A hot bath has benefits similar to exercise

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Steve Faulkner, Loughborough University

Many cultures swear by the benefits of a hot bath. But only recently has science began to understand how passive heating (as opposed to getting hot and sweaty from exercise) improves health.

At Loughborough University we investigated the effect of a hot bath on blood sugar control (an important measure of metabolic fitness) and on energy expended (number of calories burned). We recruited 14 men to take part in the study. They were assigned to an hour-long soak in a hot bath (40˚C) or an hour of cycling. The activities were designed to cause a 1˚C rise in core body temperature over the course of one hour.

We measured how many calories the men burned in each session. We also measured their blood sugar for 24 hours after each trial.

Cycling resulted in more calories being burned compared with a hot bath, but bathing resulted in about as many calories being burned as a half-hour walk (around 140 calories). The overall blood sugar response to both conditions was similar, but peak blood sugar after eating was about 10% lower when participants took a hot bath compared with when they exercised.

We also showed changes to the inflammatory response similar to that following exercise. The anti-inflammatory response to exercise is important as it helps to protect us against infection and illness, but chronic inflammation is associated with a reduced ability to fight off diseases. This suggests that repeated passive heating may contribute to reducing chronic inflammation, which is often present with long-term diseases, such as type 2 diabetes.

Exciting new field of research

Passive heating for human health is a relatively new field of research, but some exciting results have emerged over the past few years.

Research from Finland, published in 2015, suggested that frequent saunas can reduce the risk of having a heart attack or stroke – at least in men. The idea that passive heating can improve cardiovascular function received further support when the University of Oregon published a study the following year showing that regular hot baths can lower blood pressure.

Japanese onsen.

In a second study, the same group looked at the mechanism responsible for these improvements. They found that passive heating raised levels of nitric oxide, a molecule that dilates blood vessels and reduces blood pressure. This has implications for treating high blood pressure and improving peripheral circulation in people with type 2 diabetes. As type 2 diabetes is associated with reductions in nitric oxide availability, passive heating may help re-establish a healthier nitric oxide level and reduce blood pressure.

In order to establish the effect of increasing body temperature passively, as opposed to through exertion, another study matched the intensity of heating from water immersion to that of running on a treadmill. Water immersion resulted in a greater increase in body temperature compared with exercise, as well as a greater reduction in average arterial blood pressure. This is important as a reduction in blood pressure is closely associated with a reduced risk of developing heart disease. This study points to the promising effect that may result from passive heating. It also suggests some of the cardiovascular effects of passive heating may be comparable with those of exercise.

As well as the cardiovascular effects of passive heating, there is evidence to suggest that there may be beneficial metabolic effects as well – such as better control of blood sugar. The first study, conducted by Philip Hooper of McKee Medical Center, Colorado, in 1999, investigated the effect of three weeks of hot-tub therapy in patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The results showed improvements in body weight, blood sugar control and a reduced dependence on insulin.

Hooper thought these effects may result from changes to blood flow as a result of passive heating, but he was unable to identify a specific mechanism by which their intervention led to these benefits.

Since this early investigation, few studies have investigated the potential for passive heating to improve blood sugar control in humans. With our study, we have tried to reignite interest in the health benefits that may be linked to passive heating.

Heat shock proteins

Studies using animals may have identified how heating affects health. These studies suggest one of the key regulators of blood sugar control may be heat shock proteins.

Heat shock proteins are molecules that are made by all cells of the human body in response to stresses. Their levels rise following exercise and passive heating. In the long term, raised levels of these proteins may help the function of insulin and improve blood sugar control. (Conversely, heat shock proteins have been shown to be lower in people with diabetes.)

It seems that activities that increase heat shock proteins may help to improve blood sugar control and offer an alternative to exercise. These activities – such as soaking in a hot tub or taking a sauna – may have health benefits for people who are unable to exercise regularly. Hopefully our future investigations, coupled with those of other groups worldwide, will help to establish the true potential of passive heating as a therapeutic tool.The Conversation

Steve Faulkner, Research associate, Loughborough University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

By Dr. Deidre Macdonald

You have undoubtedly heard the news that cyber criminals hacked into the LifeLabs’ computers and accessed sensitive information on millions of clients who got their blood work done through LifeLabs.

As a doctor who sends patients to LifeLabs regularly, I was very concerned. In fact, over half of the licensed naturopathic physicians in BC have local access to a LifeLabs facility. Fortunately, LifeLabs paid a ransom and retrieved the information and have “plugged the holes” so to speak.

They have been communicating to doctors who have patients who use their labs, which is much appreciated. What they’ve told us is that most of the information that they lost control of was identity information such as name, date of birth, address, and health number.

A person’s most vulnerable information, their social insurance number, is not part of their medical records, so I do not believe these criminals would have access to your SIN. Lab results were hacked for about 85,000 patients, most of whom were in Ontario.

LifeLabs is taking this security breach seriously and understands that people worry about identify theft at the very least. Experts say that in cases like this the criminals are interested in the big ransom payout. If they were to maintain a copy and sell off the identity information, they would weaken the case for ransom payouts in the future. But of course criminals aren’t predictable.

LifeLabs is offering all of their clients (including every ND patient in BC who has or does access LifeLabs through their ND) one year of free cybersecurity protection services, such as identity and fraud protection insurance.

They have set up an information site at https://customernotice.lifelabs.com/

There is a number to call to access the cybersecurity program, but as you can imagine, getting through to a person can take time. Also some suggest that one year of protection isn’t long enough and people may wish to pay privately to continue monitoring after one year.

To speak to a representative about this issue, please call:

1-800-431-7206 (BC)

5 Shocking Facts about Drug Addiction and Abuse in Canada

Drug abuse in Canada is often overshadowed by everything that occurs south of the border. The US has a massive issue with addiction and abuse as drugs flood into the country from Central and South America, and there is an assumption, at least from an outsider’s perspective, that Canada is cleaner and has fewer issues to contend with.

This is true to an extent, but Canada has not escaped the clutches of the opioid epidemic and it’s also in the grip of many other drug problems, with some very concerning statistics:

5. Alcohol Use is Rampant

Alcohol is by far the most abused substance in Canada, accounting for a staggering amount of deaths, diseases, disorders and addiction issues. A 2016 study found that a huge 93.3% of the population used alcohol during an “active addiction”.(1) This means that more than 9 out of 10 addicts regularly use alcohol to supplement their addictions, whether those addictions related to prescription drugs, stimulants, or heroin.

There are several reasons for this. The first is availability, as alcohol is legal and widely available, but the same could be said for tobacco, and only 81.8% of addicts used tobacco in addition to their “active addictions”. Alcohol is also cheap and widely accepted within society, with statistics suggesting that many consider alcohol use to be safer than tobacco.

Of course, this simply isn’t true. According to the Canadian Center on Substance Use and Addiction, a fifth of Canadian drinkers consume more than the safe guidelines, around 75,000 are hospitalized every year as a result of alcohol consumption, and it accounts for between 1% and 2% of all deaths in Canada.(2)

To put this into perspective, alcohol currently accounts for more hospitalizations every year than heart attacks.

4. Massive Cost

Drug abuse is estimated to cost Canadian taxpayers nearly $23 billion a year, with around $3.3 billion of that coming from healthcare costs.(3) This is only a couple billion less than the entire value of the Canadian pharmaceutical industry.

3. Most Drugs are Shipped in

There is a general assumption that most of the drugs in Canada come via the Canada/US border and originate in Mexico. In actual fact, most of the drugs in this country are shipped by standard airmail and arrive from countries all over the world.(4)

Some of the most dangerous drugs, including the opioid fentanyl, come from China and Hong Kong, where they are produced in large scale drug factories and then shipped in many small packages to distributors nationwide.

The vast majority of heroin in the US is produced in Mexico and then shipped over the border, but most of the heroin in Canada originates in Asia and Africa and is shipped via airmail. The same applies to opium, the raw product from which heroin is derived, and many other common drugs.

Steroids tend to be shipped in from eastern Europe, as well as China, while amphetamines are shipped in from the UK and China, as well as the United States.

2. Addicts and Teens are High Risk

According to research from the University of Toronto, female addicts are 54% more likely to die from their addictions than male addicts, but there are fewer female addicts than male ones. The most at-risk demographic, however, is teenagers, with nearly a quarter of all Ontario students reporting that they were offered illegal drugs in the last year, and more than 8 out of 10 admitting to at least 1 incident of binge drinking.(5)

1. It’s Getting Better

Drug abuse is a growing issue in most countries, but in Canada the issue seems to be improving, albeit only slightly. The last few years have seen a 2% drop in the number of prescription opioid abusers, which is one of the fastest growing issues in the United States.(6)

There isn’t a serious issue regarding MDMA use, with fewer than 1% of adults reporting to have used the drug, and while methamphetamine is one of the most common homegrown drugs in the world, accounting for thousands of deaths and massive drug seizures every year in the US, it’s a non-issue here in Canada, with just 0.2% of the population using the drug.(7)(8)

Even cannabis use is steady across the board, although it remains one of the most used and abused recreational drugs in Canada.

Bio — Nicky Sarandrea is a freelance writer writing on topics such as drug addiction, drug relapse and more for drug rehab centers