Tai chi shows promise for managing diabetes
Tue Apr 8, 2008 11:43am EDT
By Amy Norton
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – The ancient art of tai chi may help in
controlling or lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes, two small studies
In one study, Taiwanese researchers found that tai chi helped lower
long-term blood sugar levels in 30 middle-aged adults with type 2
diabetes. In the second, an Australian team found that a combination of
tai chi and qigong benefited 11 adults at risk of type 2 diabetes.
Both tai chi and qigong (pronounced “chee-kung”) are ancient Chinese
practices designed to promote good health. Qigong combines gentle
movements, meditation and breathing techniques; tai chi involves slow,
fluid movements combined with mental imagery and deep breathing.
Both are moderate, low-impact activities, and recent studies suggest
that older adults could reap a number of health benefits from tai chi,
such as lower blood pressure, a reduced fall risk and improved arthritis
The new studies, both published online by the British Journal of Sports
Medicine, suggest that tai chi might aid in managing type 2 diabetes or
metabolic syndrome — a collection of risk factors for diabetes, heart
disease and stroke.
For the first study, Dr. Kuender Yang and colleagues at Chang Gung
Memorial Hospital followed 30 middle-aged and older adults with type 2
diabetes, each of whom was matched with a diabetes-free “control” of the
same age and sex. For 12 weeks, participants attended an hour-long tai
chi class three times per week.
At the end of the study, Yang’s team found that the diabetes’ patients
showed a reduction in their average HbA1c level — a measure of
long-term blood sugar control.
In the second study, Dr. Xin Liu and colleagues at the University of
Queensland looked at the effects of a specially designed tai chi/qigong
program among 11 middle-aged to older adults with elevated blood sugar.
Seven of them also had metabolic syndrome, including high blood
pressure, abdominal obesity, unhealthy cholesterol and triglyceride
levels, and impaired blood sugar control.
The researchers found that, after 12 weeks, participants showed a dip in
both their average blood pressure level and waist size. There was also a
small improvement in blood sugar control.
The findings are “very promising,” Liu told Reuters Health. The
researcher added, however, that this was only a small pilot study.
What’s needed, Liu explained, are randomized controlled clinical trials,
where participants are randomly assigned to either perform tai
chi/qigong or serve as a comparison group. Liu’s team has just completed
such a study, but the results are not available yet.
SOURCE: British Journal of Sports Medicine, online April 1, 2008.
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