Acupuncture can help prevent diabetes, study shows

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

For this study, researchers focused on individuals who were classified as “prediabetic,” meaning they had higher-than-normal blood glucose levels without actually being high enough to be diagnosed as diabetic. Dozens of previous projects involving more than 3,600 subjects with prediabetes were analysed.

That analysis showed a clear trend: People who received acupuncture therapy saw several key markers linked to diabetes improve. Such markers include fasting plasma glucose, two-hour plasma glucose, and glycosylated hemoglobin, as well as an overall greater reduction in the incidence of prediabetes.

In fact, no patient studied reported or exhibited any adverse or negative side effects. PhD candidate and lead researcher Min Zhang thinks that acupuncture therapy can be a useful tool when it comes to fighting off diabetes.

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

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

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

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

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

“Many people with prediabetes have no symptoms and feel fine, but some people don’t enter the diabetes period until 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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