Diabetes is a metabolic disease that is prevalent worldwide. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), 34.2 million Americans had diabetes in 2018. An overwhelming chunk of this population is diagnosed with Type 2, the most common form of diabetes.
In the face of this chronic disease, researchers from Augusta University in Georgia and Ohio State University found that whole-body vibration has potential benefits on the bacterial communities in the gut, resulting in reduced inflammation. The vibrations also led to enhanced glucose metabolism.
Their findings, published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, suggest that whole-body vibration can be utilized as a safe therapeutic option for treating high blood sugar and diabetes-related inflammation.
What is whole-body vibration?
Whole-body vibration is a form of therapeutic exercise used to improve overall health in people of all ages. It is often done with the help of a machine designed to produce vibrations at programmed frequencies as the person sits or stands on it.
As the machine vibrates, it sends small waves of energy throughout the entire body. These small energy waves force the muscles to relax and contract a couple of times per second.
Proponents of whole-body vibration therapies claim that the vibrations produced help reduce back pain, protect against bone loss, and improve overall strength and balance in older adults who cannot sustain long periods of conventional exercise.
Whole-body vibration is commonly used as a preventive treatment and rehabilitation tool for people with sarcopenia, a slow and progressive form of muscle loss. Whole-body vibration has also been used to improve osteoporosis, chronic back pain, muscle strength and muscle soreness.
A recent review published in Frontiers in Neurology found that the long-term use of whole-body vibration therapies led to significant improvements in the balance and gait of older adults. Interventions involving the use of whole-body vibration also improved walking performance in stroke patients and in older adults with osteoarthritis.
The role of gut microbiota in health and chronic disease
The gastrointestinal tract is home to billions of beneficial bacteria that aid digestion and metabolism. These bacteria also help immune cells ward off viral, bacterial and fungal pathogens that cause a host of gastrointestinal infections including gastroenteritis, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Some studies have also found that gut microbiota can ease chronic inflammation linked to serious conditions like heart disease and diabetes. (Related: Could inflammation be the core cause of all chronic disease?)
Gut microbiota also support important cellular functions, such as amino acid production and nutrient absorption. In some cases, these bacteria help neutralize toxins and carcinogens that trigger gastrointestinal cancers.
The effects of whole-body vibration on inflammation
Earlier studies have suggested that whole-body vibration might be able to improve gut health, ease chronic inflammation and reverse the effects of high blood sugar in diabetic individuals.
In the current study, the team used a mouse model to understand the mechanisms behind the reported effects of whole-body vibration. They found that the vibrations led to higher numbers of Alistipes, a gut bacterium responsible for glucose metabolism. High levels of Alistipes also decreased chronic inflammation in the gut.
Furthermore, the researchers discovered that the vibrations increased the number of M2 macrophages. These immune cells help regulate the body’s inflammatory response, which tends to be compromised in obese and diabetic individuals. Chronic, low-grade inflammation can also be observed in cancer and heart disease patients.
Based on their findings, the researchers thus concluded that whole-body vibration shows potential as a safe and effective therapeutic treatment of diabetes-related inflammation and glucose intolerance.
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