Diabetes risk could be cut and menopause and weight gain combatted with spa treatment, nutritionists find

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Relaxing at a spa is an easy way to let all the world's troubles fall from your shoulders, whether you are being covered in mud, pummelled by a masseuse, or simply sweating it out in a nice hot sauna. But, as well as being good for your well-being, nutrition research has found that one spa treatment in particular could help fight some of the common effects of menopause.

A study presented at a major nutrition science conference at the start of July appears to have found a potential link between weight gain, insulin regulation, and heat-related treatments in menopausal patients. It is hoped that, with further research, this could become a non-invasive treatment for some of the more difficult side effects that women undergoing 'the change' often experience.

Regularly sitting in a sauna or steam room for 30 minutes could help your body regulate weight gain better and even prevent the onset of diabetes, all without you having to lift a finger. The study examined the effects of related heat treatments on female mice undergoing the menopause, finding that they were better able to metabolise fat and regulate their blood sugar after having a nice steam.

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Rong Fan, the study's author, explained his findings to Medical News Today, stating: “Our research shows that daily whole-body heat treatment (104-113°F) for 30 minutes can significantly reduce obesity and improve insulin sensitivity in older female mice and mouse models that simulate menopause."

Researchers Rong Fan (left) and Soonkyu Chung
Researchers Rong Fan (left) and Soonkyu Chung -Credit:Hyunji Cho, UMass Amherst/SWNS

For many people as they get older, the aches and pains of everyday life can make rigorous exercise more difficult and potentially damaging for some with other health conditions. While keeping fit and eating well remains one of the best ways to prevent ill health, the findings could help medical professionals find alternative treatments to help prevent obesity and diabetes in older women.

The study's author said that the conditions of the study "mimic" some of the beneficial effects of exercise Fan said that the treatment works “by activating specific calcium channels in brown fat, a type of fat in our body that burns calories to produce heat.

“This process helps the body increase its energy expenditure, similar to the metabolic effects of aerobic exercise. Essentially, this heat treatment helps improve metabolic health by partially mimicking some of the beneficial effects of exercise.”

One group of mice received 30 minutes of daily heat therapy in a heat chamber set to 40 degrees Celcius (104F) for 12 weeks while the other group didn't receive any heat treatment. The mice receiving the heat treatment showed no tissue damage and showed "significantly" reduced lactate dehydrogenase levels, indicating less ageing-related tissue damage.

Explaining the potential uses of heat therapy further, Rong Fan explained that people with increased abdominal fat or certain medical conditions could stand to benefit from regular sessions in the sauna or heated baths to help them combat menopause-related weight gain, as part of routine healthcare treatment.

Rong Fan said: “As we age, our metabolism and energy expenditure decrease. In women, these changes often begin around ages 45-50, coinciding with menopause.

"This mid-life phase is critical for implementing effective and accessible intervention strategies. Our research highlights the potential of whole-body heat treatment as a simple, non-invasive method to address age-related metabolic challenges and improve overall health.”

So, maybe one day your GP will prescribe you a nice day at the spa. One can dream.