Obesity is a common problem of western society. It is estimated that more than 30 percent of individuals in the Unites States are overweight and many of these are considered to be obese. There are dozens of fad diets out there that can help in weight loss, some of which are more extreme than others. But can acupuncture help control problems with being overweight?
Researchers out of the journal Acupuncture in Medicine have attempted to answer that question. According to the research, the placement of five small acupuncture needles in the area of the outer ear may help decrease appetite and therefore can decrease weight.
Acupuncture of the ear is based on the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine that indicate the outer ear is representative of all of the parts of the body. One acupuncture needle is inserted in the part of the ear that is related to being hungry, while other protocols involve using five separate needles at key points in the outer ear.
Degree of Obesity Equals Different Treatment
According to the researchers, people who suffer from mild obesity may benefit from having a single acupuncture needle placed in the hunger acupuncture site of the outer ear. Those, however, who have severe obesity, are best benefited by having all five areas of the outer ear treated with acupuncture.
According to the study, the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of severe obesity is closely linked to metabolic function. When metabolic activity is increased through the use of acupuncture, there is a decrease in body fat and a resultant loss of weight.
The report was published by researchers at the Yale University Prevention Research Center. In the study, patients received acupuncture to the outer ear and were compared with patients who had no acupuncture. The study indicated that the positive effects of acupuncture on weight loss could have been related to the placebo effect, in which people believe a treatment is effective when, in fact, it is not.
According to researchers from the US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, there have been mixed reports as to whether acupuncture was effective in helping the individual lose weight or not.
In one study, the research scientists found no difference in waist circumference, body mass index, or body weight when comparing a group of people who got acupuncture with those who received a placebo treatment.
In the study, 91 overweight participants were randomly assigned to receive five-needle acupuncture to the outer ear, single point acupuncture (which targets the hunger center only) or sham acupuncture, in which needles are inserted into areas that are not acupuncture sites.
The study lasted eight weeks. During that time, the study participants were instructed to follow a calorie restricted diet but not a diet specifically designed to promote weight loss. They were also instructed to have no change in their exercise program.
Those participants who received acupuncture at all five acupuncture points in the other ear had the needles placed and then taped in the same location for one week. Then the identical treatment was done on the opposite ear. The process of switching ears from left to right was repeated over the entire 8 weeks of the study.
Other participants received related treatment involving just the hunger acupuncture site of the outer ear or had a sham acupuncture treatment, in which the needles were placed but then were immediately removed rather than being taped to the ear.
During the study, 24 patients quit the study, fifteen of whom were those who were receiving the sham acupuncture treatment. Among those who were in the study to its completion, there were marked differences in weight loss between the treatment groups.
At four weeks into the study, those who received acupuncture at all five sites to the outer ear had a mean weight loss of 6.1 percent. This was compared to an average of 5.7 percent weight loss among those who were treated only at the hunger acupuncture site. Those who received sham therapy did not lose any weight.
The biggest change was found in the waist size of the patients receiving five-point acupuncture therapy when compared to those who received sham acupuncture treatments. The body weight percentage also decreased but only in the group who had all five acupuncture sites stimulated in the outer ear.