Most people with type 2 diabetes are aware of some basic recommendations for keeping blood glucose levels under control — such as taking medications as prescribed, getting enough physical activity and following a healthy diet that doesn’t spike glucose levels.
But a new study highlights a potential tool for blood glucose control that isn’t mentioned very much by doctors, in health and wellness media coverage, or in official recommendations: taking hot baths. What’s more, this study isn’t the first to find an association between regular hot baths and improvements related to diabetes.
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More baths tied to lower HbA1c
The new study, presented online as part of the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD), suggests that regular heat exposure may have a beneficial effect on blood glucose control, as noted in a summary on the study by the journal Diabetologia. While previous studies have shown health benefits associated with heat therapy — such as hot tubs and saunas — in people with diabetes in controlled settings, the latest study is the first to look at the impact of real-world bath-taking habits in a large group of people with diabetes.
For the study, researchers at Kohnodai Hospital in Ichikawa, Japan, gave a questionnaire on bath-taking habits to nearly 1,300 patients with type 2 diabetes. In Japan, taking hot baths or relaxing in a hot tub is a common and traditional part of life, and most people have a bath or hot tub in their home. The results of the questionnaire were then compared with health-related measures taken as part of their regular appointments at the outpatient unit of the hospital.
Based on their responses in the questionnaire, participants were divided into three groups: those who took four or more baths per week, those who took one to four baths per week, and those who took less than one bath per week. On average, participants took a bath 4.2 times per week, with an average duration of 16 minutes.
The researchers found that taking more baths per week was associated with lower HbA1c (a measure of long-term blood glucose control), lower body weight, smaller waist circumference and lower blood pressure. Even after adjusting for factors like age, sex, body-mass index (BMI, a measure of body eight that takes height into account), and use of insulin and oral diabetes drugs, they found that there was still a small but significant link between baths per week and HbA1c — with average HbA1c levels of 7.10%, 7.20% and 7.36% in each of the three bath-taking groups, from the most to the fewest baths .
After adjusting for age and sex, frequency of baths was also independently linked to BMI, with an average BMI of 25.5, 26.0 and 26.7 in each bath-taking group from most to fewest baths. Lower blood pressure was also independently tied to greater bath frequency after adjusting for age, sex, and the number of blood pressure drugs participants took
Should you spend more time in the tub?
The researchers concluded that “daily heat exposure through hot-tub bathing has beneficial influences on cardiovascular risk factors in patients with type 2 diabetes.” While the effect of taking hot baths on your blood glucose control may be minimal, those benefits still appear to be real — and the potential for additional benefits like lower blood pressure and a lower body weight may further reduce your risk for health complications related to diabetes.
Want to learn more about managing blood glucose levels? Read “Blood Sugar Chart: What’s the Normal Range for Blood Sugar?” “Strike the Spike II” and “Understanding Hypoglycemia.”