Yes, surprisingly, acupuncture is not just some kind of hippie-spa treatment.
Not only can it help treat serious diseases like cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure, it can also help “aesthetically” with weight loss.
Acupuncture can help dramatically with a person who simply wants to lose weight, not only by helping the person get healthier, but also decreasing cravings and more.
How Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine Helps With Weight Loss
Most of the research generally suggests that acupuncture can help in a few ways. The biomedical explanation (read: non-Chinese medicine explanation) is usually as follows:
- Acupuncture supresses appetite, possible through vagal nerve stimulation
- Acupuncture reduces biomarkers of inflammation (CRP, Cholesterol, Triglycerides, etc.)
- Acupuncture increases serotonin levels and releases endorphins
- Acupuncture improves the mood via neurotransmitter release
1. Acupuncture Helps Moderate Inflammatory Markers
One study had eighty obese patients that were divided into three groups based on their BMI. The patients had acupunture for 3-6 months in addition to eating a lower calorie diet.
In these studies, two important biomarkers of inflammation were measured:
CRP dropped ~25% (from 20, 19, 22 to 15, 14, 18)
LDL dropped ~ (from 116, 118, 137 to 110, 88, 62)
However, this particular study also included dietary changes.
Other studies have shown similar changes in CRP from acupuncture: one study done in the World Journal of Gastroenterology,
and two other meta-analysis have demonstrated similar effects. Both of these particular studies were done studying cancer-associated pain.
2. Acupuncture Helps Intestinal Motility, Raises Seratonin Levels
In another piece of research profiled in the International Journal of Neuroscience, acupuncture increased neural activity in the hypothalamus, increased intestinal motility and metabolism, raised seratonin levels, increased tone in the smooth muscle of the stomach, and stimulated the vagus nerve. The latter two are associated with decreases in in appetite.
In addition it was found to help with stress via endorphin and dopamine production.
3. Acupuncture May Suppress the Appetite Through the Vagus Nerve
One study done in the Australian Family Physician medical journal found that acupuncture stimulates the auricular branch of the vagal nerve and raises serotonin levels, both of which have been shown to increase tone in the smooth muscle of the stomach, thus suppressing appetite.
4. Acupuncture Helps Regulate the “Hunger Hormones”
Leptin and ghrelin are two hormones critical for signaling fullness and hunger. One smaller study done on auricular (ear) acupuncture had participants receive acupuncture once a week for a month. Before and after, their biochemical markers were noted.
Only in the acupuncture group were decreases in ghrelin noticed, whereas in the placebo group, there were strong increases in ghrelin.
The levels of other hormones, insulin, adrenocorticotropic hormone, leptin and adiponectin levels did not change significantly in either group.
5. Acupuncture Helps Lower Biomarkers of Heart Disease – CRP, Cholesterol, Triglycerides
In one study done on 196 overweight subjects, there were two interesting experiments done.
In the first part of the study, done over six weeks, participants received acupuncture in addition to a low calorie diet.
In the second part of the study, they received a low-calorie diet alone. Afterwards, researchers measured important biomarkers of cardiac health – CRP, cholesterol, triglycerides, and more.
The combined acupuncture and lower calorie diet showed greater changes than the low calorie group alone:
- Body weight decreased more (and BMI)
- Waist Circumference
- Hip Circumference
- Total Cholesterol
6. Acupuncture Also Helps Regulate The Mood (Affecting Satiety and Food Intake)
Another review of many previous studies has attempted to explain a bit how acupuncture affects satiety and mood.
In the case of mood, several studies have found that by increasing neurotransmitter release, acupuncture affects mood, which could possibly improve the regulation of food intake.
The authors also concluded:
Alternatively, acupuncture may suppress appetite by endorphin-induced decreases in stress and depression.
The positive effects of standard acupuncture
on mood have been observed in treating clinical depression. Given the relation between medications that are thought to alter serotonin levels and improved mood and weight loss,
acupuncture may exert an effect by increasing serotonin levels.
7: Acupuncture Helps Regulate Adipokines Related to Obesity
Another study done in the journal of Homeopathy and Ayurvedic medicine in 2013 found that electroacupuncture alone had a strong effect on Adipokines – cell signaling proteins related to fat tissue.
Some of the studies described above showed that EA not only modulates leptin and adiponectin, but also a ects insulin levels. This was confirmed in works published by Cabioğlu and colleagues in which EA [electroacupuncture] application (ear points Sanjiao (Hungry) and Shenmen (Stomach), and body points Hegu (LI4), Quchi (LI11), Tianshu (ST25), Zusanli (ST36), Neiting (ST44) and Taichong (LV3), once daily, for 30 minutes, during 20 days) produced a 4.8% weight reduction and a signi cant decrease (p<0.05) in total cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL in obese women , as well as a signi cant decrease in lipoprotein A and apolipoprotein B (p<0.05), indicating that EA therapy might be a useful approach for both losing weight and reducing risk factors for associated cardiovascular diseases.
Another interesting study was done on Wistar diet-induced obese (DIO) rats, which found:
In 2005, You and Hung showed that 100 Hz EA [Electroacupuncture] (bilateral Zusanli (ST36) and Sanyinjiao (SP6) for 30 min during 14 days) significantly inhibits weight gain in Wistar diet-induced obese (DIO) rats, with a decrease in triglycerides and an increase in HDL. Leptin and insulin levels were signi cantly increased in control group, while they remained unchanged in EA group…
Using Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture for Weight Loss – The Bottom Line
People generally associate acupuncture with something that’s used as a stress relief or trauma tool, however, even with something as material as weight loss, it can also help.
In the hands of a skilled practitioner, acupuncture and herbs are typically administered in a more holistic way – trying to figure out how what’s out of balance in the person’s body, re-establishing that balance, and the weight loss as an unintended side effect.
Images: used with permission from freedigitalphotos.net