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).

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