It sounds crazy, but sitting in a hot tub might actually help you fight off serious diseases, like hypertension and diabetes.
Type II diabetes is now considered an American epidemic: one out of 10 people over the age of 20 have diabetes. Current trends suggest that one out of three children born after 2000 will develop diabetes during his or her life according to the Diabetes Partnership of Cleveland. There is a pressing need, now more than ever, to find ways to combat type II diabetes.
Let’s hop in our hot tub time machine and travel back to 1999:
Philip L. Hooper, M.D., published a study in the most impactful journey in medicine, the New England Journal of Medicine, about the effect of “hot tub therapy” on his diabetic patients. His medical approach: have them sit neck-deep in a hot tub for 30 minutes, six times a week.
Incredibly after three weeks of hot tubbing, the average patient experienced a significant decrease in blood glucose levels. One man had to reduce his insulin medication by almost 18% to prevent his blood sugar from dropping too low.
Sitting in a hot tub either increased the effectiveness of the insulin or caused glucose uptake by different insulin-independent mechanism, similar to the effects of exercise. But nobody actually knows the answer, because nobody followed through.
Instead, two scientists published replies essentially saying “Nice try, but hot tubs can be lethal.” There are bacteria (pseudomonas) that grow in hot tubs that can kill you, and patients with diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage) can unknowingly burn themselves. Their bottom line was – putting diabetics in ahot tub was a bad idea.
Shortly after his publication, Hooper must have found out about the heat shock response and about heat shock proteins. To know what this is, we need to send our hot tub time machine further back to 1962.
Fifty years ago, in Pavia, Italy, it was a young artist by the name of Ferruccio Ritossa who accidentally discovered the heat shock response. While taking a course in molecular genetics, one of the other students changed the temperature of his drosophila (fruit fly) incubator to higher than it should have been.
When Ferruccio examined the drosophila chromatin, he noticed it was changing in a way that makes DNA more accessible to be copied, or transcribed. He figured out it was being caused by the increase in temperature. Last tear, Virginia Vega, Ph.D, and Laura Alexander, M.D., from UCSD demonstrated that the heat shock response improves the condition of non-obese diabetic mice.
This stress response can be activated by sitting in a hot tub, trauma, exposure to metals, free radicals, exercise and even alcohol. No, you shouldn’t go out and get drunk after reading this, just like you shouldn’t ingest harmful metals, but it’s definitely food for thought!
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