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Does Acupuncture Really Help In Weight Loss?

About 20 per cent of the global population is on a constant run to lose weight. And the need to do it in a healthy manner is imperative. Losing weight is never bad for our body, that is, when it is carried out in a controlled and proper manner. Various methods such as diet plans, exercise and supplements, one can choose the optimum method accordingly.

In recent times, each day, we witness the development of new means and methods that help reduce fat. Apart from this, existing measures used for other purposes are viewed in different angles so that it may be used for weight loss. One such measure is acupuncture, which we will be discussing and how effective it is for weight loss.

Acupuncture has been used as a pain remedy for years. The ancient Chinese practice involving needles has experienced a steady increase in popularity of the past forty years. It can help in treating and even curing arthritis, chronic pain, migraine, depression, insomnia, infertility digestion to anxiety. And weight loss has been added to the list recently [1] .

Impact Of Acupuncture On Weight Loss

Recent studies have asserted that the ancient Chinese practice plays an effective role in losing weight. Practitioners reveal that the method affects weight loss from various angles. It boosts your metabolism and helps regulate your digestion, insulin, and hormones - thereby paving way for an effective weight loss. According to traditional Chinese medicine, one gains weight as a result of imbalances in your body which can be caused by the malfunctioning of liver, spleen, kidney, thyroid gland and endocrine system [2] [3] .

Acupuncture stimulates your body's energy flow (chi) thereby increasing your metabolism, reducing appetite, lowering stress and affecting the part of the brain that feels hunger to reverse the weight gain or promote weight loss [4] .

Health Benefits Of Acupuncture

It has to be noted that the process does not directly melt the extra fat off, but in fact, aids to lose weight by affecting a part of the brain that makes you feel hungry. Likewise, it activates your feel-good neurotransmitters which can reduce stress and which in turn can help you lose weight. This is supported by the claim that anxiety can cause people to gain weight. The process of acupuncture varies from one person to others, even though the ultimate aim is the same one [5] .

According to a study conducted on 80 obese individuals, so as to understand the effect of acupuncture in weight loss, it was revealed that the individuals effectively lost weight. However, this study was done along with the incorporation of a healthy diet. Various health professionals have pointed out that, along with the practice of acupuncture - one must incorporate healthy lifestyle measures to induce weight loss.

Consequently, acupuncture can aid one in losing weight through the following ways[6] :

  • Through the release of serotonin, which is attributed to be an antidepressant - thereby resulting in having a positive outlook to curb excessive consumption of food.
  • By releasing dopamine to help reduce alcohol intake and calorie intake, as low levels of dopamine tend to cause people to overindulge their hunger cravings.
  • By reducing anxiety, which causes one to binge eat.
  • By increasing one's metabolism with the release of beta-endorphins and serotonin.
  • Through suppressing one's appetite with the release of beta-endorphins and serotonin.
  • By reducing body aches and pain to allow the individual to return to doing regular exercise.

Acupuncture directly influences the obesity hormones, as it elevates the level of ghrelin, a hormone that controls meal initiation and decreased leptin (it regulates fat storage and metabolism). Basically, the process affects and initiate weight loss by curbing appetite, quelling cravings, boosting metabolism, improving digestion, regulating obesity-related hormones and improving the absorption and utilisation of nutrients. Also by improving the function of the liver, acupuncture accelerates the breaking down of fats [7] .

By impacting your metabolism, acupuncture further motivates weight loss because in order for effective and healthy initiation of weight loss - your body needs to be functioning well, along with a sufficient amount of energy. In the event of low energy, your body will not be able to function properly thereby making it difficult to lose weight [8] .

It has to be noted that just undergoing the measure will not result in losing weight. One must be focused on the journey and adopt other changes such as diet change and simple exercise.

Ear Acupuncture For Weight Loss

Insertion of a needle in your ears may sound painful. But, it is one amongst the most sought after weight loss measure according to recent studies. Also, termed as auricular acupuncture, studies have revealed ear acupuncture to have significant benefits for weight loss. It is planted in the theory that the outer part of the ear (auricle) represents every part of your body. Acupuncture practitioners assert that an individual's food cravings can be controlled by manipulating certain points on the ear [9] .

In one type of ear acupuncture practice, one needle is inserted into the area that is linked to hunger and appetite; and in another method, five needles are inserted at different key points in the ear. The one needle method is usually used for people expecting to lose belly fat, whereas the five needle method is used in the case of obese individuals [10] . In the five needle method, the points in your body that will be focused on are the spleen, stomach, hunger, endocrine, and shen-men (also known as the master point).

A study focusing on the impact of ear acupuncture in reducing weight asserted that the subjects who underwent the five-point needle had a 6.1 per cent decrease and the one-point needle had a 5.7 per cent decrease. The ear acupuncture method had a prominent impact on weight loss as the subjects had a visible reduction in belly fat once the study was finished [11] .

Ear acupuncture works by accelerating one's metabolism. That is, elevated metabolic function promotes metallization of fat, resulting in weight loss. On comparing the five needles and one needle method, the five needle one is more effective in metabolising the abdominal fat [12] [13] .


If you are considering to undergo acupuncture to lose weight, make sure you keep the following in mind [14] [15] [16] .

  • Chose an acupuncture practitioner who has proper credentials.
  • Find out your practitioner's area of speciality and experience with weight loss.
  • Make sure they have malpractice insurance, as it is beneficial for both the parties (practitioner and patient).
  • Examine if the treatment room is clean and safe.
  • Spend at least one hour at your practitioner because this will help you in understanding the process clearly and aid you in identifying the practices.
  • Ask questions regarding the procedure.
  • Choose a practitioner who asks questions about your condition and also sees whether he/she is able to answer your questions and doubts.
  • The practitioner must focus on you as a whole, that is, they should not be only focusing on reducing your weight but also other factors such as your health condition, other ailments etc.
  • An efficient practitioner will always encourage you towards better wellness and self-care.
  • Find out about the number and frequency of treatments.
  • Find out if your health insurance pays for acupuncture treatments.
  • Maintain a positive attitude towards the treatments.

How Many Sessions Will You Need

According to studies conducted on the impact of acupuncture on weight loss, it can be ascertained that 10 to 15 pounds can take a time of six to eight weeks. However, the number of sessions can vary according to the practitioners and the treatments. With the program progressing, the number of sessions will decrease [17] .

Side Effects Of Acupuncture For Weight Loss

The first and foremost factor to be focused on while deciding to undergo acupuncture is if your acupuncturist is trained and licensed. In case of lack of practice, it can cause critical side effects such as [18]

  • punctured organs,
  • infections,
  • injury to the central nervous system, and
  • collapsed lungs.

The other side effects of acupuncture are [19] [20]

  • fatigue,
  • soreness,
  • bruisings, and
  • emotional injury.

Read Side Effects Of Acupuncture to know more about the adverse effects the treatment method can have on your body and mind.

On A Final Note...

Is acupuncture an effective measure for weight loss? Yes, along with the incorporation of healthy eating habits and lifestyle. The limited number of studies on the aspect can make the final verdict a bit foggy, but however, it does help you lose weight (especially belly fat) by improving your metabolism. Before considering the option, discuss the pros and cons of it with your doctor and most importantly, choose a licensed and well-trained practitioner. Do not forget to incorporate effective exercise as well.

View Article References
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  2. [2] Kim, S. Y., Shin, I. S., & Park, Y. J. (2018). Effect of acupuncture and intervention types on weight loss: a systematic review and meta‐analysis.Obesity reviews,19(11), 1585-1596.
  3. [3] Ee, C., Smith, C., Costello, M., MacMillan, F., Moran, L., Baylock, B., & Teede, H. (2018). Feasibility and acceptability of a proposed trial of acupuncture as an adjunct to lifestyle interventions for weight loss in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: a qualitative study.BMC complementary and alternative medicine,18(1), 298.
  4. [4] Firouzjaei, A., Li, G. C., Wang, N., Liu, W. X., & Zhu, B. M. (2016). Comparative evaluation of the therapeutic effect of metformin monotherapy with metformin and acupuncture combined therapy on weight loss and insulin sensitivity in diabetic patients.Nutrition & diabetes,6(5), e209.
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  7. [7] Mok, M. S., Parker, L. N., Voina, S., & Bray, G. A. (1976). Treatment of obesity by acupuncture.The American journal of clinical nutrition,29(8), 832-835.
  8. [8] Allison, D. B., Fontaine, K. R., Heshka, S., Mentore, J. L., & Heymsfield, S. B. (2001). Alternative treatments for weight loss: a critical review.Critical reviews in food science and nutrition,41(1), 1-28.
  9. [9] Tuǧrul Cabıoǧlu, M., & Ergene, N. (2005). Electroacupuncture therapy for weight loss reduces serum total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol levels in obese women.The American journal of Chinese medicine,33(04), 525-533.
  10. [10] Richards, D., & Marley, J. (1998). Stimulation of auricular acupuncture points in weight loss.Australian family physician,27, S73-7.
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