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Tai Chi Beneficial in Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome

Twelve-week course associated with decreases in HbA1c levels and improved immune function

THURSDAY, April 3 (HealthDay News) -- A Tai Chi exercise program may help reduce HbA1c and improve immune function in adults with diabetes, and also may improve indicators of metabolic syndrome in adults, according to two small studies published online April 2 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Shu-Hui Yeh, Ph.D., of the Chang Gung Memorial Hospital-Kaohsiung Medical Center in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and colleagues assigned 30 diabetics and 30 age-matched controls to a 12-week course of Tai Chi Chuan. The researchers found that HbA1c levels in the diabetic patients significantly decreased from 7.59 (0.32) percent at baseline to 7.16 (0.22) percent. They also found that the intervention improved the diabetics' T-cell helper function and increased their levels of T-bet transcription factor and interleukin-12.

Liu Xin, Ph.D., of the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, assigned 11 adults with raised blood glucose levels to a 12-week course of Tai Chi and Qigong. The researchers observed significant improvements in body mass index, waist circumference, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and smaller improvements in HbA1c, fasting insulin and insulin resistance.

"Importantly, three of the seven participants (43 percent) who had metabolic syndrome at pre-intervention no longer met the diagnostic criterion for metabolic syndrome at post-intervention," Xin and colleagues write. "Clearly, the small sample size does not allow us to show any statistical significance but the findings add support to the notion that this kind of exercise may have a role to play in controlling or even perhaps reversing metabolic syndrome in some people."

Abstract - Yeh
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Abstract - Xin
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