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Saturday 26th May 2018

Tai Chi 'helps diabetes'

1st April 2008

Two new studies have linked significant improvements in people with type 2 diabetes following a course of Tai Chi, the traditional Chinese martial arts-based exercise routine.


One study looked at the effect on 30 patients with type 2 diabetes of a 12-week programme of Tai Chi, which combines diaphragmatic breathing and relaxation with soft, martial arts-based movements.

They measured levels of glycated haemoglobin in the group, contrasting it with a group of 30 healthy people of the same age. In the Tai Chi group, glycated haemoglobin levels fell from 7.59% to 7.16% in the diabetic patients, a significant difference, the researchers said.

They also found increased in interleukin-12, which boosts immune response, and decreases in interleukin-4, which weakens it, together with a significant increase in helper T cell immune system activity.

Tai Chi is considered to be moderate exercise, which has previously been shown to improve immune system response, while strenuous physical activity depresses it.

The exercise form has also been shown to improve respiratory and cardiovascular function, while improving flexibility and relieving stress.

Type 2 diabetes is associated with chronic inflammation cause by increase glucose levels in the blood, known as hyperglycaemia, a process which produces glycated haemoglobin. This can be used to indicate the levels of excess sugars.

Researchers did not conclude exactly how the effect was obtained, but speculated that Tai Chi improves blood glucose metabolism, muting the inflammatory response. Alternatively, it might boost fitness levels and a feeling of well-being, also boosting immune system health.

Investigators in a second study focused on adults with metabolic syndrome, which includes hypertension and high blood glucose, both of which are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Thirteen patients with metabolic syndrome were given a 12-week programme of Tai Chi and Qigong exercises, exercising for up to 1.5 hours up to three times a week.

Participants were found to have lost an average of 3 kilogrammes, have lost 3 centimetres from their waist measurements and measured significantly decreased blood pressures, far more than would be accounted for by exercise alone, the study found.

Insulin resistance also fell, while participants reported better quality sleep, more energy, less pain, and fewer food cravings. At the end of the trial, three patients no longer met the criteria for metabolic syndrome.

The studies were reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

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