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J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Mar;15(3):297-303. doi: 10.1089/acm.2008.0156.

Acute effects of stress-reduction Interactive Guided Imagery(SM) on salivary cortisol in overweight Latino adolescents.

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Department of Pediatrics, Preventive Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90033, USA.



Chronic stress with relative hypercortisolism has been associated with metabolic disease risk. Stress-reduction interventions may therefore hold promise for reducing such chronic disease risk in obese youth. The purpose of this study was to conduct a 4-week pilot intervention to determine whether stress-reduction Interactive Guided Imagery(SM) (IGI) could serve as an acceptable and effective stress-reduction modality in overweight Latino adolescents.


Subjects (6 male/6 female, ages 14-17, body-mass index >95th percentile) were randomly assigned to the experimental guided imagery group (IGI, n = 6), or the nonintervention control group (C, n = 6). IGI subjects received four weekly 45-minute stress-reduction IGI sessions. Salivary cortisol was assessed immediately before and after each session. Acceptability was assessed by compliance and 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 IGI versus C (p = 0.007). Effect sizes of cortisol change in IGI group were moderate to very high in the four sessions.


We conclude that IGI may be feasible and effective in acutely reducing salivary cortisol levels in overweight Latino adolescents. Future studies will need to determine whether stress-reduction IGI can result in longer-term reductions in chronic stress and measures of HPA activity.

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