The introduction to this study usefully notes that weight loss is not only desirable for cosmetic reasons, indeed this is the least important motivation to lose weight, but also for the prevention of serious diseases like diabetes, high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. There have been very many studies conducted on acupuncture for weight loss in China, HongKong and Taiwan, and this is just one example (from 2002). However, since not many of these studies are translated into English, it is probably worth giving a brief summary of it here. The study was conducted with of 54 participants (all female) between the ages of 16 and 65. 7 pairs of acupuncture points for weight loss were selected, and a mild electrical current was applied to some of these (the points on the abdomen). It is fairly usual in many Asian countries to use electro-acupuncture for weight loss. I personally do not do this, and prefer to use a more old-fashioned method which is equally effective.
Anyway, back to the study: each treatment session lasted 40 minutes, treatment was given twice a week, and the course lasted for 6 weeks, yielding a total of 12 treatments. This frequency of treatment is interesting, because it is very close to contemporary western practice but somewhat different from standard Asian practice, which is to have many treatments a week, often every day. Outside Asia, this is generally not possible because of cost and time. In western countries treatment is usually given once a week, but twice a week is not unheard of in certain situations. This is an important fact to bear in mind when generalising the results of Asian clinical studies to western patient populations- patients there receive much more frequent treatments, so they probably achieve faster results. In conclusion, although this study used a reliable double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial design it has a major flaw- it compared acupuncture for weight loss to abdominal sit-ups ! This is a very poor choice of comparison, because contrary to popular belief, situps have no effect on weight loss whatsoever. They merely tone the abdominal muscles, but the increased tone of the muscles is unlikely to be apparent when the patient is still rather overweight. For this reason, at some point I will find or translate a better study and post it here. In the meantime, here is a link to an English language summary of the research.