Metabolic syndrome, characterized by excessive level of abdominal obesity(waist size >40 inches (M) >35 inches (F), less sensitivity to insulin(insulin resistance or diabetes, fasting sugar >100mg/dl), high blood pressure(>130mmHg systolic or >85 mmHg diastolic), and high level of blood serum cholesterol(triglyceride >150mg/dl), is now considered a major health hazard1 and has even been called a “global pandemic.”2
Clinically any person falling under any one of the above conditions is considered high risk of full-blown metabolic syndrome because these conditions are closely inter-connected mechanism. Researchers suggest that an increase in high-calorie food such as high sugar containing fast food, low-fiber fast food, an increase in sedentary lifestyles, and a decrease in physical activity and exercises complicated with ongoing elevated stress level especially caused by mainly global COVID 19 induced pandemic contribute to the rising incidence of metabolic syndrome.1
Patients with metabolic syndrome are five times more likely to develop diabetes.3 In fact, often the cases of metabolic syndrome often increase alongside with the cases of obesity and type 2 diabetes.1
CDC data in 2017 give us an alarming picture that about 30.2 million adults aged 18 years and older (comprising of 12.2% of US adults) had type 2 diabetes and the likelihood of the prevalence of prediabetes or metabolic syndrome was about three times more—suggesting that about one third of US adults have metabolic syndrome.1
Metabolic syndrome is not only affected by poor diet as many people believe but also not enough exercise; uncontrolled high stress levels, and the health of the microbiome in the gut can also play an important and integral part of the disease progression.
The microbiome in the gut is also known to affect metabolism, and may contribute to insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome.4 In individuals with metabolic syndrome, arterial stiffness predicts cardiovascular risk. In a study of 617 women, analysis of the microbiome accounted for 8.3% of the variation in arterial stiffness. For example, examining the gut microbial makeup showed that butyrate-producing Ruminococcaceae bacteria were negatively correlated with arterial stiffness.5
Studies about acupuncture for many health concerns including high blood pressure and obesity demonstrate direct effects of acupuncture on the central nervous system. These include spinal reflex effects, where acupuncture stimulates muscle relaxation and changes in visceral organs, resulting in the altered level of nerve function. In the brain, acupuncture has been shown to change functional connectivity, decreasing stress and illness while improving the regulation of the primary system that the body uses for regulating hormones and stress response.6 Additionally, acupuncture modulates parasympathetic activity, the branch of the nervous system associated with rest, relaxation, digestion and tissue healing.7
Acupuncture combined with the protocol to balance gut microbiome may have a higher chance of slowing down the metabolic syndrome and possibly reversing the disease progression within certain time without taking risks of invasive and dangerous medications and surgeries in the future.