London, Apr 1 : Tai Chi Chuan, the traditional Chinese martial arts exercises, could help curb symptoms of type 2 diabetes, according to a new study.
The study suggested that Tai Chi might prompt a fall in blood glucose levels, or improve blood glucose metabolism, triggering a drop in the inflammatory response, reports the British Medical Journal.
The findings of the study indicate that regular Tai Chi Chuan exercise improves T cell helper function of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus with an increase in T-bet transcription factor and IL-12 production.
T cells are a vital constituent of the body's immune system, which generate powerful chemicals, including interleukins (ILs), which alter the immune response.
For the study, the scientists examined the impact of a 12-week programme of Tai Chi exercises on the T helper cell activity of 30 patients with type 2 diabetes and 30 healthy people of the same age.
The researchers observed that at the end of the 12-week programme, there was a significant fall of 7.59 percent to 7.16 percent in the glycated haemoglobin levels in the diabetic patients. It was found that the levels of interleukin-12, which boosts the immune response, doubled; while the levels of interleukin-4, which suppresses the immune response fell. In addition, there was a significant increase in T cell activity.
The authors of the study said that strenuous physical activity result in disruption of the immune system response, but moderate exercise appears to trigger the opposite effect. Tai Chi is classified as moderate exercise.
Previous research has shown that it boosts cardiovascular and respiratory function, as well as improving flexibility and relieving stress, they added.
Tai Chi may prompt a fall in blood glucose levels, or improve blood glucose metabolism, sparking a drop in the inflammatory response.
In a separate study, a 12 week programme of Tai Chi and Qigong (another Chinese exercise) prompted a significant fall in blood glucose levels and significant improvements in other indicators of the metabolic syndrome in 11 middle aged to older adults.
The metabolic syndrome is a cluster of symptoms, including high blood pressure and high blood glucose that is associated with increased risks of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
The study was published ahead of print in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.