Bastyr Study Indicates Qigong May Help People with Type 2 Diabetes

A team of scientists from the Bastyr University Research Institute has completed the first three-armed randomized, controlled clinical trial research study examining the impact of qigong therapy on type 2 diabetes. The findings — which show qigong may help lower some of the markers associated with type 2 diabetes — are published in the January 2010 issue of Diabetes Care, the official American Diabetes Association journal. Bastyr University is an international leader in natural health arts and science education, research and clinical service.

Qigong, a subtle, energy-based system of stationary and moving meditation, has been practiced in China for almost 5,000 years. It was introduced to the United States as energy medicine by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and National Institute of Health (NIH) more than two decades ago. It is quickly gaining popularity in the West as its potential for improving health becomes more widely recognized.

To examine the effectiveness and feasibility of qigong therapy as a treatment, Bastyr scientists first identified biological and psychological markers associated with adults with type 2 diabetes. The study compared the effects of qigong with those of progressive resistance (resistance exercise) training or usual care in people with type 2 diabetes. Participants assigned to the qigong group practiced for 30 minutes, two times a week for 12 weeks. In addition, participants met with a certified instructor for one hour once a week to ensure the exercises were being done correctly. Those in the progressive resistance training group used resistance exercises for the same amount of time as those in the qigong group. The control group followed their usual care as recommended by their primary care physician. The researchers measured fasting blood glucose levels before, during and at the end of the study, while various hormone levels and perceived stress and depression were measured pre- and post- intervention.

The results showed the qigong therapy group had significantly lower levels of fasting blood glucose and stress, as well as improved ability to use insulin (less insulin resistance). They also lost weight. Participants in the progressive resistance training group reduced body weight slightly, but were found to have higher blood glucose levels. These findings indicate qigong therapy affects glucose levels and insulin resistance independent of changes in body weight and works on different mechanisms than exercise.

"It is thought that the meditation, slowed movement and breathing exercises associated with qigong promote relaxation and reduce stress, which may improve how the body functions," said Guan-Cheng Sun, PhD, assistant research scientist at Bastyr University and the study's principal investigator. "Qigong may also play a role in restoring the mind-body connection and the harmony between the pancreas and the liver. The conclusions of this study promote qigong therapy as a significant treatment method for type 2 diabetes. These findings have the potential to change and improve the lives of millions who live with this disease everyday."

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