New research concludes that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are “more effective than placebo or lifestyle modification in reducing body weight.” The researchers note that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine have fewer side effects than the pharmaceutical obesity medications sibutramine, fenfluramine and orlistat yet the acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine demonstrate similar efficacy. The researchers note that the findings are qualified by the caveat of a small sample size of 4,861 acupuncture and herbal treatment subjects and 3,821 control group subjects.1
The authors note that, “The use of western anti-obesity drugs has been limited by side effects including mood changes, suicidal thoughts, and gastrointestinal or cardiovascular complications. The effectiveness and safety of traditional Chinese medicine including Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) and acupuncture provide an alternative established therapy for this medical challenge.”1
Other New Research
Other new research on the effectiveness of acupuncture for weight loss notes that the body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference to hip ratio (WHR) are used to determine the norms for weight. BMI is the person’s mass in kilograms divided by the square of the individual’s height in meters. A BMI above 30 is considered obese and below 18.5 is underweight. Normal weight is approximately 18.5 – 24.9 BMI. WHR is used to determine visceral adiposity versus subcutaneous fat distribution. Excess visceral fat is considered a more serious health risk.2
According to the research, biomedicine factors of obesity include: excess food intake, lack of adequate exercise, genetics, depression and low self-esteem. New fat cells are created (hyperplastic obesity) during childhood whereas adult onset obesity merely expands existing fat cells (hypertrophic obesity). Diet and exercise reduce fat cell size but cannot reduce the number of fat cells present in the body. Therefore, those with childhood onset obesity can have up to 5 times the number of fat cells as someone with adult onset obesity.
The research notes several common factors of obesity according to Chinese medicine differential diagnosis:
a. Lack of exercise and excess intake of alcohol, spicy, greasy, and heavy foods creates Stomach heat with Spleen Qi deficiency.
b. Middle burner and triple burner dampness due to external pathogens or excess intake of greasy foods injures the transformation and transportation function of the Spleen.
c. Liver Qi stagnation leads to damp stagnation.
d. Kidney Yang, Yin or Jing deficiency combined with Spleen and Stomach deficiency with resultant damp stagnation.
Common acupuncture points for the treatment of obesity cited in the research includes: P6 (Neiguan), P3 (Quze), TB6 (Zhigou), Liv2 (Xingjian), St44 (Neiting), GB43 (Xiaxi), CV9 (Shuifen), CV8 (Shenque), St25 (Tianshu), St 28 (Shuidao), UB13 (Feishu), UB20 (Pishu), Du12 (Shenzhu), St36 (Zusanli). Common auricular acupuncture points include Spleen, Kidney, San Jiao, Heart, Endocrine, Sub Cortex, Sympathetic, Constipation Center, Adrenal Gland.
Sui, Y., Zhao, H. L., Wong, V. C. W., Brown, N., Li, X. L., Kwan, A. K. L., Hui, H. L. W., Ziea, E. T. C. and Chan, J. C. N. (2012), A systematic review on use of Chinese medicine and acupuncture for treatment of obesity. Obesity Reviews. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00979.x
a Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, Prince of Wales Hospital, The Chinese University of Hong Kong , China
b Chinese Medicine Department, Hong Kong Hospital Authority, China
c Asia Diabetes Foundation, Hong Kong SAR, China
d Hong Kong Institute of Diabetes and Obesity, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, China
d Li Ka-shing Institute of Health Sciences, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, China
Acupuncture for the Treatment of Simple Obesity: Basic and Clinical Aspects. Wei Shougang and Xie Xincai, Capital Medical University, China.