Can Acupuncture Help You with Weight Loss? Research Says YES.

Can Acupuncture Help You with Weight Loss? Research Says YES.

            Obesity is without a doubt a public health concern worldwide, but more so in the United States affecting 34% of adults and 20% of children and teenagers placing a higher risk of developing chronic health issues. Research in recent years has shown positive results with acupuncture treatment for weight loss both alone and in conjunction with traditional methods of weight loss. Looking at weight loss from a TCM perspective can be helpful for a patient to truly understand how their individual body works and processes weight loss.

Acupuncture Points & Benefits for Weight Loss

            According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, obesity is made up of several factors in the etiology and pathogenesis including Qi deficiency, absence of physical exercise, poor diet, and constitutional factors. Acupuncture for weight loss will stimulate Qi to increase metabolism, decrease appetite and stress, and affect the area of the brain that is responsible for hunger. Additionally, acupuncture regulates the hormones and optimizes bodily functions related to obesity.

Acupuncture Works for Weight Loss By:

  • Decreasing Inflammation – any inflammation in the body can slow down metabolism, and put a strain on the immune system.

  • Stopping Water Retention – it is important to stimulate the nerves of the endocrine system as well as the Kidney to prevent water retention. Doing this will allow for quicker weight loss as well as help to keep the weight off.

  • Increasing Digestion – Stomach and Kidney acupuncture points are utilized to improve function in the digestive system and increase the nutrients absorbed by the body.

  • Proper Hormone Production – leveling out hormones positively affects both digestion and cognition to immune system function and healing.

    • Acupuncture can influence two hormones to help with weight loss called Ghrelin which controls appetite, and Leptin which regulates fat storage as well as metabolism. Stimulating these hormones can curb cravings and appetite as well as digestion.

  • Improving Mood – acupuncture releases endorphins throughout the body to eliminate feelings of stress and anxiety causing the release of stress hormones like cortisol. Ear point Shen Men is good for this.

  • Increasing Metabolism – needling the thyroid area boosts pituitary gland function which directly affects metabolism. Needling this area helps to increase fat-burn, and makes workouts and everyday activities more effective for losing weight.
There are some key areas that are important to needle when treating weight loss, not least of which are the ear points.

Ear Acupuncture Points for Weight Loss:

  • Mouth – helps control impulsive eating.

  • Heart – appetite control.

  • Lung – food addiction as well as those who love sweets.

  • Stomach – for the patient that likes to nibble often, and continues to eat even after they’re full.

  • Shenmen – for calming point for anxiety, frustration, insecurity, and anger.

  • Thyroid – slow metabolism.

  • Endocrine – water retention.

  • Spleen – sugar and hormonal imbalances.

  • Adrenal and Ovary – weight gain due to PMS or menopause.

  • Kidney – water retention.

Body Acupuncture Points for Weight Loss:

  • C2 Huatuo

  • GB8

  • T7 Huatuo

  • ST21

  • GB13

  • ST34

  • SP4

  • ST40

  • ST36
In addition to these body points, the Four Gates points, LI4 and LV3, are usually added as well to circulate energy. There are multiple points that will also come into play depending on if the patient is faced with the following TCM pathogens:
  • Blood Stagnation

  • Heart Yang Deficiency

  • Spleen & Stomach Damp Heat

  • Spleen Qi Deficiency

  • Spleen Yang Deficiency

  • Stomach Dampness

  • Stomach Fire
The two main factors that cause obesity is dampness and phlegm, and the goal as an acupuncture provider is to determine pattern differentiation as well as the main factors contributing to obesity.

Weight Loss Acupuncture Research

            Traditional Chinese Medicine has multiple studies over recent years showing proof of positive results from acupuncture for weight loss.

Mechanism of Action of Acupuncture in Obesity: A Perspective from the Hypothalamus, 2021:

  • The goal of this study was to look at the relationship between the hypothalamus and obesity along with the mechanisms of acupuncture on obesity from the hypothalamus perspective.

  • This review overall found that acupuncture has an advantage being able to modulate multiple targets and pathways, but the particular acupoint prescription is of the utmost importance when it comes to obesity.

  • The review concluded that their findings showed that from the perspective of the hypothalamus, acupuncture can be beneficial for obesity, but that its mechanism of action on a molecular level needs further study to further understand the mechanisms and benefits of acupuncture for obesity.

A Computational Framework to Study the Effect of Acupuncture on Obesity by Integrating Multiple Levels of Data, 2020:

  • The goal of this study was to determine the efficiency of acupuncture treatment for the treatment of obesity integrating randomized controlled trials published in China as well as abroad.

  • There were a total of 1052 patients included in the approved articles, and the analyses showed that the effect of the acupuncture groups were better than the diet and exercise instruction group as well as the oral Chinese and western medicine group.
  • The conclusion of this study was that acupuncture as an alternative therapy is recommended for the treatment of obesity.

Acupuncture on Obesity: Clinical Evidence and Possible Neuroendocrine Mechanisms, 2018:

  • The goal of this study was to assess the effectiveness on acupuncture for obesity control and its mechanisms with studies currently available.

  • Six databases were searched, and 21 studies consisting of 1389 participants were included. When compared with sham acupuncture, there were significant decreases in BMI, body fat mass, triglycerides, and total cholesterol.

  • The study concluded that acupuncture was found to be an effective treatment for weight loss and that neuroendocrine regulation may be involved.

The Effects of Auricular and Body Acupuncture in Turkish Obese Female Patients, 2017:

  • The goal of this study was to determine if body acupuncture or auricular acupuncture is more effective in the weight loss of obese patients through a randomized control trial.

  • 50 patients were separated into a body acupuncture group and an auricular acupuncture group. The auricular acupuncture group received 6 sessions every 15 days needling the anti-aggression point and the stomach point. The body acupuncture group received treatment 2 times/week for 24 sessions needling bilateral LI4, LI11, ST25, ST36, SP6, SP9, CV12, and CV6.

  • The study concluded that although both body and auricular acupuncture showed a positive result in managing obesity, auricular acupuncture is the most effective at decreasing body weight when compared to body acupuncture alone.

Effect of Acupuncture on Body Weight Reduction and Inflammatory Mediators in Egyptian Obese Patients, 2015:

  • The goal of this study is to determine the effectiveness of body acupuncture on weight loss. This study included 80 obese patients divided into 3 groups according to their BMI.

  • These patients received 3-6 months of acupuncture combined with a low-calorie diet being evaluated both pre and post acupuncture. They were evaluated by anthropometric measurement, routine lab tests, interleukin-6, high sensitivity C reactive protein, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha.

  • The study concluded that using body acupuncture along with diet restriction was effective in the decrease of inflammatory reaction saying “acupuncture can be used as a synergistic treatment option for obesity control.”
As with many conditions in relation to acupuncture treatment, further larger scale studies are needed, but there are a great deal of positive results with acupuncture for weight loss. Can acupuncture help your patients with weight loss? Research says YES!