Can Acupuncture help with weight loss??

Happy New Year!! New year, new you??

I have a lot of people ask me if Acupuncture can help with shifting a few unwanted pounds, or if it can help curb those pesky cravings we all get in the evening! And the answer is YES IT CAN.. however, you need to want to help yourself! There is no magic pill (unfortunately) that you can take which will banish all your cravings and make you lose weight. BUT, if you are serious about changing a few things in your life (does not have to be a drastic change if you don't want it to be) and are committed to losing some weight, then Acupuncture can be a great complimentary therapy to help with the process.

Now I know your thinking that I am just making this all up and there is NO WAY that a few tiny needles can help with weight loss. This is why I am here to tell you how Acupuncture helps with weight loss and food cravings. I pride myself in being a scientific based Acupuncturist, meaning that I like to know that there is research behind treatments before I will even suggest that I can treat something! That is why in this article I will be telling you about what research has been done on Acupuncture and weight loss so you can rest assure that I am not just another fraudster trying to sell you a 'magic' product!

Acupuncture for weight loss mainly uses auricular (ear) points with possibly some other body points depending on what you tell your Acupuncturist about your digestion, stools, sleep etc. and what they diagnose. Studies have found that when a needle is placed into specific areas of the ears, it stimulates the auricular branch of the vagal nerve and raises your levels of serotonin. In turn this has been found to increase tone in the smooth muscle of the stomach and suppress the appetite!

There are not many research studies out there, however, I want to mention the ones that have been carried out in this article to help show you the nuts and bolts behind how treatment works. The first study comes from an Australian Family Physician (Richards D, Marley J.). A study was carried out on sixty overweight subjects who were divided into an active and control group for the study. The subjects in the active group received treatment via an AcuSlim devise (a needle-less devise which stimulates the points via an electric current) on specific auricular points; whereas the control group received treatment via an AcuSlim device on an area of the thumb which contains no Acupuncture points. The study ran for 4 weeks and recorded notes of appetite changes. At the end of the study the results showed that 95% of subjects in the active group noted changes in there appetite; whereas none of the subjects in the control group noted any. In conclusion, the study showed that frequent stimulation of auricular Acupuncture points is an effective method of suppressing the appetite, which will in turn lead to weight loss.

The second study comes from S. Yeo, K. S. Kim, S. Lim (2013) which took 91 participants in a randomised controlled trial. The participants all had a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 23 or more and were divided into 3 separate groups; group 1 received a 5 point Acupuncture system, group 2 only received one acupuncture point, and group 3 received sham acupuncture. At both 4 and 8 weeks following the treatment regime, measurements were taken to determine clinical effectiveness. It was discovered that the 5 acupuncture point combination was the most effective yielding over a 6% reduction in the body mass index. The one point acupuncture treatment regime yielded just under a 6% improvement in BMI.

There have been a number of previous studies that have produced results in support of using acupuncture and Chinese medicine as a means to aide weight loss:

  • In 2009, a systematic review (and meta-analysis) of 31 different small studies analysing acupuncture as an aide to weight loss revealed that acupuncture reduced body weight by up to 2.13kg (4.6 pounds) compared to sham treatments.

  • A 2003 study published in the journal Medical Acupuncture found participants who received acupuncture lost more than three time the weight of the sham/control group.

  • Another study in 1998 from the University of Adelaide found 95% of participants receiving electro-simulation on acupuncture points reported a suppression of appetite, and were more likely to lose weight.

In my personal experience of treating people for weight loss and food cravings; I have found that auricular Acupuncture does in fact change how people respond to their cravings. I have found many of my patients come back to me saying that when they eat chocolate now it makes them feel sick! Of course, reducing cravings is just the beginning of help someone lose weight; as part of treatment I will also pay attention to the individuals diet and exercise levels, stress management, and other body systems.

If you have any questions about Acupuncture and weight loss/food cravings. Get in touch!

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