Thursday, December 22, 2005

Tai Chi Cures Diabetes!

PM (once a leading current affairs radio programme, now clearly following the ABC trend of dumbing down and pandering to the tabloid masses) broadcast a segment claiming "Tai Chi a promising remedy for diabetes" on 20th December 2005. The report states
A pilot study has shown a combination of the exercises, Tai Chi and Qigong, have produced a host of benefits in diabetes sufferers, after just three months. Along with improvements in their blood sugar levels, participants in the study have reported weight loss, better sleeping patterns and increased energy levels. University of Queensland PhD student, Liu Xin, is now preparing to conduct a larger clinical trial

This rather begs the question: where is the causal link? This was not a controlled study in any way. To demonstrate the high journalistic standards of the reporter you would imagine that someone qualified in diabetes would have been asked to comment on the pilot study (or even the PhD student who conducted it). But no. The best people to explain what's going on, apparently, are two of the participants.
I've had a very dramatic change. My fasting blood sugars went down almost 50 per cent over the 12 weeks, I've lost five kilograms, and I'm less depressed, my skin's glowing as opposed to looking sort of dull.

Qigong has taken away my cravings, the sugar cravings that pre-diabetic people often have, which is why there's a struggle with the weight because you're always craving something that really isn't good for you. So the cravings have stopped and I'm burning up more energy, because I've just got, you know, more energy to use.

No, EoR doesn't know. Define 'more energy'? Can you quantify how much? EoR wonders why further study is required when the process is understood as
There's something in it that targets the key organs to do with diabetes, I think, and that seems to be the process that's been taking place in my body and the bodies of all my classmates who all have a very similar story to tell.

First, EoR presumes that the presence of Qi, how it is measured and improved have all been studied and reported, but he just missed it in the Christmas rush, since the presumtions of the pilot study appear not to be open to question. Like, people exercised a bit, lost some weight, felt better, and improved their health. EoR finds all this plausible and, indeed, admirable. He's just a bit confused about how the Qi did it.

The University of Queensland press release claims "startling results". EoR is also a teensy bit concerned about the size of the study (11 people). Very soon the press release devolves into juju-speak:
It is believed that the 5000-year-old self-healing art helps cleanse the body of toxins, restore energy and reduce stress and anxiety.

EoR repeats ad nauseum: Don't they all.
Mr Liu, who has studied Qigong and Tai Chi for more than 30 years, said the spiral movements of the specially designed exercises could stimulate the muscles more than conventional exercises, leading to greater uptake and utilisation of glucose.

EoR wants to know "specially designed" in what way. How do Mr Liu's exercises specifically target diabetes? By what method? Could it just be that participants were motivated to maintain an exercise program for three months (the hardest part in losing weight is maintaining motivation, not shifting naughty qi), had some attention paid to them and, hence, felt better and lost weight with subsequent, already well understood, effects on their diabetes?

But magic is a far more exciting reason.


  1. For one, last time I checked, Tai Chi isn't 5000 years old. Maybe 1000 or so is more like it.

    The benefits to physical health are comparable to Yoga (you know, strength, balance, flexibility... way into old age) but diabetes? I, too, have my doubts.

    As for mental health, the reason Tai Chi lowers stress and all that, as near as I can figure, has nothing to do with any mystical energy source. What I always tell people who ask is that properly executing the forms in any of the Tai Chi disciplines requires that you concentrate fully on every aspect of your body for ten or more minutes at a time (and I do mean every aspect... if you want to get it right). Ten minutes of not thinking about any normal-life shit can do wonders. No chi required. The benefits of relaxing now and then and clearing your mind cannot be overstated.

    Just my $.02

  2. Why not just ride a bicycle? Lots of (approximately) spiral movement and think of the money you could save.

    Must confess this solution is not 5000 years old.

  3. What's a few thousand years between people pushing magic?

    I also missed that one of the anecdotal acolytes of the therapy stated she is 'pre-diabetic'. So presumably not all of the 11 people in the study even had diabetes!


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.