Acupuncture for Weight Loss? We’re All Ears!

Author: Amir Khan
Excerpt from:

The key to shedding those holiday pounds may be in your ear, according to a small new study published in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine. Researchers from Kyung Hee University in South Korea found that acupuncture performed on five specific points on the outer ear was effective at helping patients lower their BMI, more so than acupuncture done on a single point or at random.

The researchers performed either five point acupuncture, single point acupuncture or sham acupuncture, which is when needles are placed at random, on the ears of 91 overweight adults with a BMI of 23 or more, and asked all of the patients to adhere to a restrictive diet. The patients given the five point acupuncture saw a 6.1 percent BMI reduction over eight weeks, compared to 5.7 percent of the single point group. The sham group did not see any BMI reduction.

“Auricular acupuncture therapy is based on the understanding that the external ear represents all parts of the human body, including the internal organs, and provides acupuncture points corresponding to these parts,” the researchers, led by Sujung Yeo, MD, a researcher at Kyung Hee University, wrote in the study. “Auricular acupuncture therapy for obesity has been reported to be relatively safe, economical, effective and to reduce body weight by decreasing the desire to eat.”

The difference between five point and single point acupuncture was thought to be mild, researchers said, and this study shows that while five point is more successful, it is not markedly so. However, 24 of the study participants dropped out before the end of the study, 15 of which belonged to the sham acupuncture group, which may have skewed the results.

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Previous studies have shown ear acupuncture to be very effective for weight loss, said Houman Danesh, MD, director of integrative pain management at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, though how it works is still unclear.

“Mainly the way it works is through appetite suppression,” Dr. Danesh said. “But how it does that is the million dollar question. From an Eastern medicine point of view, your body is out of balance. Acupuncture corrects that imbalance, you stop overeating.”

“From a western medicine point of view,” he added, “acupuncture is thought to affect your brain. It releases endorphins, which is probably part of the mechanism.”

Acupuncture can also affect your nerves, which can further reduce your appetite, said Jamie Starkey, lead acupuncturist with the Cleveland Clinic Center for Integrative Medicine.

“A lot of the nerves in the ears can stimulate other nerves,” she said. “Acupuncture works by stimulating your ear nerves, which affect your vagus nerve and, in turn, affects your gut and suppresses your appetite.”

Patients can expect to lose up to 5 pounds over the course of a two-month treatment, Danesh said, but while it is effective, it’s not for everyone.

“If you’re looking to lose 50 to 100 pounds, this is definitely not the way to go,” he said.

And while acupuncture is effective, it’s not a panacea for obesity, Starkey said.

“These improvements are temporary,” she said. “While they are using the technique, they are seeing improvement. But once the treatment ends, they often regain the weight. It’s important to realize that acupuncture does help, but you cannot ignore diet or exercise.”

“The goal of acupuncture is wellness,” Starkey added. “You have to utilize every tool you have available to kick start your metabolism and weight loss, and acupuncture does just that. But it’s not a magic bullet.”

Our Acupuncturist, MK Park, specializes in weight loss acupuncture treatments.
Call 732-390-8100 today to schedule your appointment.

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