|It's the ear, not the belly that has to be (acu-)punctured to make the nasty pounds disappear.|
6.1% and 5.7% reduction in BMI without diet or exercise
As it turned out, it was not even necessary to "nail" all 5 of the trigger points. As you will probably have learned from the press release, already, even the subjects in whom the researchers had "punctured" only the Hunger point lost 5% of their initial BMI within the 8-week study period.
|Figure 1: Illustration of the trigger points and the results of the Yeo study (Yeo. 2013)|
"How is this acupuncture thing supposed to work, anyway?" The absence of conclusive hypotheses that would explain the weight loss effects of acupuncture is actually one of the reason scientists doubt its efficacy. Theories that have been propose so far are generally based on the assumption that the trigger points are wired with the vagus nerve. Consequently, the stimulation of the auricular nerves could interfere with the transduction of appetite signals from the gastrointestinal tract (Dung. 1986).If we take a look at the contemporarily available evidence, it is easier to find evidence to support the the results Yeo et al. present in their latest paper, than you may have thought:
Figure 2: Effects of 9 weeks of active or sham (inactive trigger points) acupuncture on % of subjects above ideal body weight; a good example of insignificant, but positive effects (Mok. 1976)
- Cabıoǧlu et al. observed decreases in serum total cholesterol, triglyceride, and LDL cholesterol levels that were mediated by increases in serum beta endorphin in response to electroacupuncture of the ear points, Sanjiao (Hungry) and Shen Men (Stomach), and the body points, LI 4, LI 11, St 25, St 36, St 44 and Liv 3, once daily, for 30 minutes, for 20 days (Cabıoǧlu. 2005).
|Scientists are still debating how acupuncture induced weight loss could work. The vagus nerve is yet part of almost every currently harbored hypothesis (Lacey. 2003).|
- Despite using the exact same auricular acupuncture points, Hsu et al., whose previous study had yielded encouraging results (Hsu. 2005), did not observe significant differences in percent reduction in body weight, BMI, and waist circumference two groups of obese women, of which one received an active, one a sham treatment (Hsu. 2009)
A similar argument is brought forward by Cho et al. who question the significance of their own generally positive assessment of the use of accupuncture as an obesity treatment (additonal weight loss of 0.50–2.93 kg; Cho. 2008) due to the "poor methodological quality" of the 31 studies the Korean and Canadian researchers had reviewed.
- Cho, S. H., Lee, J. S., Thabane, L., & Lee, J. (2009). Acupuncture for obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Obesity, 33(2), 183-196.
- Cabıoǧlu, T. M and Ergene, T. (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.
- Dung, H. C. (1986). Role of the vagus nerve in weight reduction through auricular acupuncture. Am J Acup, 14(3), 249.
- Ernst E. (1999) Clinical effectiveness of acupuncture: an overview of systematic reviews. In: Ernst E, White A, eds. Acupuncture: A Scientific Appraisal. Oxford, Butterworth-Heinemann.
- Hsu, C. H., Hwang, K. C., Chao, C. L., Chang, H. H., & Chou, P. (2005). Electroacupuncture in obese women: a randomized, controlled pilot study. Journal of Women's Health, 14(5), 434-440.
- Hsu, C. H., Wang, C. J., Hwang, K. C., Lee, T. Y., Chou, P., & Chang, H. H. (2009). The effect of auricular acupuncture in obese women: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Women's Health, 18(6), 813-818.
- Lacey, J. M., Tershakovec, A. M., & Foster, G. D. (2003). Acupuncture for the treatment of obesity: a review of the evidence. International journal of obesity, 27(4), 419-427.
- Linde, K., Jonas, W. B., Melchart, D., & Willich, S. (2001a). The methodological quality of randomized controlled trials of homeopathy, herbal medicines and acupuncture. International Journal of Epidemiology, 30(3), 526-531.
- Linde, K., Vickers, A., Hondras, M., ter Riet, G., Thormählen, J., Berman, B., & Melchart, D. (2001b). Systematic reviews of complementary therapies-an annotated bibliography. Part 1: Acupuncture. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 1(1), 3.
- 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.
- Tait, P. L., Brooks, L., & Harstall, C. (2002). Acupuncture: evidence from systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada: Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research.
- Vickers A. (2001). Acupuncture. Eff Health Care, 7:1–12.