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Op-Ed: Could obese humans vibrate their way to better health?

By Kathleen Blanchard     Dec 2, 2012 in Health
Obesity is linked to a variety of health problems that include decreased immune function and diabetes. Mouse and human studies suggest vibration therapy can restore human health.
A new study suggests the therapy could provide the same benefits as exercise for boosting immune function and preventing bone loss for obese humans.
The finding, published in the FASEB Journal, showed obese mice subjected to mild vibrations that send external signals to the body much like exercise experienced an increase in B- and T-cell populations in the blood – both of which are types of white blood cells that trigger inflammation and accelerate bone loss.
Clinton Rubin, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor, Chair of Biomedical Engineering, and Director of Stony Brook’s Center for Biotechnology said in a press release:
"While it is well known that obesity can cripple many physiologic systems, this work suggests that mechanical signals—in the absence of drugs—can help combat this disease and its sequelae.”
Mice in the study also experienced improvement in bone health from being subjected to light vibration therapy for 15-minutes a day that is barely perceptible to human touch.
Rubin added that the study is evidence of how finely tuned our bodies are to external signals and how important it is to remain active with walking, climbing stairs or just standing up to maintain optimal health.
The authors concluded: “Understanding the role of the stem cell niche in promulgating obesity-related disorders, and the salutary action of mechanical signals, may ultimately contribute to a unique nondrug treatment strategy for a host of diabetes- and obesity-related health problems.”
Past studies
The newest finding isn’t the first to suggest vibration therapy has health benefits. A 2010 study also performed on mice suggested the therapy can help older adults who suffer from bone loss that can lead to osteoporosis.
In 2008, researchers tested vibration therapy as an osteoporosis treatment among 116 postmenopausal women.
The study authors concluded: “Vibration therapy appears to be useful in reducing chronic back pain and increasing the femoral neck and lumbar BMD in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis.”
Using vibration therapy to thwart bone loss was then disputed by researchers from University Health Network (UHN) who suggested weight bearing exercises remain the best prevention for osteoporosis, in findings published in the Cambridge Medicine Journal.
Obesity is a public health problem that affects children and adults. The cost of treating obesity related health issues accounts for 20.6 percent of national health spending in the U.S., according to the Journal of Health Economics.
For now, it may be best to stay active based on your individual tolerance to exercise, get a good night’s sleep and eat a prudent diet to maintain good health and prevent disease.
The new finding suggests mild vibrations can offer the same benefits as exercise for restoring immune function and bone health in obese humans, based on mouse studies. Whether or not obese, inactive humans could find their way back to better health with vibration therapy remains to be seen.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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