Preventing type 2 diabetes: could acupuncture help?

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Researchers are exploring acupuncture as a possible treatment for many health conditions. Alina555/Getty Images
  • About 415 million people worldwide live with diabetes.
  • Researchers looked at acupuncture, which is an alternative medical therapy with more than 3,000 years of history, to see if it could benefit people with diabetes.
  • A new study from Edith Cowan University has found that acupuncture may be helpful in helping prediabetic patients prevent type 2 diabetes.
  • Researchers believe acupuncture also provides a holistic approach to addressing medical conditions known to aggravate diabetes.

Acupuncture has been used as an alternative medical practice to about 3,000 years old. Initiated in China, acupuncture has become a more common practice in Western countries since the 1950s. A 2012 survey of Americans reported about 3.5 million Americans used acupuncture as a complementary health approach.

Previous research has shown that acupuncture is effective in relieving a variety of different medical conditions, including low back pain, headache, nauseaand symptoms of menopause.

Adding to this list, a team of researchers from Edith Cowan University in Australia report findings showing that acupuncture therapy may be helpful in helping prediabetic patients ward off type 2 diabetes.

The new study was recently published in the journal Holistic nursing practice.

Acupuncture is an ancient practice Traditional Chinese Medicine. An acupuncturist inserts very fine needles into various areas of the body. The needles help stimulate these specific areas – called acupuncture points – to help remove “blockages” in the body’s natural energy flow, called “Qi” (pronounced /chi/).

Researchers have been looking at acupuncture as a possible treatment for diabetes for some time now. About 415 million people worldwide live with diabetes, with projections to reach half a billion by 2040.

Previous research has examined acupuncture as a treatment for insulin resistanceand as complementary therapy to control type 2 diabetes

According Min Zhang, a Ph.D. candidate at the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia, associate professor at the College of Nursing and Rehabilitation at North China University of Science and Technology, China, and lead author of this study, the purpose of this research was to identify the effects of acupuncture-related therapies on the management of prediabetes in the community setting; and find the best treatment protocol.

“Acupuncture works by improving insulin sensitivity, which determines how responsive our body’s cells are to insulin – a hormone that helps our body turn food into energy,” she explained. at DTM.

“This means that acupuncture can help control blood sugar in people with prediabetes by improving insulin production and the efficiency of insulin use,” Dr. Zhang said.

For this study, Zhang and her team analyzed data regarding acupuncture-related therapeutic interventions for glycemic control of prediabetes from 14 databases and five clinical registry platforms. The studies spanned more than 100 years, from April 1921 to December 2020, and included more than 3,600 people with prediabetes.

From their research, the team discovered that acupuncture therapy helped to significantly improve Markersincluding fasting blood glucose, two-hour plasma glucoseand glycated hemoglobin. They also found that acupuncture helped reduce the incidence of prediabetes.

The study also showed no reports of adverse effects of acupuncture therapy in patients.

Additionally, Zhang and her team believe that acupuncture offers a holistic option to help relieve other health conditions known to worsen diabetes. These include stress, sleep problemsand high blood pressure.

“Over 70% of people with prediabetes will develop diabetes in their lifetime. If you ignore it, your risk of heart disease and stroke will also increase,” Zhang said.

She also talked about its benefits over certain medications for some people.

“[T]Medicines used for people with diabetes, such as metforminis not recommended or approved for prediabetes by TGA (Administration of Therapeutic Goods in Australia) due to side effects. Because prediabetes is reversible, holistic, non-pharmacological treatment is an investment rather than an expense,” she emphasized.

Moreover, Zhang said past searches demonstrated that acupuncture also has benefits for patients with type 2 diabetes.

“Acupuncture may improve glycemic control in adults with type 2 diabetes without significant adverse events,” she said. “This effect is facilitated by improved glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity which lowers blood glucose levels.”

DTM also spoke with Dr. Mahmoud Kara, founder of KaraMD & Alternative Health Solutions, about the study. Dr Kara said there were a few areas that warranted further research.

“The first is that the study does not exclude those who received acupuncture treatment while making lifestyle changes, particularly dietary changes, making it difficult to conclude that acupuncture alone has a significant impact on the risk of diabetes,” he said.

“Another area to consider is the benefits of acupuncture on other health areas indirectly related to diabetes. For example, chronic stress is often associated with low blood sugar levels and blood sugar fluctuations. Based on this, it would be important to determine whether acupuncture has a direct impact on blood sugar levels or whether it has an impact on reducing stress and, therefore, indirectly benefits health,” explained Dr Kara. .

“Finally, relying on acupuncture alone may not produce the results one is looking for,” he continued.

“Although acupuncture may offer some health benefits, other proven methods such as lifestyle changes (eg, diet, exercise, stress reduction) should not be overlooked when ‘It’s about prediabetes and reducing the risk of disease.”
— Dr. Mahmoud Kara

Dr Rohit MogheAmbulatory Care and Population Health Clinical Pharmacist at Trinity Health Mid-Atlantic, agreed that further research in this area is warranted.

“My overall approach to the practice after reading this study is that it informs it, but doesn’t change it, at least not yet,” he explained to DTM.

“I will continue to push hard and mentor my patients through the lifestyle as medicine ADCS7, with a particular focus on diet modification, enjoyable physical activity, stress management through coping skills and restful sleep. If someone with prediabetes has musculoskeletal pain and/or is looking for a non-pharmacological treatment for pain, I would recommend acupuncture along with other complementary approaches to treat it,” he said.

Dr. Moghe also stressed the need to increase funding for research into non-pharmacological methods of treating and preventing common chronic diseases.

“Because of extensive research into accepted drugs, devices and procedures in the Western view of medicine, we are able to prove that they work and how they are approved,” he detailed, adding: “However, we must also devote equal and fair resources to studying medicine and procedures from other traditions to bring these therapies to those who want to use them.

“Medical traditions older than Western medicine, such as acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Ayurveda, yoga therapy, and others shamanic medical practices also need due respect and fair research funding. Since we are now a global community, it is only safe to do so.
— Dr. Rohit Moghe

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