Acupuncture May Help Prevent Diabetes: Research

JOONDALUP, Australia — Normally used to relieve pain, acupuncture dates back thousands of years. Incredibly, new research from Australia suggests this ancient medicinal technique may still offer additional unrealized health benefits. Scientists from Edith Cowan University report that acupuncture therapy could be a useful tool in preventing type 2 diabetes.

The researchers focused on people classified as “prediabetic” for this study, meaning they had higher-than-normal blood glucose levels without being high enough to be diagnosed as diabetic. Dozens of previous projects covering more than 3,600 subjects with prediabetes were reviewed.

That analysis showed a clear trend: People who underwent acupuncture therapy saw improvements in several key markers associated with diabetes. Such markers include fasting plasma glucose, two-hour plasma glucose, and glycosylated hemoglobin, as well as a greater overall decrease in the incidence of prediabetes.

Even better, not a single patient studied reported or exhibited adverse or negative side effects. PhD candidate and principal investigator Min Zhang believes that acupuncture therapy can be a useful tool when it comes to preventing diabetes.

Diabetes is a major modern health problem, estimated to affect approximately 11 percent of the planet’s adult population. In addition, the International Diabetes Federation estimates that nearly 1.3 billion people will be diabetic or pre-diabetic by 2045.

“Without intervention, 93 percent of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within 20 years,” says Ms Zhang in a statement. “But unlike diabetes, prediabetes is reversible with lifestyle interventions such as improved diet and increased exercise. But many people struggle to adhere to long-term lifestyle changes, so non-pharmacological treatments like acupuncture could prove valuable.”

Diabetes risk is significantly related to lifestyle factors and decisions such as diet and exercise, but there are other considerations at play as well. This is where acupuncture can come in handy, according to the researchers. “It’s not just about blood sugar levels,” explains Ms. Zhang. “If you experience trouble sleeping, high blood pressure, a lot of stress, this can also contribute. So acupuncture can help with these factors and work holistically to help people bring balance to their lives.”

When most people think of acupuncture, needles immediately come to mind. But the research team explains that the technique is much more; such as light, electrical pulses, and additional traditional Chinese medicine therapies such as moxibustion.

“This is important because people with diabetes can have skin problems, so it may not always be ideal to use needles,” says Ms. Zhang. “We need to do more research on acupuncture and diabetes, because we need to find more ways to prevent prediabetes from turning into type 2 diabetes.”

“Many people with prediabetes don’t have any symptoms and feel fine, but some people progress to full-blown diabetes no more than 6 months after their prediabetes diagnosis. In fact, prediabetes intervention is an investment rather than an expense,” she concludes. “So the best time to prevent type 2 diabetes is now.”

The study is published in Holistic Nursing Practice.

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