Acupuncture Found To Slow Alzheimer’s And Dementia Symptoms

Acupuncture can be useful in slowing the side effects of Alzheimer’s Disease and other types of dementia claims a new study out of China. The study was recently published in Acupuncture in Medicine, and it displays a real promise for the role that acupuncture can play in the slowing of symptoms in the early development of Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.

Alzheimer's Disease
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Min Deng, from the Department of Neurology at Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University in China, and Xu-Feng Wang, from the Department of General Surgery at Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University, performed the acupuncture study in China and determined that the therapy was useful when a patient exhibited MCI, or mild cognitive impairment. MCI is descriptive of an intermediate stage that occurs between a natural cognitive decline in cognitive abilities and those that may be a signature of an actual cognitive degenerative disease. When it comes to MCI, there are some individuals who experience it and then do not get worse, but a very rare few actually get better after reaching the MCI stage.

The MCI stage that acupuncture is thought to stave off affects more than 16 million people in the United States. More than five to ten percent of older adults who contract MCI will end up with some sort of more severe dementia such as Alzheimer’s Disease. There are two different types of MCI. Both are based on the type of memory loss that is involved. The first is categorized as amnestic, or AMCI, and the second is categorized as non-amnestic, or NAMCI. AMCI is characterized by a decline in memory capacity with retention of mostly intact executive functions, whereas non-amnestic does effect the executive functions.

Up until now, research programs have gleaned evidence that acupuncture is beneficial for the treatment of dementia or AMCI in the form of symptom reduction. The researchers in China targeted current evidence to evaluate the comparative effectiveness of acupuncture as a straightforward and reliable technique for AMCI. As such, the scientists analyzed relevant clinical trials from Western and Chinese databases in which they compared acupuncture to more conventional treatments as recently as last year. As a result, five involving 568 people published between 2012-2013 were examined as part of the research. Involved in the acupuncture study were 288 patients that were labeled as the acupuncture group, and an additional 280 patients that were given a conventional drug that “may” improve learning and reduce the cognitive deficits associated with Alzheimer’s Disease called nimodipine.

Alzheimer's DAcupuncture can curb the effects of Alzheimer's Disease and dementia.isease
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Three trials were performed with these groups in the acupuncture study. In the first, the subjects were only subjected to acupuncture, in the second the subjects were only given nimodipine, and in the third, the subjects were given acupuncture in addition to nimodipine. When all the results were tallied, it was discovered that participants receiving acupuncture alone had better outcomes than those receiving just nimodipine. To determine this, the scientists used conventional tests that are widely used to determine the extensiveness of AMCI.

In the third group, acupuncture used along with nimodipine had a much greater effect on the subjects when compared with the use of nimodipine alone.

As a result, the authors of the Chinese acupuncture study released a statement.

“In conclusion, the results of this meta-analysis suggest that acupuncture therapy has a significant positive effective on cognitive and memory function in patients with AMCI compared with nimodipine alone. The results also show that acupuncture is effective as an adjunctive treatment to nimodipine for AMCI.”

The authors of the acupuncture study were the first to note the overall small size of their study in China. However, theirs is surprisingly only one of the first studies to be performed to discover the benefits between acupuncture and dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. The authors also noted that there was no account of any sort of placebo effect in their acupuncture study, and stressed that much more rigorous testing must occur to truly understand the connections between the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia and the therapy of acupuncture.

[Feature Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]