Taking part in a programme of qigong exercise may be beneficial for people with type-2 diabetes, according to an RCT carried out in Australia. The study included 41 participants with elevated blood glucose levels who were randomised to a qigong exercise intervention or a usual medical care control group. Physical and haematological measures were assessed at baseline and after 12 weeks. At the end of the study period, the results showed significant differences between the groups in favour of tai chi, in terms of body weight, waist circumference and leg strength. In addition, indicators of diabetes control (HbA1c, insulin resistance and fasting blood insulin) were found to have improved significantly more in the tai chi group compared with usual care. (Qi-gong mind-body therapy and diabetes control. A randomized controlled trial. Am J Prey Med. 2011 Aug;41(2):152-8).

A daily dose of cinnamon may improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels in people with type-2 diabetes, according to UK-based research. Fifty-eight people with type-2 diabetes were randomly assigned to receive a daily supplement containing 2g of cinnamon or placebo for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, the results indicated that the cinnamon supplement was associated with a significant decrease in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The results also showed a significant reduction in levels of glycated haemoglobin (a long-term measure of blood sugar levels) over the 12 weeks in the cinnamon group, compared with an increase in the placebo group. (Glycated haemoglobin and blood pressure-lowering effect of cinnamon in multi-ethnic Type2 diabetic patients in the UK: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial. Diabet Med. 2010 Oct;27(10):1159-67).

A systematic review by British authors has concluded that eating a diet rich in green leafy vegetables may lower the risk of developing type-2 diabetes. Combining the results of six studies (a total of more than 220,000 participants), the authors found that eating more fruit and vegetables did not significantly reduce the risk of diabetes, although there was a general trend in that direction. However, meta-analysis suggested that eating an additional one and a half portions of green leafy vegetables (e.g. cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach) daily had the effect of reducing the risk of diabetes by 14%, independent of any effect on weight loss. (Fruit and vegetable intake and incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2010 Aug 18;341:c4229. doi: 10.1136/ bmj.c4229).

Cinnamon bark (Cinnamomi Cortex [Rou Gun) has a potential role in the prevention of many diseases, according to a review by American authors. Recent studies carried out in vitro and in vivo have shown that cinnamon can improve many of the factors associated with development of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, including insulin resistance, elevated glucose and lipids, inflammation, decreased antioxidant activity, weight gain and increased glvcation of proteins. In addition, cinnamon has been shown to alleviate factors associated with Alzheimer’s disease and ischaemic stroke. In vitro studies have also shown that components of cinnamon inhibit angiogenesis associated with cancer cell proliferation. Human studies involving subjects with metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and polycystic ovary syndrome have all show beneficial effects of whole cinnamon and/or aqueous extracts of cinnamon on glucose and lipid levels, insulin sensitivity, antioxidant status, blood pressure, lean body mass and gastric emptying. (Cinnamon: potential role in the prevention of insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes. J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2010 May 1;4(3):685-93).

An American study has found that 12 weeks of qigong therapy resulted in significant reductions in fasting glucose levels in patients with type two diabetes. Thirty-two age- and sex-matched participants, all of whom were taking oral diabetes medication, were randomly assigned to one of three groups. Group one received the qigong intervention, group two served as the control group and group three underwent progressive resistance training (PRT). Participants attended weekly qigong or PRT group sessions (60 minutes per week), in addition to practising twice a week at home for 30 minutes per session. Statistically significant reductions in plasma glucose levels were observed in the qigong group, with all participants in this group showing a reduction in fasting glucose by the end of the intervention. In contrast, both the PRT group and the control group showed increased plasma glucose levels over time. Fasting glucose levels in the qigong group also showed significant improvement compared with those of the PRT group and the control group. The qigong group additionally demonstrated trends toward improvement in insulin resistance and HbA1C (glycosylated haemoglobin) levels. (Effects of Qigong on glucose control in type 2 diabetes: a randomized controlled pilot study. Diabetes Care. 2010 Jan;33(1):e8).

Six months of tai chi can improve glucose control, increase adherence to self-care activities, and lead to a better quality of life in patients with type two diabetes. Korean investigators enrolled 99 type two diabetic patients (with an HbAlc level of six or higher) in the study. All participants received tai chi sessions (19 movements from Yang and Sun styles) twice a week for six months. Sixty-two patients completed the pre- and post-test measures at three and six months. Patients had to attend 80% of the tai chi sessions to achieve desired outcomes. The 31 patients who met this criterion (adherent group) were compared to those who did not (non-adherent group). The results showed that the adherent group had a greater decrease in fasting glucose and HbAlc than the non-adherent group. They also found that the adherent group performed more diabetic self-care activities and had a higher quality of life in measures of social functioning and vitality. (Adhering to a t’ai chi program to improve glucose control and quality of life for individuals with type 2 diabetes. J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Jun;15(6):627-32).

Results from a study carried out in Taiwan suggest that blood glucose levels and peripheral nerve condition in diabetic patients can be improved by 12 weeks of tai chi. Twenty-eight patients with type 2 diabetes and 32 healthy controls participated in tai chi (Cheng style) three times a week for 12 weeks. At the end of the 12 week programme, fasting blood glucose and nerve conduction velocities were found to be significantly improved in diabetic patients. Tai chi did not increase nerve conduction velocities in normal adults. (Effect of 12-week tai chi chuan exercise on peripheral nerve modulation in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. J Rehabil Med. 2009 Nov;41(11):924-9).

Tai chi can improve blood markers of type 2 diabetes. A British case-control study examined the effect of a 12-week programme of tai chi on the T helper cell activity of 30 patients with type 2 diabetes and 30 healthy people of the same age. After 12-weeks, glycated haemoglobin (produced when excess blood sugar combines with the oxygen transported in red blood cells) levels fell significantly in the diabetic patients. Levels of anti-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-12 doubled. Levels of pro-inflammatory interleukin-4 fell. T cell activity also significantly increased. (Regular Tai Chi Chuan exercise improves T cell helper function of type 2 DM patients with an increase in T-bet transcription factor and IL-12 production. Br J Sports Med. 2008 Apr 2 [Epub ahead of print]). In a second study, a 12-week programme of tai chi and qigong prompted a significant fall in blood glucose levels and significant improvements in other indicators of metabolic syndrome in 11 middle-aged to older adults. At the end of 12 weeks, they had lost an average of 3kg in weight and their waist size had dropped by an average of 3cm. Their blood pressure and insulin resistance also improved significantly. Participants said they slept better, had more energy, felt less pain and had fewer food cravings while on the programme. (A preliminary study of the effects of Tai Chi and Qigong medical exercise on indicators of metabolic syndrome and glycaemic control in adults with elevated blood glucose. Br J Sports Med. 2008 Apr 2 [Epub ahead of print]). Two other studies that failed to find benefit on diabetic symptoms from tai chi concluded that the forms of tai chi used might not have been sufficiently intense to produce an effect. (Effects of Tai Chi on glucose homeostasis and insulin sensitivity in older adults with type 2 diabetes: a randomised double-blind sham-exercise-controlled trial. Age Ageing. 2008 Jan;37(1):64-71. Health benefits of Tai Chi for older patients with type 2 diabetes: the “Move It For Diabetes study”- a randomized controlled trial. Clin Interv Aging. 2007;2(3):429-39).

New research suggests that Mormons’ habit of fasting for one day a month may benefit their hearts. A study in Utah, where the religion is based, surveyed 515 elderly people undergoing coronary angiography for suspected heart disease about their lifestyle. Those who fasted were 39% more likely than non-fasters to have a healthy heart. About 8% of those surveyed were not Mormons, and those who regularly fasted were also found to have lower rates of heart disease. The authors speculate that abstaining from food may resensitise pancreatic beta cells to insulin, slowing the development of insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes. Diabetic damage to blood vessels increases the risk of heart disease. (American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions, November 2007).

Practising tai chi may help boost immune function and improve blood sugar control in people with type-2 diabetes. Thirty-two people participated in three hour-long tai chi sessions each week, for a period of 12 weeks. Investigators found statistically significant reductions in levels of glycosylated haemoglobin (A1C) in the blood of participants, indicating improved long-term blood glucose control. Increased numbers of regulatory and killer T-cells were also found.

(Tai Chi Chuan exercise decreases A1C levels along with increase of regulatory T-cells and decrease of cytotoxic T-cell population in type 2 diabetic patients. Diabetes Care. 2007 Mar;30(3):716-8)