Their report, published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, provides evidence that acupuncture helps reduce insulin resistance.
Insulin is among the most important hormones in the body, as it regulates glucose (blood sugar) levels. To note, insulin helps glucose enter the body’s cells so it can be used for energy. It also signals the liver to store glucose in the form of glycogen for later use.
However, if too much glucose enters the bloodstream, this causes the pancreas to produce more insulin to help glucose enter the cells. Over time, the cells stop responding to insulin – a condition known as insulin resistance. To note, if the pancreas can produce enough insulin to overcome insulin resistance in cells, a person’s glucose levels will stay in the healthy range.
Insulin resistance, however, increases a person’s risk of developing chronic conditions, including Type 2 diabetes. Those with insulin resistance are more likely to develop a condition called prediabetes, in which their blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Over time, extra glucose stays in the bloodstream, and a person ultimately develops Type 2 diabetes. In the U.S. alone, over 84 million people above the age of 18 – that’s one in three adults – are considered prediabetic.
Lifestyle plays an important role in a person’s risk factors for insulin resistance and prediabetes. Some factors include physical inactivity, poor diet and being overweight or obese. People who have metabolic syndrome — that is, a list of conditions that make them more likely to develop chronic disease — are also likely candidates for prediabetes.
In their report, the team looked at acupuncture and its effectiveness for treating insulin resistance.
Acupuncture is a form of medicine that’s widely used in China. It involves the insertion of very thin needles through the skin at very strategic points on the body. According to traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is a technique for balancing the flow of energy, or qi, through the pathways in the body.
The team searched multiple databases for randomized controlled trials on patients with insulin resistance receiving acupuncture as part of their treatment. They included 20 studies — covering 1,639 patients — in their review. Based on the results, acupuncture exhibited positive outcomes in homeostasis model assessments for insulin resistance. The treatment, in particular, improved scores in the insulin sensitivity index with fewer adverse events reported.
“Acupuncture was well tolerated by patients with fewer mild and transient side effects, and no withdrawals were reported due to serious adverse events,” the team wrote in their report.
From their findings, the researchers hope that future studies on the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating insulin resistance will cover more multi-center and rigorous blinded studies. (Related: Acupuncture proven effective at treating post-operative nausea; but modern medicine marginalizes true potential of acupuncture.)
Learn more about the health benefits of acupuncture at ChineseMedicine.news.