Mouse study suggests vibration therapy can reduce inflammation and improve the microbiome
A new study suggests simple vibration therapy can beneficially alter the gut microbiome, and reduce diabetes-related inflammation. The research at this point has only been verified in mouse models, and prior human vibration therapy studies indicate these results may not broadly translate to human treatments.
Whole body vibration therapy has been floating around the fringes of mainstream medical science for over a century, from John Harvey Kellogg's vibrating chairs for health and wellness in the late 1890s, to Russian cosmonauts utilizing the technology in the mid-20th century. While advocates of vibration therapy suggest a wide range of health benefits, scientific evidence backing up those claims has so far been elusive.
An influential 2017 study in mice concluded just 20 minutes a day of whole body vibration could effectively mimic the metabolic effects of exercise. However, a large number of clinical trials has not convincingly shown the technique to be significantly useful in humans, particularly when practiced in isolation from other exercise or physical activity.
A new study is again hypothesizing broad systemic benefits from whole body vibration based on mouse experiments. This time the research suggests the technique can directly induce both changes to the gut microbiome and increases in the volume of anti-inflammatory macrophages, a type of immune cell that can suppress inflammation.
The study looked at the effects of whole body vibration on healthy mice and ones with type 2 diabetes. In both cohorts of mice whole body vibration of around 20 minutes per day for four weeks resulted in an increase in what are classified as M2 macrophages, a phenotype of immune cells that resolve or suppress inflammation, as opposed to M1 macrophages, cells more active in the pro-inflammatory stages of an immune response.
Alongside these macrophage changes, whole body vibration also appeared to induce major changes in the animals' gut bacteria population. Most significant was a 17-fold increase in a species called Alistipes, a bacteria generally thought to be a beneficial presence in the gut. Alistipes is notably found in lowered volumes in both obese subjects and patients suffering from inflammatory bowel disease.
At this point the researchers are unsure what the relationship between Alistipes and M2 macrophages could be. It is unclear whether the bacteria influences the presence of M2 macrophages, or vice versa. It's also not clear exactly how the whole body vibration could be causing these metabolic and microbiome changes, so while the study is undoubtedly fascinating it certainly doesn't offer clear evidence of vibration therapy's efficacy.
What is even more unclear about this study is how these results translate to humans. A 2016 systemic review of whole body vibration therapy in human patients with type 2 diabetes concluded there may be beneficial effects from the technique in terms of muscle strength and balance. However, outside of mobility and balance, there was insufficient evidence to support any other health claims.
So far, the vast majority of human studies have found the technique results in minimal health benefits, especially when performed without supplemental physical exercise. So while this mouse study is undeniably compelling, it is unlikely whole body vibration confers these same dramatic microbiome or anti-inflammatory actions in humans to any significant extent.
The new research was published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
Source: Augusta University