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Does acupuncture for diabetes work? 1

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Studies have shown acupuncture can be helpful for relieving diabetes symptoms, in some cases better than diabetes medications.
According to the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation, an estimated 29 million Americans are living with diabetes. Diabetes affects 380 million people worldwide, and the World Health Organization (WHO) approximates that this number will double by the year 2030.

In modern-day China, acupuncture is commonly practiced to treat diabetes. Newer studies are focusing on the biological mechanism of diabetes and suggest acupuncture can be an effective treatment for diabetes symptoms.

Fast facts on acupuncture and diabetes:
Acupuncture is a treatment that has been practiced in traditional Chinese medicine for 2,500 years.
Acupuncture involves stimulating points of the body with thin needles.
Diabetes is a disease where the body cannot process food to use as energy.
The result of diabetes is a buildup of sugar in the blood.
Most studies find some validation in the use of acupuncture to treat diabetes, but some suggest further research is necessary.

A study from researchers in Beijing, China, examined how specific acupuncture points help improve symptoms of diabetes. They found that within 3 weeks, rat models showed lower glucose levels, increased insulin levels, and improved glucose intolerance.

One 2016 literature review in the journal, Acupuncture in Medicine reviewed relevant articles from 2008 to 2015 to determine whether acupuncture was a valid treatment for insulin resistance and to assess the possibility of acupuncture as a future treatment for insulin sensitivity.

The results of the literature review suggested low intensity and low-frequency electroacupuncture could help in reducing insulin resistance and increasing insulin sensitivity. Electroacupuncture could be used alone or in combination with other treatments, including alternative therapies, such as diet and Chinese herbs.

In 2015, Acupuncture in Medicine reviewed a group of studies where electroacupuncture was combined with an anti-diabetic medication, called metformin, to look for better glucose lowering responses and greater insulin sensitivity. The researchers found the electroacupuncture-metformin combination did offer better glucose lowering effects and greater insulin sensitivity than metformin alone.

None of the studies appear to touch on the processes and mechanisms that may explain how exactly acupuncture works to manage diabetes symptoms.

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