In the past few years, more and more experts have been looking to the use of acupuncture for weight loss. A well-known weight-loss aid in the East, the use of needles to control appetite and help you shed pounds didn’t become popular in the West until recent years.
And now experts are looking to prove their efficacy through studies and research. For example, a meta analysis published in The International Journal of Neuroscience looked at the effect of acupuncture on appetite, metabolism and the reduction of stress (which can lead to overeating). It also searched for connections between acupuncture and the release of “feel-good hormones” such as endorphins and serotonin. Since elevated amounts of these hormones usually suppress appetite, acupuncture could become an important aid in controlling cravings.
While results of the analysis were mixed (some studies showed benefits while others didn’t), it does open up the possibility of acupuncture practice being a good alternative or supplementary aid for those trying to reduce their weight.
Ear Acupuncture and Weight Loss
One of the most popular places to use acupuncture for weight loss in the ear. In a study conducted by Kyung Hee University in Seoul, South Korea, researchers compared the use of what’s known as the “5 point” ear treatment for obesity vs. inserting only one needle in the area considered the “hunger suppression” point. A third group, used as a control group, received acupuncture in random points not associated with weight loss or hunger control. This is known as “sham acupuncture.”
After eight weeks of treatment, those receiving acupuncture on the “5 points” saw a reduction of 6.1 percent in their BMI (Body Mass Index), while those receiving hunger point acupuncture saw a reduction of 5.7 %. No changes were seen on those receiving sham acupuncture.
The researchers do point out that these are results based on short-term weight loss, and that more research is needed to figure out how these numbers hold up over time.
Why Acupuncture for Weight Loss Works
While the science behind acupuncture is not clearly understood, the idea is that the application of needles to certain points stimulates the body’s energy. For example, by placing a needle at a kidney point, you might help fight water retention, which could be causing you to appear bloated and could be slowing down your progress on the scale.
Other important points to target for weight loss are those connected to the thyroid gland and the spleen, as these are connected to hormonal rebalancing and glucose. By helping your body process sugar better, you’re also preventing fat accumulation and controlling cravings that could otherwise lead to overeating.
Points targeting the liver and adrenal glands are also key to acupuncture for weight loss. In fact, a skilled acupuncturist will target all of these points simultaneously for the best results.
Not All Studies Are Clear
A number of studies on acupuncture and weight loss have shown mixed results. A 1999 study published in the Eating and Weight Disorders journal failed to find a direct connection between acupuncture and weight loss in obese patients. After 12 weeks of treatment, none of the participants experienced any significant weight loss that could be attributed to the use of acupuncture.
However, it’s important to note that those receiving acupuncture did experience an improvement in their depression and anxiety symptoms. This improvement could potentially lead to weight loss success in the long run, even though it wasn’t something the study considered at the time.
Because acupuncture is a non-invasive treatment with few to no side effects, there’s little harm in using it as part of your weight loss program. Just remember to work with a licensed acupuncturist who understands proper needle application and safety.