Health professionals encourage people diagnosed as prediabetic and those already diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes (T2D) to eat right and exercise to prevent, delay, or lessen the severity of the disease. Unfortunately, exercise isn’t always realistic for people who are elderly or extremely overweight. Scientists at Kumamoto University have developed a wearable heat shock response belt that combines mild electrical stimulation (MES) and heat shock (HS) in order to induce heat shock response. Heat shock induces the expression of a specific protein, HSP72. This protein helps regulate the metabolic processes necessary to maintain healthy blood glucose levels and insulin resistance, but people with Type 2 diabetes have lower levels of this chemical.

Exercise helps people with diabetes in part because it induces heat shock response (HSR). The heat shock response belt purpose is to simulate that effect of exercise with heat and mild electrical stimulation. In the Kumamoto clinical trials, the heat shock response belt improved insulin resistance, decreased fasting glucose levels, decreased inflammation, and reduced visceral fat. The first study of 40 obese men with type 2 diabetes showed statistically significant improvements.

Next, the researchers had 60 obese patients of both genders use the heat shock response belts for 60-minute treatments for 12 weeks. The subjects were  separated into groups that had the treatments 2, 4, and 7 times a week. The purpose was to find the best course of treatment frequency. The results showed the most improvement with patients on the 7 times weekly schedule. Ongoing research will further explore the benefits of various treatment frequencies with the belt, with and without standard therapeutic drugs.

“This device is very easy to use since it simply attaches to the abdomen, and it has a low-impact on the patient. One can expect the effects to be similar to exercise therapy,” said Dr. Tatsuya Kondo, the lead researcher. “Even in patients who have difficulty exercising, such as those who are overweight, elderly, or have some form of disability, this device can be expected to provide acceptable treatment in addition to conventional diabetic medical care.”