Acupuncture could help prevent diabetes, research shows

JOONDALUP, Australia — Typically used to alleviate 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 at Edith Cowan University report acupuncture therapy could be a useful tool in preventing Type 2 diabetes.

Researchers focused on individuals classified as “prediabetic” for this study, meaning they displayed higher-than-normal blood glucose levels without actually being high enough to be diagnosed as diabetic. Dozens of earlier projects encompassing over 3,600 subjects with prediabetes were analyzed.

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

Even better, not a single studied patient reported or exhibited any adverse or negative side effects. PhD candidate and lead researcher Min Zhang believes acupuncture therapy may be a useful tool when it comes to warding off diabetes.

Diabetes is a major modern health concern, estimated to affect roughly 11 percent of the planet’s adult population. Moreover, The International Diabetes Federation calculates close to 1.3 billion people will be either diabetic or prediabetic by 2045.

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

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

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

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

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

The study is published in Holistic Nursing Practice.