Scientific Qi Exploration – Part 14
Qigong’s Effects on Blood and its Biochemical Constituents
Martin Eisen, Ph.D.
Some effects of Qigong on the immune system components in the blood appear in (1) as well as its effects on DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone). Other effects on the blood, plasma viscosity, lipids and glycolyis will be presented below.
2. Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR)
In the ESR test, blood is drawn from a vein and sent to a lab. The lab measures how fast red blood cells (erythrocytes) fall to the bottom of a tall, thin tube. The rate at which they settle is measured as the number of millimeters of clear plasma present at the top of the column after one hour (mm/hr). The test is used to monitor inflammation. It cannot be used to diagnose a specific disorder.
After tuberculosis patients had practiced Qigong, 89% of these patients’ ESR returned to normal (2). This result shows that practicing Qigong improve the health of tuberculosis patients.
3. Blood Clotting and Viscosity
A study, published in 1986, investigated the effects of practicing Standing Post Qigong for three months. In 51 participants their whole blood clotting test improved and their plasma viscosity decreased significantly (2).
Another report published in 1989 studied the effects of combining meditative and dynamic Qigong on hypertension. The platelet aggregation test was used. This test checks how well platelets in the blood clump together, leading to the formation of a clot (thrombin). In the 100 participating patients, their platelet aggregation tests were improved and their blood viscosity also dropped significantly (3).
This research indicates that Qigong practice promotes blood circulation, by decreasing blood viscosity, and reduces blood stasis, by decreasing blood coagulation. It follows that Qigong can be used to prevent and help heal problems caused by poor blood circulation and clot formation obstructing blood vessels, such as, strokes and heart attacks.
Electrophoresis is a technique for separating the components of a mixture of charged molecules (e.g. – proteins, DNAs, or RNAs) within a gel or other support according to size and electrical charge by applying an electric current to them. Each kind of molecule travels through the medium at a different rate, depending on its electrical charge and molecular size. This technique was used to study the effects of Relaxing Quiescent Qigong on hypertension in a 1990 paper (3). The red cell electrophoresis tests of 150 hypertensive patients improved after periodic practice of this Qigong. Their whole blood viscosity also dropped significantly.
5. Blood Lipids
A lipid is a substance that is insoluble in water but is soluble in alcohol or some other type of solvent. Blood lipids are lipids in the bloodstream – for example, cholesterol, cholesterol complexes, and triglycerides. Since blood lipids are insoluble in water, they are surrounded by proteins called apolipoproteins. The binding of the apolipoprotein and the lipid form a lipoprotein, which is water-soluble and so can be carried efficiently through the water-based circulation (i.e. blood, lymph).
Ingested lipids from food and drink are digested in the small intestine and transported to the liver in largecomplexes of lipid and protein, called chylomicrons. In the liver the lipids are bound to lipoproteins and released as apolipoproteins into the blood stream. The liver is essentially responsible for ensuring that all tissues receive enough lipids for proper functioning and for normalizing the concentration of blood lipids.
There are six major classes of apolipoproteins, denoted by A, B, C, D, E and H, and several sub-classes, denoted by the capital letter and a numeral (e.g. A1).
Apolipoprotein A1 is a major protein that is a component of high-density liporprotein (HDL), or “good cholesterol”. Also known as Apo A1, it helps clear cholesterol from the blood by removing cholesterol from organs and tissues to be destroyed by the liver. The test for Apo A1 is also called the Apo A test.
Apolipoprotein B (Apo B) is the primary apolipoprotein of low-density lipoproteins (LDL), or “bad cholesterol”, which is responsible for carrying cholesterol to tissues. Through a mechanism that is not fully understood, high levels of Apo B can lead to plaques that cause atherosclerosis, leading to heart disease. There is considerable evidence that levels of Apo B are a better indicator of heart disease risk than total cholesterol or LDL. However, primarily for historic reasons, cholesterol, and more specifically,
LDL-cholesterol, remains the primary lipid test for the risk factor of atherosclerosis.
Lipoproteins are also classified as “alpha” and “beta”, according to the classification of proteins in serum protein electrophoresis. Any lipoprotein that has Apo B on its surface is termed a beta-lipoprotein and those with Apo AI are alpha-lipoproteins.
Alpha-lipoproteins are lipoproteins that transport cholesterol in the blood. They are composed of a high proportion of protein and relatively little cholesterol; high levels are thought to be associated with decreased risk of coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis.
Beta-lipoproteins are lipoproteins that transport cholesterol in the blood. They are composed of moderate amount of protein and a large amount of cholesterol; high levels are thought to be associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis.
The lipid theory, developed in the 1850s, postulates that high levels of blood cholesterol lead to heart disease. This hypothesis is accepted by many researchers and clinicians, who claim that years of scientific research have confirmed this association. However, there is some disagreement with this mainstream view. Opponents of the lipid hypothesis argue that less than half of heart attacks patients have high cholesterol levels. They propose that inflammatory processes, which are always present, are more to blame for heart disease than blood lipid levels.
A 1988 study discovered that after practicing Qigong the total cholesterol level fell from 292.1 mmol/ L to 263.3 mmol/L and beta-lipoprotein fell from 665 mmol/L to 527.4 mmol/L (P<.01). Another study in 1989 reported that after 6 months of Qigong practice, by 39 hypertensive patients, their triglyceride and cholesterol levels dropped and their HDL levels increased, whereas, a control group of 30 patients showed little change. A 1990 paper stated that triglycerides, total cholesterol, and apolipoprotiens were lower in the Qigong group than in the control group. After one year’s Qigong practice, the negative correlation between HDL and its sub-type with coronary heart disease and arteriosclerosis increasedsignificantly (3).
Observations on the effect of Qigong on lipid metabolism revealed that the Apo A level increased from 117.98 g/L to 133.58 g/L, while the Apo B level decreased from 118.15 g/L to 102.21 g/L. These results show the beneficial effect of Qigong on lipid metabolism (3).
An experiment was conducted on the anti-aging effects of Qigong after 3 months of practice (4). The serum total cholesterol decreased by 1.2 mg, the serum triglycerides decreased by 23.1 mg, and the serum HDL level increased 5.9 mg, on average, compared with the elderly control group.
The increasing prevalence of obesity among college prompted an experiment to see if Qigong could help. After a month of Qigong practice, the morning urine ketone content of male and female practitioners was elevated within the normal range (.0153 mg/100ml – .0681mg/100ml for males and .0498 mg /100ml – .0836 mg/100 ml for females) (3). Since ketones are produced in the body when lipids used to produce energy, these findings show that Qigong can enhance lipid metabolism.
6. Red Blood Cells and Hemoglobin
Experienced Qigong practitioner’s blood constituents change after Qigong practice. The red blood cell count increased by 2,679,000 mm3, on average, hemoglobin increased about .5 – 2.5 g/L, and saturated arterial oxygen also increased. The partial pressure difference of oxygen between the pulmonary alveoli and pulmonary artery decreased by 19%, the ratio of oxygen consumption was 16% lower than normal and 6% lower than in the fast sleep state (2). This indicates that the state of the body changed from energy consumption to energy conservation.
The hemoglobin level was also studied before and after Standing Post Qigong. Blood sample samples were taken before practice, 30 min after starting, and 30 and 60 minutes after finishing. The hemoglobin level of the Qigong group increased 1-3 g, with an average increase of 1.55 g (P<.01) and the increased level lasted for about 60 min before returning to the level before practice (2). The main function of hemoglobin in the body is the transport of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Hence, these results show that Standing Post Qigong can energize people by shortening the time for recovery from fatigue.
7. Blood Glucose
Glucose (C6H12O6) is a simple sugar (monosaccharide). Blood sugar concentration or blood glucose level is the amount of glucose present in the blood. Why is blood glucose measured? Glucose is the only monosaccharide present, in significant quantifies, in the blood after a meal, since 80% to 100% of the monosaccharides absorbed from the g.i. tract are glucose and the other main monosaccharides, fructose and galactose, have entered cells within one hour after a meal.
Glucose is the primary energy source for the body’s cells. How energy is actually supplied to the cells by glucose will be discussed in the next section. Glucose is transported from the intestines or liver to body cells via the bloodstream. It is made available for cell absorption via the hormone insulin, produced by the body in the pancreas. Glucose is continually entering cells and when the extra glucose is not required for energy, it is converted to glycogen and stored in the cells. Glycogen can be converted back to glucose by glycogenlysis, when glucose is required for energy. If the cells become saturated with glycogen, then the extra glucose is converted into fat, primarily in muscle and liver cells.
In the early 1960s, Chonqing and Shanghai First Medical Colleges performed glucose tolerance tests on 30 Qigong practitioners. They were asked to drink 100 g of glucose on an empty stomach in the morning.
Their peak value of blood sugar was lower than those in the control group. The blood sugar level of 29 tests of the 30 lowered to different levels with an average reduction of 27.3% (5, 6).
This result shows that Qigong is helpful in preventing weight gain. It may also be useful in preventing diabetes by lowering blood sugar. Consistent high levels of blood glucose may impose a strain on the pancreas leading to impairment of insulin production.
8. Digestion and Glycolysis (7)
The importance of the effects of Qigong on glycolysis requires an understanding of glycolysis, which is the beginning of the energy supplying process to cells utilizing glucose. In turn some background on digestion is required to see how glucose is produced for glycolysis. Glycolysis is the major process leading to energy production for cells using glucose
Almost all carbohydrates are polysaccharides, which are combinations of monosaccharides bound together. The binding results from removing a hydrogen ion from one monosaccharide and a hydroxylion from the next. The two monosaccharides link at the sites of the removals. The hydrogen and hydroxyl ions combine to form water. This process is called condensation.
Carbohydrates are digested back into monosaccharides by the help of enzymes that return the hydrogen and hydroxyl ions to the polysachharides and thereby separate the monosaccharides from each other as shown in equation (1)
(1) R1 – R2 + H2O —> R1OH + R2H
This process is called hydrolysis.
Proteins are amino acids bound together by peptide linkages formed by condensation – a hydrogen ion is removed from one amino acid hydroxyl ion form the next one. Once again the removed ions form water.
Digestion of proteins is also by hydrolysis. Proteolytic enzymes help return water to the protein molecules to split them into their constituent amino acids.
Most common dietary fats are triglycerides, consisting of molecules formed by the condensation of three molecules of fatty acids and a molecule of glycerol. Each acid molecule contributes a hydrogen ion and the glycerol molecule contributes three hydroxyl ions to form the trigylceride and water as shown in equation (2).
(2) 3(R – COOH) + (C3H5 )(HO)3 —> (R – COO)3(C3H5) + 3H2O
In digestion, the process described in equation (2) is reversed by cellular enzymes and three molecules of the fatty acid and a molecule of glycerol are produced. Only a small fraction of dietary fats contain short chain fatty acids, which can be absorbed directly into the portal blood and so enter the bloodstream. The majority of fats are digested as described above. Then, on passing through the intestinal cells, they are re-synthesized into new molecules of triglycerides. These enter the lymph as minute droplets called chylomicrons. These chylomicrons are composed primarily of tryglycerides, but contain small amounts of phospholipids, cholesterol and proteins. The chylomicrons are transported up the thoracic duct which empties into the venous blood at the juncture of the subclavian and jugular veins.
The chylomicrons are transported to liver, adipose, cardiac, and skeletal muscle tissue, where their triglyceride components are unloaded by the activity of lipoprotein lipase. The blood also contains small amounts of lipoprotein lipase, which catalyzes the hydrolysis of triglycerides in the chylomicrons into glycerol and fatty acids. The fatty acid molecules are combined with albumin, known as free fatty acids, and transported to cells of the body. The left over chylomicron remnants are taken up by the liver for processing.
The result of digestion is that mainly amino acids reach the blood and are carried to cells of the body. Most amino acid molecules are too large to diffuse though the pores of the cell membrane. They are transported through the cell membrane by active transport utilizing carrier mechanisms.
After entering the cell they are conjugated into cellular protein so that the concentration of amino acids in the cell is low. However, many of these proteins can be rapidly decomposed into amino acids under theinfluence of cellular enzymes, called Kathepsins. These amino acids can be transported out of the cell into the blood. However, the nuclear genes and structural proteins, such as collagen and muscle, don’t participate significantly in this reversible storage of amino acids.
Nearly all carbohydrates are absorbed in the form of monosaccharides, mainly glucose, and some fructose and galactose. These pass through the liver, absorbed in the portal blood and carried everywhere in the body by the circulatory system. No disaccharides or polysaccharides are used by the cells, but are excreted in the urine. After being actively transported into the cells, the monosaccharides are phophorylated enzymatically – for example, glucose becomes glucose – 6 – phosphate. In most tissues this prevents the monosaccharide from diffusing back out. However, some cells, liver, renal tubular and intestinal epithelial, contain enzymes that can reverse the phusphorylation. Another reason for the phosphorylation is that monosaccharides must be converted to glucose – 6 phoshpate or fructose – 6 – phosphate to be used in glycolysis, described below. Glucose transport into cells is enhanced by insulin.
After absorption into cells, glucose cam be used for the release of energy or stored as glycogen, a large polymer of glucose, formed by a process called glycogenesis, Other monosaccharides are converted to glucose before they are stored as glycogen. Liver and muscles cells store the largest amounts of glycogen. When the cells are saturated with glycogen, additional glucose is converted into fat. This conversion occurs primarily in cells of the muscles and liver.
Glycogenlysis, is the breakdown of glycogen to produce glucose. In the liver glucose – 6 phosphate is produced, which is enzymatically converted to glucose. This glucose can immediately pass into the blood and so cause a rise in blood glucose concentration. Glycogenlysis in other cells only makes glucose – 6 – phosphate, since they lack the enzymes for dephosphorylation. The molecule is only released into the extracellular fluid, where it can be used for energy production. The blood glucose concentration is not changed.
Rapid glycogenlysis can be activated by the two hormones epinephrine and glucagon. Epinepherine is released by the adrenal medulla when the sympathetic nervous system is activated. Glucagon is secreted by the pancreatic alpha cells when the blood glucose concentration becomes dangerously low.
The main way that energy is released from the glucose molecule is glycolysis and then the oxidation of the end-products of glycolsis. Glycolysis consists of 10 steps of chemical reactions catalyzed by enzymes. The net reaction is given in equation (3)
(3) Glucose + 2ADP + 2PO4– – – —> 2 Pyruvic acid + 2ATP + 4H
where ADP is adenosine diphosphate and ATP is adenosine triphosphate.
ATP is present in every cell and essentially all the energy for physiological processes is derived from stored ATP. The energy is stored in two high energy phosphate bonds. After the loss of one phosphate
2 Pyruvic acid + 2ATP + 4H radical ATP becomes ADP and after the loss of the second phosphate radical ADP becomes AMP, adensosine monophosphate. The breaking of each of each of these bonds liberates about 8,000 calories. Energy for the replenishment of ATP from AMP comes from food.
Generally, not enough energy is produced by glycolysis. The next step is the conversion of 2 molecules of pyruvic acid by 2 molecules of coenzyme A (Co – A) into 2 molecules of acetyl – Co – A and carbon dioxide and 4 hydrogen atoms. This step is followed by the citric acid or Kreb’s cycle. The net reaction is that the 2 molecules of acetyl Co – A are combined with 6 molecules of water and ADP to produce 4 molecules of carbon dioxide and 2 of Co – A, 16 hydrogen atoms and 2 molecules of ATP.
Only small amounts of ATP are formed in glycolysis and the Kreb’s cycle. About 90% of the ATP is formed during subsequent, enzymatically catalyzed, oxidations of the hydrogen atoms released by the first two processes.
Sometimes oxygen becomes unavailable or insufficient so that cellular oxidation of glucose cannot occur. The two end products hydrogen atoms and pyruvic acid could build up and stop the reaction. Fortunately, when these products become excessive they react with each other to produce lactic acid. This allows the glycolytic process to proceed for several minutes, instead of seconds if the end products were not removed. This can be life saving, since ATP can be supplied even without respiratory oxygen.
When oxygen becomes available the chemical reaction for lactic acid formation reverses itself. The lactic acid becomes pyruvic acid. Large portions of this are immediately available to the citric acid cycle and large quantities of ATP are formed. The excess ATP causes the conversion of as much as ¾ of the remaining lactic acid into glucose. Most of this conversion occurs in thee liver, but a small amount can occur in other tissues. The heart muscle is especially capable of converting lactic acid into pyruvic acid and then using this for energy. This occurs in heavy exercise when the muscles release lacic acid into the blood.
When the body’s store of carbohydrates decrease below normal, moderate amounts of glucose can be formed from amino acids and the glycerol portion of fats by a process called gluconeogenesis.
The effect of Qigong practice of elderly people on glycolysis was studied in (8). Glycolysis increased significantly after Qigong practice by an average of .193 units
In other reports (3, 9), the plasma concentration of lactic acid decreased remarkably by 2.3 mg on the average, after three months of Qigong practice. Moreover, plasma ATP significantly increased by 60 nmol/ml on the average.
Hence Qigong practice promotes glucose metabolism and decreases energy consumption. Thus, t can prevent tiredness and fatigue by promoting energy production and storage.
1. Eisen, M. Scientific Qi Exploration. Part 13 (c) – Qigong and the immune system. Yang-Sheng, p. 15- 18, Vol. 1 (4), May, 2011.
2. Lin, Y. (ed.) Encyclopedia of Chinese Medicine: Qigong Science. Shanghai Publisher of Science and
Technology. Shanghai, 1988.
3. Lin, Y. Encyclopedia of Chinese Qigong. Nanjing University Press, Nanjing, 1993.
4. Zou, X,, et al. Study of the effect and mechanism of anti-aging with Wang Songling’s health care Qigong. J. of Jinzhou medical college. 2, 1-7, 1996.
5. Shanghai first Medical College (Physiology Dept.). Overview on the research on Qigongphysiological mechanism. Shanghai J. of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 5, 6, 1962.
6. Dong, Q., et al. The effect on blood constituents of Qigong therapy. J. of Traditional Chinese
Medicine, 6, 63, 1963.
7. Guyton, A. C. Textbook of Medical Physiology. Eleventh edition. Saunders Co., Philadelphia, 2005.
8. Liao, C., et al. The effect of glycolysis of older people’s red blood cells during Qigong
exercise. Fujian J. of Traditional Chinese Medicine. 6, 55-6, 1985.
9. Wang, Z., et al. The ATP changes of Qigong practitioners during the Qigong state.
Shanghai J. Traditional Chinese Medicine. 7, 49, 1988.
[Martin Eisen: By profession, Dr. Eisen was a university Professor specializing in constructing mathematical models such as those in cancer chemotherapy and epilepsy. He has studied and taught Yoga, Judo, and Aikido. Dr. Eisen was the founder and chief-instructor of the Shotokan Karate Clubs at Carnegie-Mellon and Dusquene Universities and the University of Pittsburgh. He helped teach Yoga in Graterford prison. His curiousity about the relation of Qi to healing and martial arts led him to study TCM, Tai Chi and Praying Mantis Kung Fu. He was initiated as a Disciple of Master Gin Foon Mark. Dr. Eisen now teaches (at his Kwoon and by webcam), writes and researches Praying Mantis, Qigong and Yang Tai Chi – see http://home.comcast.net/~carolezak ]