A new study published in AJP-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology suggests that electroacupuncture to the abdominal region may prevent increases in blood sugar concentrations after a meal by affecting insulin sensitivity and circulating free fatty acid concentrations. Granted this is not comparative physiology research, I find it interesting that electrical stimulation can have such a large impact on metabolism, in mice at least.
Drs. Nicola Abate and Jiande Chen, lead investigators on this study, fed female mice either a diet that was very high in saturated fatty acids (60% fat) or a control diet. After 12 weeks, they performed glucose tolerance tests to see how well the mice disposed of glucose from the blood over the course of two hours. Not surprisingly, a high fat diet impaired glucose tolerance in the animals. What this means is that concentrations of glucose in the blood of the animals fed a high fat diet were significantly higher at 60 mins (491.7 +- 21.9 mg/dl vs. 356 +- 16.6 mg/dl) and 120 mins after the glucose challenge (456.7 +- 28.1 mg/dl vs. 220 +- 17.2 mg/dl) compared to the control fed animals. In other words, the animals developed an impaired ability to respond to or secrete the hormone insulin which is responsible for lowering blood sugar after a meal by stimulating glucose uptake into tissues.
Now here comes the interesting part: 3Hz of electroacupuncture to the abdominal region throughout the glucose challenge reduced blood glucose concentrations by 61.7% at 60 mins and 74.5% at 120 mins post glucose challenge compared to the control fed animals. Further experiments suggest the mechanism: 3Hz electroacupuncture significantly improved their ability to respond to insulin (i.e. insulin sensitivity) and reduced circulating free fatty acid concentrations that are known to cause impaired glucose tolerance.
The acupoints stimulated in the current study were CV4 (Guanyuan) and CV12 (Zhongwan):
J Yin, J Kuang, M Chandalia, D Tuvdendorj, B Tumurbaatar, N Abate, JDZ Chen. Hypoglycemic effects and mechanisms of electroacupuncture on insulin resistance. American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology. 307: R332–R339, 2014.