijt-Metz D. Acute effects of stress-reduction Interactive Guided Imagery(SM) on salivary cortisol in overweight Latino adolescents. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine. 2009 Mar;15 (3): pp.297-303. [email protected] .