Acupuncture may help prevent diabetes, study finds

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

The researchers focused on individuals classified as “prediabetic” for this study, meaning they had higher than normal blood sugar levels but were not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes. Dozens of previous projects involving more than 3,600 subjects with prediabetes were analyzed.

This analysis showed a clear trend: people who underwent acupuncture therapy saw several key markers associated with diabetes improve. These markers include fasting blood glucose, two-hour blood glucose, and glycated hemoglobin, as well as a greater overall decline in the incidence of prediabetes.

Best of all, not a single patient studied reported or experienced any adverse or negative side effects. Doctoral student and lead researcher Min Zhang thinks acupuncture can be a useful tool in preventing diabetes.

Diabetes is a major modern health problem, estimated to affect around 11% of the world’s adult population. Additionally, the International Diabetes Federation calculates that nearly 1.3 billion people will have diabetes or prediabetes by 2045.

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

The risk of diabetes is significantly related to lifestyle factors and decisions such as diet and exercise, but other considerations also come into play. This is where acupuncture can prove useful, according to the researchers. “It’s not just about blood sugar levels,” says Ms. Zhang. “If you’re having trouble sleeping, high blood pressure, a lot of stress, that can also contribute. So acupuncture can help with those factors and work holistically to help people balance their lives.

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, electrical pulses and other traditional Chinese medicine therapies such as moxibustion.

“It’s important because people with diabetes can have skin problems, so maybe it’s not always ideal to use needles,” Ms Zhang said. “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 progress through 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.

Leave a Comment