Can Acupuncture Help with Weight Loss?

March 8, 2018

Obesity represents a major health and societal issue for Australia. An Australian health survey (2011-2012), highlights that 63% of adults are now overweight or obese, with 28% classified as obese. Projections suggest that by 2025, the prevalence of overweight and obesity will increase to over 70%, with approximately one third of the adult Australian population classified as obese. It seems that there is no magic bullet for weight loss as obesity is a complex issue that oftentimes requires a multidisciplinary approach. However, acupuncture for weight loss and Chinese Medicine may be another option to try for weight loss.

In the May 2012 publication of Obesity Reviews, a team of researchers performed a detailed systematic review of clinical studies looking at acupuncture and obesity. When compared to no treatment and pharmaceutical medications, the acupuncture studies showed greater weight loss, decreased Body Mass Index (BMI) and decreased weight circumference.

Moreover, in a new Korean study published in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine, researchers found that auricular acupuncture (acupuncture which uses the ear points) resulted in about a 6% reduction in BMI over 8 weeks. In this study, the acupuncture needles were placed in the ear’s “hunger point”—the point linked to appetite, and as well as other points thought to be linked to the stomach, spleen, endocrine system etc.

In addition to acupuncture’s efficacy on weight loss, scientists have provided explanations on how acupuncture may help to promote weight loss:

  • Increases metabolism: Auricular (ear) acupuncture has been shown to temporarily increase basal metabolic rate and suppresses appetite via effects on the autonomic nervous system. It will leave you feeling calm and relaxed and keep your appetite under control.
  • Improves insulin resistance: There is some data supporting acupuncture’s effectiveness on addressing a condition called insulin resistance, which is associated with metabolic syndrome. This is done by altering activity of the sympathetic nervous system and possibly correcting the insulin signal defect.
  • Decreases abdominal fat: An MRI study demonstrated a decrease in abdominal fat storage after acupuncture treatments.
  • Appetite suppression: In the rat model, electro-acupuncture influenced the hypothalamus and obesity-related hormones to promote appetite suppression.

While some positive effects were seen in body weight, body mass index, waist circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio, the researchers caution that many of the reviewed studies were of poor quality. Also, clinical trials on acupuncture vary greatly, as there is no consensus on the most appropriate sham intervention, making it difficult to compare study results.

Obesity is not a simple issue, and there is no quick or easy fix. Treatment of obesity will always require a multidisciplinary integrated approach that includes a healthy balanced diet, maintaining an active lifestyle, and applying stress management techniques. Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine may just be the additional resource needed to enhance your weight-management regime, giving you that extra boost along the way.

For more information or to book your initial appointment with an acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine practitioners for your weight management, call your closest location (Perth Clinic: 57/76 Newcastle Street 9228 8828; Subiaco Clinic: 6/1 Sheen Street 9380 4171). Alternatively, you can make an online booking in our appointments page, or send us your queries through our online contact page.