Medical Research

Changes in HbA1c and circulating and adipose tissue androgen levels in overweight‐obese women with polycystic ovary syndrome in response to electroacupuncture

Kristen Sparrow • January 21, 2017

Lots of nitty gritty on physiological effects of acupuncture on tissues, neurotransmitters, and other systems.  They gave lots of acupuncture, which, again, is a bit of a stumbling block for us practitioners, but you have to crawl before you can walk.  They will be doing a full controlled study now that they had this positive pilot.  To detect vagal activity they use serum markers, not HRV.
Obes Sci Pract. 2016 Dec;2(4):426-435. doi: 10.1002/osp4.78. Epub 2016 Nov 9.

Changes in HbA1c and circulating and adipose tissue androgen levels in overweight-obese women with polycystic ovary syndrome in response to electroacupuncture.



Insulin sensitivity is ~40% lower in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) than in controls. We tested the hypothesis that 5 weeks of electroacupuncture treatment improves glucose regulation and androgen levels in overweight/obese women with PCOS.


Seventeen women with PCOS, aged 18 to 38 years, with a body mass index (BMI) ≥25 kg/m2 and diagnosed with PCOS were included in this experimental and feasibility study and subjected to five weeks of electroacupuncture treatments three times/week. The primary outcome was changes in whole-body glucose homeostasis measured by euglycemic hyperinsulinemic clamp before and after the intervention. Secondary outcome were changes in HbA1c, circulating catecholamines, adipocyte size and adipose tissue expression of sex steroids and nerve growth factor (NGF).


No significant change in glucose homeostasis was observed, but HbA1c decreased by 9.5% (p = 0.004), circulating testosterone decreased by 22% (p = 0.0007) and dihydrotestosterone decreased by 12% (p = 0.007). The two vagal activity markers of plasma serotonin levels and the dopamine metabolite homovanillic acid decreased by 21% (p = 0.027) and 20% (p = 0.011), respectively. Adipose tissue concentrations of testosterone decreased by 18% (p = 0.049), and androstenedione decreased by 13% (p = 0.035), and mature NGF/proNGF ratio, a marker of sympathetic activity, increased (p = 0.04). These changes occurred without changes in anthropometrics.


Five weeks of electroacupuncture treatment improves HbA1c and circulating and adipose tissue androgens in women with PCOS. This effect is mediated, at least in part, via modulation of vagal activity and adipose tissue sympathetic activity. Based on these findings, we have recently initiated a randomized controlled study (NTC02647827).