Ear acupuncture may show promise for weight loss – WebMD

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By Steven Reinberg

health day reporter

TUESDAY, Dec. 17, 2013 (HealthDay News) — Placing five acupuncture needles in the outer ear may help people lose that spare tire, researchers report.

Auricular acupuncture therapy is based on the theory that the outer ear represents all parts of the body. One type uses a needle inserted into the area related to hunger and appetite, while the other involves inserting five needles at different key points in the ear.

“If the trend we found is supported by other studies, the hunger acupuncture point is a good choice in terms of convenience. However, for patients with central obesity, continuous stimulation of five acupuncture points should be used,” said lead researcher Sabina Lim, from the Department of Meridians and Acupuncture, Graduate College of Basic Korean Medical Science. from Kyung Hee University in Seoul, in the south of the country. Korea.

According to Lim, the effectiveness of acupuncture on obese patients is closely related to metabolic function. “Increased metabolic function promotes the burning of body fat, overall, leading to weight loss,” she said.

The report was published online December 16 in the journal Acupuncture in medicine.

Dr David Katz, director of the Center for Prevention Research at Yale University, said: “We must avoid rushing to judge a treatment to be ineffective simply because we don’t understand the mechanism. On the contrary, if a treatment is truly effective, it invites us to understand the mechanism. »

But this study does not prove the effectiveness of acupuncture, he says. “Placebo effects are powerful, especially when they involve needles. The evidence here is lacking,” Katz said.

According to the US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the results of the few studies on acupuncture and weight loss are mixed.

In one study, researchers looked at the effect of auricular acupuncture with sham acupuncture on obese women. “Researchers found no statistical differences in body weight, body mass index and waist circumference between the acupuncture group and the placebo,” said Katy Danielson, spokeswoman for the center.

For this latest study, Lim and his colleagues compared five-point acupuncture on the outer ear with one-point acupuncture. They randomly assigned 91 overweight people to five-point acupuncture, one-point (hunger) or sham (placebo) acupuncture treatment.

During the eight weeks of the study, participants were asked to follow a restrictive diet, but not a weight-loss diet. They weren’t supposed to increase their exercise.

Those who received five-point acupuncture had needles placed 2 millimeters deep in an outer ear, taped in place and held there for a week. Then the same treatment was applied to the other ear. The process was repeated for eight weeks.

Other patients received similar treatment with a single needle or with sham acupuncture where the needles were removed immediately after insertion.

During the study, 24 patients dropped out, 15 of whom were receiving a sham treatment, the researchers noted.

Among those who completed the study, there were significant differences in weight loss between the groups. At four weeks, people receiving five-point therapy had an average weight reduction of 6.1%, compared with a 5.7% reduction in those treated with a single needle and no weight loss in those receiving sham therapy , the researchers found.

The greatest decrease was seen in waist circumference with the five-point treatment, compared with sham therapy; however, this difference disappeared after controlling for age, the investigators noted.

Body fat percentage also fell, but only in those who received the five-point treatment, the study authors added.

“The five-point and one-point approaches showed significant effects on the treatment of obese patients and a notable reduction in values ​​closely related to obesity, such as waist circumference measurements and weight, compared to the group. fictional,” Lim said.

“However, the five-point approach caused the greatest decrease in waist circumference, indicating that the method should be considered a primary treatment for reducing central obesity, rather than the acupoint of the hunger or the temporary stimulation of the five acupuncture points,” she added. underline.

According to Acupuncturecost.org, treatments cost between $75 and $125 and are covered by some, but not all, insurance companies.

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