TUESDAY, Dec. 17, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Placing five
acupuncture needles in the outer ear may help people lose that
spare tire, researchers report.
Ear acupuncture therapy is based on the theory that the outer
ear represents all parts of the body. One type uses one needle
inserted into the area that is linked 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 suffering from central obesity, continuous
stimulation of five acupuncture points should be used," said lead
researcher Sabina Lim, from the department of meridian and
acupuncture in the Graduate College of Basic Korean Medical Science
at Kyung Hee University in Seoul, South Korea.
According to Lim, the effectiveness of acupuncture on obese
patients is closely related to metabolic function. "Increased
metabolic function promotes the consumption of body fat, overall,
resulting in weight loss," she said.
The report was published online Dec. 16 in the journal
Acupuncture in Medicine.
Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention
Research Center, said, "We must avoid rushing to judge that a
treatment is ineffective just because we don't understand the
mechanism. Rather, if a treatment is genuinely effective, it
invites us to figure out the mechanism."
But this study does not prove the effectiveness of acupuncture,
he said. "Placebo effects are strong, particularly when they
involve needles. The evidence here falls short of proof," Katz
According to the U.S. National Center for Complementary and
Alternative Medicine, results from the few studies on acupuncture
and weight loss have been mixed.
In one study, researchers examined the effect of ear acupuncture
with sham acupuncture on obese women. "Researchers found no
statistical difference in body weight, body-mass index and waist
circumference between the acupuncture group and placebo," said Katy
Danielson, a spokeswoman for the center.
For this latest study, Lim and her colleagues compared
acupuncture of five points on the outer ear with one-point
acupuncture. They randomly assigned 91 overweight people to
five-point acupuncture, one-point acupuncture (hunger) or sham
During the eight weeks of the study, participants were told to
follow a restrictive diet, but not a weight-loss diet. They were
not supposed to increase their exercise.
Those who received five-point acupuncture had needles placed 2
millimeters deep in one outer ear taped in place and kept there for
a week. Then the same treatment was applied to the other ear. The
process was repeated over eight weeks.
Other patients received similar treatment with one needle or
with sham acupuncture where the needles were removed immediately
Over the course of the study, 24 patients dropped out, 15 of
whom were receiving sham treatment, the researchers noted.
Among those who completed the study, there were significant
differences in weight loss among the groups. At four weeks, those
receiving five-point treatment had an average reduction in weight
of 6.1 percent, compared with a 5.7 percent reduction among those
treated with one needle and no weight loss among those receiving
sham therapy, the researchers found.
The largest drop was seen in waist size with the five-point
treatment, compared with sham therapy; however, this difference
disappeared after taking age into account, the investigators
Percentage of body fat also dropped, but only in those receiving
the five-point treatment, the study authors added.
"Both five- and one-point approaches showed significant effects
on treating the obese patients and notable reduction in the values
closely related to obesity, such as waist circumference
measurements and weight, compared to the sham group," Lim said.
"But yet, the five-point approach caused the largest decrease in
waist circumference, indicating that the method should be
considered as a primary treatment to reduce central obesity, rather
than the hunger acupuncture point or temporary stimulation of the
five acupuncture points," she pointed out.
According to the Acupuncturecost.org, treatments range in cost
from $75 to $125 and are covered by some, but not all insurance
For more on acupuncture, visit the
U.S. National Center for Complementary and