Acupuncture may help prevent type 2 diabetes, studies show

  • New research suggests that acupuncture may reduce the risk of developing prediabetes, a condition that can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes.
  • Experts say the research is credible but doesn’t address various variables that could affect the results.
  • They also note that prediabetes is generally treatable and preventable by eating healthier, exercising more, and losing weight.

Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to treat a variety of ailments and diseases.

That National Health Institute (NIH) defines acupuncture as a tTraditional Chinese medicine (TCM) Technique in which practitioners stimulate specific points on the body, often by inserting thin needles through the skin.

The NIH notes that acupuncture is generally considered safe when performed by an experienced, well-trained physician using sterile needles. For this reason, the NIH warns that improperly performed acupuncture can have serious side effects.

Still, the effectiveness of this ancient practice has been widely researched, and it exists proof that acupuncture could offer significant health benefits.

New research from Edith Cowan University in Australia shows that acupuncture may help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The recently published meta-analysis in Holistic nursing practiceshows that acupuncture therapy can contribute to improved glycemic control in people with prediabetes.

Investigators analyzed more than a dozen previous studies covering the effects of acupuncture in over 3,000 people with prediabetes.

Their results suggest that acupuncture therapy can significantly improve key markers of prediabetes and reduce the incidence of the condition.

In addition, they found no reports of acupuncture side effects in the subjects studied.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), just over 37 million Americans were living with diabetes as of 2019, including 8.5 million without a diagnosis.

Individuals who develop prediabetes are at increased risk for type 2 diabetes.

“Prediabetes, or impaired glucose tolerance, is a condition in which blood sugar is elevated but not high enough to be considered diabetes,” said Dr. Caroline Messer, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told Healthline.

“It’s a warning sign that the body is starting to become resistant to insulin,” she continued.

Elevated blood sugar levels are often the first sign of prediabetes.

dr José Mayorga, Executive Director at UCI Health Family Health Center and Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at UCI School of Medicine in Santa Ana, California, explained that a fasting blood sugar level 99 mg/dL or less is considered “normal”.

“100 to 125 mg/dL indicates you have prediabetes, and 126 mg/dL or more indicates you have diabetes,” Mayorga said.

He added that other blood tests a person might use to determine if they have prediabetes include hemoglobin A1c and glucose tolerance test.

While type 2 diabetes is commonly associated with diet, exercise and lifestyle factors, other aspects of health could also influence a person’s risk, noted Min Zhang, a graduate student with Edith Cowan and lead author of the new study.

“It’s not just about blood sugar levels,” Zhang said in a statement. “If you suffer from sleep problems, high blood pressure and a lot of stress, these can also contribute.”

“So acupuncture can help with those factors and work holistically to help people balance their lives,” she added.

While Zhang’s findings are based on credible studies, Messer warns that many factors have not been taken into account.

“As with so many other studies, the problem is that there are so many variables,” Messer said.

“Do patients have lower blood sugar because acupuncture gives them time to relax and therefore lowers cortisol levels and eventually sugar levels? Do acupuncturists encourage or influence healthy habits in addition to acupuncture?”

Messer emphasized that the majority of the studies considered were randomized controlled trials (RCTs), which lends the meta-analysis more credibility.

“But I’d like to see a large prospective, double-blind, randomized controlled trial before I draw any definitive conclusions,” Messer said.

dr Melissa See, MPA, medical director at AltaMed Health Services, told Healthline that type 2 diabetes symptoms to look out for can include:

  • Increased thirst
  • increased urination
  • increased hunger
  • fatigue
  • unintentional weight loss

Note that some people experience no symptoms at all, which is common in people with prediabetes. She also stressed that people with obesity are particularly at risk.

“That [U.S. Preventive Services Task Force] USPSTF recommends screening for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes in adults ages 35 to 70 who are overweight or obese,” See said. “Clinicians should offer or refer to patients with prediabetes effective preventive measures.”

See added that prediabetes is usually treated with lifestyle changes, “such as

While type 2 diabetes is largely preventable, other factors, such as B. a person’s hormones play a role.

Of course, a healthy diet and regular physical activity can aid in weight loss and help control blood sugar, but results may vary based on factors such as a person’s age, biological sex, current weight, and genetics.

“Lose a modest amount of weight and get regular exercise, and your risk goes down,” Mayorga said.

A growing body of evidence shows that acupuncture offers many health benefits, and new research shows it may also be effective for treating prediabetes.

Individuals with prediabetes who manage their condition may be able to prevent type 2 diabetes.

While acupuncture could offer a valuable alternative, more rigorous research is needed.

For now, experts recommend a healthy, balanced diet, regular exercise, and weight maintenance to help control blood sugar levels and prevent the development of type 2 diabetes.

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