Soaking in a hot bath could help control type 2 diabetes, according to new research.
A Leicester and Loughborough research team reports that taking a bath can reduce peak blood sugar levels by 10 per cent. They also found energy expenditure levels can be increased by 80 per cent, burning 126 calories per hour.
Dr Steve Faulkner, who is a post-doctoral research associate for the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester-Loughborough Diet, Lifestyle and Physical Activity Biomedical Research Unit (BRU), led the study.
He wanted to find out whether there were any alternatives to exercising which could help people maintain better blood sugar levels.
He 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.”
Dr Faulkner, who is from Loughborough University, compared an hour-long hot bath with the same period of cycling and discovered the less strenuous activity provided some surprising benefits.
He added: “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. 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 glucose uptake controlled by insulin.
“However, although these findings are interesting, we would always encourage increased physical activity and exercise as the best way to maintain good health.”
The study involved 10 sedentary males who wore continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) to record changes in their blood sugar levels and bathed in a 40˚C bath. 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 the results suggested the increase was nowhere near as high as exercise, the bath did result in an 80 per cent increase in energy expenditure. The hot bath also showed 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 type 2 diabetes population.

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