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A short dip in the Dead Sea facilitates a drop in blood glucose levels and could improve the medical conditions of diabetics, according to an initial study conducted by researchers from the health sciences faculty of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva.

The study involved an initial sample group of 14 individuals between the ages of 18 and 65 who have suffered from Type 2 diabetes for less than 20 years.

The study took place in a covered pool filled with Dead Sea water at a temperature of 35 degrees Celsius. Following a 20-minute, one-time dip in the Dead Sea water, the study subjects showed a significant 13.5 percent drop in blood glucose levels, from an average of 163 mg/dl to a value of 151 mg/dl immediately after the dip. The subjects' blood glucose levels dropped even further, to an average of 141.4 mg/dl, an hour after the dip in the Dead Sea water.

A controled test in which the subjects underwent a 20-minute dip in regular water did not show any distinct drop in blood glucose levels with regard to the measurements taken immediately before and after the time spent in the pool. There was, however, a difference between the blood glucose levels measured immediately after the dip and an hour later.

Another control group involving six healthy individuals did not produce any significant differences between the measurements taken after their dips in both the Dead Sea water and the regular pool water.

The researchers also found the dip in the Dead Sea water did not adversely affect the subjects' other blood values, including their levels of insulin and cortisone hormones, and also their c-peptide levels, which are an indication of the ability to produce insulin in the pancreas.

The findings of the study will appear in the August edition of the Israel Medical Association's "Ha'refua" journal.

"These are findings from an initial study from which it is difficult to draw conclusions at this stage," said research team leader Prof. Shaul Sukenik of Ben-Gurion University, who served until recently as the director of the Internal Medicine Department at Soroka.

"Nevertheless," Sukenik continued, "the results are promising. We have yet to test what happens to the glucose levels beyond an hour after the dip."

The researchers are currently trying to secure additional funding so as to expand the study and examine the effects on diabetics of a daily dip in Dead Sea water over a period of three weeks.

According to the researchers, the improvements seen in the subjects' blood values in the current study are related to physiological changes caused by being immersed in water up to the neck. These changes include an increase in venous blood flow back to the heart that is caused by the transition of large quantities of blood from the veins in an individual's limbs and stomach cavity to the large blood vessels in the chest cavity. As a result, pressure in the main veins increases significantly, along with an increase in blood flow in the arteries of the lungs and an increase of up to 30 percent in the heart's output.

"In the event that the findings are confirmed in further studies, a drop in blood glucose levels will allow diabetics who bathe in the Dead Sea to use less medication," said Prof. Sukenik.

"We cannot determine this on the basis of the current study, but the findings do allude to this," he said.