Acupuncture, used for centuries to heal a range of health problems, may be just what the doctor ordered for one of today’s most common medical conditions — type 2 diabetes. According to a study in Holistic Nursing Practice, acupuncture appears to offer protection against type 2 diabetes for those with prediabetes.

Study Details

A research team from Edith Cowan University investigated several dozen studies on the effects of acupuncture on more than 3,600 people with prediabetes, a condition characterized by higher-than-normal blood glucose levels not yet in the diabetes range.

The findings showed acupuncture therapy significantly improved key markers, such as fasting plasma glucose, two-hour plasma glucose, and glycated hemoglobin, plus a greater decline in the incidence of prediabetes. None of the patients reported any adverse reactions.

It’s estimated that 11 percent of the world’s adult population has type 2 diabetes. According to Min Zhang, PhD candidate and lead researcher, this new research shows great promise for acupuncture therapy as an additional option to ward off diabetes. “Without intervention, 93 percent of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within 20 years,” says Zhang.

“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,” says lead study author Min Zhang.

Not Just for Healthy Blood Sugar

Acupuncture can help improve multiple areas of someone’s life. In the case of prediabetes and diabetes, acupuncture also addresses sleep problems, high blood pressure, chronic stress, and even diabetes-related skin problems.

According to Zhang, it’s important to remember that acupuncture therapy is more than just needles — it is a big family of acupoint stimulation techniques, such as light and electric pulses, and includes other traditional Chinese medicine therapies such as moxibustion.

Abstract

To assess the effects and safety of acupuncture-related therapy (AT) interventions on glycemic control for prediabetes, we systematically searched 14 databases and 5 clinical registry platforms from inception to December 2020. Randomized controlled trials involving AT interventions for managing prediabetes were included (PROSPERO registration no. CRD42020209809). Of the 855 identified trials, 34 articles were included for qualitative synthesis, 31 of which were included in the final meta-analysis. Compared with usual care, sham intervention, or conventional medicine, AT treatments yielded greater reductions in the primary outcomes, including fasting plasma glucose (FPG) (standard mean difference [SMD] = −0.83; 95% confidence interval [CI], −1.06, −0.61; P < .00001), 2-hour plasma glucose (2hPG) (SMD = −0.88; 95% CI, −1.20, −0.57; P < .00001), and glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) levels (SMD = −0.91; 95% CI, −1.31, −0.51; P < .00001), as well as a greater decline in the secondary outcome, which is the incidence of prediabetes (RR = 1.43; 95% CI, 1.26, 1.63; P < .00001). AT is thus a potential strategy that can contribute to better glycemic control in the management of prediabetes. Because of the substantial clinical heterogeneity, the effect estimates should be interpreted with caution. More research is required for different ethnic groups and long-term effectiveness.

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