Acupuncture can help to regulate appetite (especially sugar cravings) and to stimulate weight loss, but in my experience many patients who present for treatment have unrealistic expectations that result in dissatisfaction and discontinuation of treatment too soon to see significant results. It is important for practitioners to be very honest with patients about what acupuncture can and cannot achieve.
There are three basic points to understand:
It is not a, ‘quick fix’. Good results will accrue over a course of at least three treatments.
It is not effective unless the patient is willing to maintain a reasonable diet (not a starvation diet, there is plenty of evidence that diets like these are counterproductive and benefit only the people who make money by promoting them). Chinese Medicine Diet Therapy does not involve merciless self-denial.
It is not necessary, contrary to popular belief, to have a very strenuous exercise regime. There is very little evidence that exercise (without attention to diet) makes a significant contribution to healthy weight loss.
Here is a link to a research study on acupuncture for weight loss which used auricular (ear) acupuncture, rather than standard acupuncture, which is applied to the body- mostly commonly on the arms, legs and torso. The study appeared in the journal “Australian Family Physician” and was carried out by researchers associated with the University of Adelaide.
- It states that acupuncture stimulates the vagal nerve and increases serotonin levels, both of which are known to suppress appetite by affecting the smooth muscle in the stomach wall.
- Instead of needles, this study used a small electrical device to apply stimulation to the points in the ear.
- There were 60 participants, divided into two groups. The main group applied the device to two points in the ear, called “Shenmen” and “Stomach”. The control group applied the device to their thumbs where, the authors state, there are no acupuncture points (this is debatable).
- The study lasted four weeks, and a goal of 2kg weight loss was set, and changes in weight and appetite were recorded.
- 95% of subjects in the treatment group reported suppression of appetite, whereas nobody in the control group did so.
- They concluded that ear acupuncture is highly effective for suppressing appetite.
If ear acupuncture is combined with body acupuncture, it is reasonable to expect that results would be potentiated.