Scientific Research

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning.” –Albert Einstein

IQ&IM is dedicated to evidence-based and outcomes-based education and practices. To this end, we critically evaluate the scientific evidence for modalities that we offer and conduct on-going clinical research at the Institute on qigong, energy medicine, nutrition, mind-body medicine and TCM.

Lifestyle and Health

Obesity and type 2 diabetes Mellitus (T2DM) are health conditions that can substantially diminish quality of life, decrease life expectancy, and increase health problems and healthcare costs. Obesity is generally associated with a body mass index of 30 and above, and increases the risk for T2DM through induction of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance in muscle, liver and fat is a prominent feature of most patients with T2DM and obesity, resulting in a reduced response of these tissues to insulin. The incidence of obesity and T2DM continues to rise by epidemic proportions. Obesity and T2DM have rapidly emerged as a global health crisis. Because population-level genetic changes take many generations to occur, this epidemic is almost certainly primarily a consequence of recent environmental changes; nonetheless, T2DM does appear to occur preferentially in genetically predisposed populations, which suggests that the effects of pre-existing susceptibility genes have been triggered by recent shifts in non-genetic factors. The environment has great biological impact on human health and disease. There is a growing body of literature suggesting a role for epigenetic factors in the complex interplay between genes and the environment, particularly in common complex disorders, like obesity and T2DM. Studies have demonstrated that nutrients can reverse or change epigenetic phenomena such as DNA methylation and histone modifications, thereby modifying the expression of critical genes associated with physiologic and pathologic processes, including aging, and carcinogenesis. Chronic conditions such as obesity and T2DM are, in varying degrees, associated with unhealthy lifestyle and behavior, including tobacco use, nutritional excesses, lack of physical activity, and heightened exposure to stress. Recent studies have shown lifestyle intervention to be significantly more effective than metformin in reducing the incidence of T2DM. Personalized healthy lifestyle modifications may have the potential to alter the epigenome and to prevent or reverse obesity and T2DM-related epigenetic abnormalities, thereby promoting healing and the quality of people’s lives.

Qigong Research

The Effects of Yi Ren Medical Qigong on Type 2 Diabetes and Body Weight
–Preliminary Studies

During Dr. Sun’s T32 postdoctoral training period, he successfully completed a randomized controlled clinical pilot trial of Yi Ren Medical Qigong (YRMQ) in participants with type 2 diabetes (T2D). In order to explore the feasibility and benefits of applying YRMQ in treating T2D, he conducted a pilot RCT study at Bastyr University, Kenmore, WA in 2007-2008. The 12-week pilot randomized controlled trial (RCT) study used a three-arm design, with age and gender matched participants randomly assigned to one of three groups. Of the 251 phone-screened participants, 46 participants were evaluated at Bastyr University. Among them, 14 did not meet the inclusion criteria, and 32 qualified participants were randomized to the study. Group 1 (11 participants) received standard care plus the MQ (Medical Qigong) intervention, Group 2 (10 participants) were a standard care control group, and Group 3 (11 participants) received standard care plus Progressive Resistance Training (PRT) intervention as an active control group. Weekly one-hour qigong group sessions and one-hour PRT group sessions were held by a certified qigong and PRT instructor, respectively. In addition, participants in the YRMQ group and the PRT group were requested to practice at home twice a week, thirty minutes per session, using an instructional DVD. Participants were asked to maintain their conventional diabetes care, including medications, diet and exercise during the intervention period.

We evaluated changes in both clinical laboratory risk factors (e.g., fasting blood glucose, insulin), and participant-centered outcomes including Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). MQ practice for 12 weeks resulted in significant reductions in fasting glucose (See Figure 8) and demonstrated trends toward improvement in insulin resistance in patients with type 2 diabetes (Sun et al., 2010).

Changes in Glucose Levels After 12 Week Qigong Regimen
Click to view larger image in new tab.

YRMQ practice also significantly decreased perceived stress by 29.3 percent (p<0.05) (See Figure 9), and decreased depression scores by 14.3% (NS). PRT tended to decrease perceived stress scores (-18.6%; NS) and significantly decreased depression scores by 50 percent (p=0.03). The usual care control group did not have any significant change in their level of stress (-2.8%; NS) or depression scores (+2.0%; NS) [Putiri et al, 2012]. Second analysis showed an interesting phenomenon n the YRMQ group: there was a tendency for patients with high baseline BMI values to experience weight loss and patients with lower baseline BMI values to experience weight gain (see Figure 10 A).

Weight Loss After 12 Week Qigong Regimen
A) BMI values for each patient at the baseline and the end of the intervention. B) The means and standard deviations of differences of BMI values of the three groups. ** represents statistic significance (p<0.05). Click to view larger image in new tab. 

The findings of the recent analysis of the YRMQ intervention were associated with trends in weight loss, BMI reduction and improvement of insulin resistance (see the Figure 11) in people with type 2 diabetes (Sun et al., 2014).

HOMA-IR-values
A) HOMA-IR scores for each patient at the baseline and the end of the intervention (week 12). B) the means and standard deviations of differences of HOMA-IR scores of the three groups. Click to view larger image in new tab. 

These results suggest that YRMQ may be an effective complementary therapy for type 2 diabetes. This low-cost practice as an adjunct part of a program of treatment may play an important role in type 2 diabetes care.

References:

  • 1. Sun GC, Lovejoy J, Gillham S, Putiri A, Sasagawa M, and Bradley R. The Effects of Qigong on Glucose Control in Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Study. Diabetes Care, 2010. 33(1):e8. PMID: 20040671.
  • 2. Putiri AL, Lovejoy JC, Gillham S, Sasagawa M, Bradley R, Sun GC. The Psychological Effects of Yi Ren Medical Qigong in Adults with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Study. Altern Ther Health Med. 2012 Jan-Feb;18(1):30-4. PMID: 22516850.
  • 3. Sun GC, Ding XB, Zhou XH, Putiri A, and Bradley R. Effects of Yi Ren Medical Qigong on Body Weight in People with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Secondary Analysis of a Randomized Controlled Pilot Study. J Integrative Med Ther. 2014;1(1): 5.