A hot bath could help control type 2 diabetes, a Loughborough researcher has discovered.
Dr Steve Faulkner investigated whether there were any alternatives to exercise which could assist people in maintaining the condition.
He compared an hour long hot bath with the same period of cycling and discovered the less strenuous activity provided some surprising benefits.
Dr Faulkner, from the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences at Loughborough University and Post-Doctoral Research Associate for the Leicester-Loughborough Diet, Lifestyle and Physical Activity Biomedical Research Unit (BRU), said: “We discovered the participants who bathed had, on average, 10 per cent lower peak glucose levels in comparison to the exercise, which was completely unexpected.
“The amount our blood sugar rises after a meal is one of the risk markers for things like developing type 2 diabetes, so keeping it down can be good for our health.”
Dr Faulkner added: “We think the reason is that the bath may encourage the release of heat shock proteins, which may help lower blood sugar levels by improving insulin controlled glucose uptake.
“However, although these findings are interesting, we would always encourage increased physical activity and exercise as the best way to maintain good health.”
The experiment involved 10 sedentary males, who all bathed in 40˚C, while wearing a continuous glucose monitor to record changes in their blood sugar during the subsequent 24 hours.
The same participants also cycled on a separate day – at an intensity that increased their body temperature by 1˚C – to match what happened during their bathing session.
Although nowhere near the increase resulting from exercise, the bath also resulted in an 80 per cent increase in energy expenditure – they were burning on average 126 calories per hour, which is approximately equivalent to a 25-30 minute walk.
Overall, the research suggests that passive heating, such as a bath, can increase the rate people burn calories and may help to reduce blood sugar spikes after eating.
In the long term these findings may assist with weight control and possibly improve control of blood sugar, which would help people with type 2 diabetes.
Further work is planned to extend this study into a diabetes population.
The study was partly funded by the NIHR BRU and the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University.