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Using Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine to Facilitate Weight Loss

Adipose cell as seen through a microscope

Acupuncturists throughout the world, though particularly in the West, are frequently asked whether we can be useful in helping our patients lose excess weight. Herein lies my attempt to answer this question in a fairly definitive way using my own experience in the clinic, as well as research which has been done in this area.

The individualized methods of diagnosis and treatment in Chinese medicine can be very helpful in encouraging the body to lose weight, particularly when combined with the client's own lifestyle changes of increased exercise and decreased caloric intake. In this sense we can act as a catalyst for the body's internal mechanism for restoring metabolic balance. While no substitute for exercise and a proper diet, Chinese medicine can dramatically assist those methods to help a patient realize their goals.


Research and Links


  • A systematic review of more than 2,500 scientific studies on Chinese medicine (acupuncture and Chinese herbal formula) and weight loss came up with this consensus:

CHM [Chinese Herbal Medicine] and acupuncture were more effective than placebo or lifestyle modification in reducing body weight. They had a similar efficacy as the Western anti-obesity drugs but with fewer reported adverse effects.

  • Acupuncture Today has a useful synopsis of the way in which acupuncturists conceptualize, diagnose and manage weight issues. It concludes,

There continues to be many different studies that have shown the efficacy of acupuncture and Chinese medicine for the use of weight loss. Although there are many studies, there still is a need for more research on obesity in the United States using acupuncture and Chinese medicine. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine provide an alternative treatment to help control weight problems. Besides acupuncture and herbal medicine, individuals must also exercise and practice correct dietary guidelines. Acupuncture and herbal medicine combined with exercise and food therapy can greatly enhance the treatment of obesity and help individuals mange their weight. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine is an effective treatment for overweight and obesity.

  • Authors Yi Xiong et al., in the journal Si Chuan Zhong Yi (Sichuan CM), published a multi-year literature review on the acupuncture treatment of simple obesity. The article cites 16 Chinese articles published from 2004-2008 in which the consensus was that acupuncture can be very effective for weight loss.
  • An interesting study, reprinted in Acupuncture Today shows a substantial difference between women treated with acupuncture and those who used standard weight loss methods in pounds lost.]
  • Recently a Turkish study compared women receiving twice weekly acupuncture treatments for weight loss with a control group treated with sham (fake) acupuncture points (Readable here). The researchers found that,

Acupuncture was shown to decrease insulin and leptin levels and induce weight loss, as well as decreasing BMI. Between-group analyses also demonstrated increases in plasma ghrelin and cholecystokinin (CCK) levels in subjects who received acupuncture treatment compared with sham acupuncture.