Laser Acupuncture as a Valuable Adjunct to Diet & Exercise Interventions!? 50% Higher Reduction in Waist & LDL/HDL Ratio + 80% Higher Reduction in Insulin in Recent Study

Laser "needles" may help you lose superfluous body weight.
Is it possible that the application of acupuncture by the means of a gallium Arsenide infrared (GaAlAs) laser with a wavelength at 904 nm and power of 5mW to the skin of post-menopausal women can actually improve the metabolic benefits of a combined diet + exercise regimen?

It sounds like a marketing gag, but the results of a recent study from the Cairo University (El-Mekawy. 2014) clearly indicates that the answer to the aforementioned question is "YES! It can!"
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The laser acupuncture was applied with an energy density of 2 J/cm2, a pulse radiation of 200 ns, and with a pulse frequency of 5000 Hz vertically with irradiation time 2 min/point, 3times/week for 12 weeks to the following acupuncture points:
Figure 1: Illustration of selected common acupuncture points (
Cv4 Guanyuan (3 cun inferior to the center of the umbilicus); Cv9 Shuifen (1 cun above the center of the umbilicus); Cv12 Zhongwan (4 cun above the center of the umbilicus); St25 Tianshu (2 cun lateral to the midline of the umbilicus); St36 Zusanli (one finger width lateral from the anterior crest of the tibia); Sp6 Sanyinjiao (3 cun directly above the tip of the medial malleolus); and St40 Fenglung (8 cun superior to the tip of the external malleolus).
Acupuncture and appetite control: This is not just an aliteration. The effects of classic acupuncture therapy on appetite control is also scientifically proven. Zhao et al. (2000), for example, found that "acupuncture can increase excitability of the satiety center, with a better long-term effect" (Zhao. 2000); and Liu et al. observed significant reductions of the levels of monoamine neurotransmitters in ventromedial nucleus of hypothalamus (VMH) and corresponding reductions in food intake in rodents (Liu. 2001).
In addition to the three acupuncture sessions per week that was applied to 14 out of the 28 post-menopausal women with metabolic syndrome who participated in this study, all subjects had to run on a treadmill 3 times per week for 35 minutes (5 minute warm-up + 30 min at 60-75% of the heart rate reserve) and to adhere to an energy-restricted diet for 12 weeks:
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"All post-menopausal women followed an energy-restricted diet for 12 weeks. First, the recommended daily kilocalorie intake was computed by multiplying the Harris-Benedict equation by 1.55. Then, daily energy intake was restricted by 1000 kcal/day (daily kilocalorie requirement-1000 kcal). The diet caloric proportion of the protein, fat and carbohydrate was set at 15%, 30% and 55% respectively.

Each post-menopausal woman was given a booklet including a database of foods, and their energy and macronutrient values. The therapist asked each woman to select her foods freely, and give instructions about planning her meals to help adhere to the prescribed kilocalories and the assigned macro nutrient.

All women were advised to keep 3-day dietary records and interviewed by the therapist weekly. The therapist checked these records to ensure the total kilocalories per day did not exceed the previous calculated one, and give any advice about the meal plans when they did not meet the assigned mac ronutrient" (El-Mekawy. 2014).
Since all post-menopausal women had closely adhered to the assigned energy intake, the following beneficial effects of the laser acupuncture cannot have been caused by mere increases in dietary adherence.
Figure 2: Changes in body comp. and metabolic variables measured in the two groups (El-Mekawy. 2014).
An analysis of the statistical significance of the inter-group differences revealed that the laser acupuncture group showed a significantly greater decrease in the waist (P = 0.001) and hip (P = 0.001) circumferences, cholesterol (P = 0.04), and insulin levels (P = 0.043) than the control group. A result of which the Egyptian scientists rightly conclude that it suggests "that laser acupuncture is a valuable approach that could be added to the diet-exercise intervention to correct features of the MetS" (El-Mekawy).
Changes in body comp. w/ traditional acupuncture alone (Zhang. 2012).
What I still would like to know is how exactly the laser acupuncture therapy contributed to the improvements in body composition and glucose control. While we do know from previous studies that classic acupuncture therapy significantly reduces BMI and abdominal fat by reducing the abdominal visceral adipose tissue content (Zhang. 2011).

What we don't know for either classic TCM or laser acupuncture, though, is how the improvements in body composition and metabolic complications are achieved and thus whether similar effects may occur in metabolically healthy individuals like you and me.

Zhang et al. for example speculated that acupuncture would increase excitability of the satiety center of the ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus, so as to control the excessive appetite. In the study at hand, however, the rigid dietary control renders this argument void (this assumes that the subjects did not lie about their food intake). This leaves us with potential effects on the inner organs - more specifically the spleen, stomach, and kidney which are traditionally targeted by TCM acupuncturists | Comment on Facebook!
  • El-Mekawy, Hanan S., Abeer M. ElDeeb, and Hassan O. Ghareib. "Effect of laser acupuncture combined with a diet-exercise intervention on metabolic syndrome in post-menopausal women." Journal of Advanced Research (2014). 
  • Liu, Z., et al. "Study on action of acupuncture on ventromedial nucleus of hypothalamus in obese rats." Journal of traditional Chinese medicine= Chung i tsa chih ying wen pan/sponsored by All-China Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine 21.3 (2001): 220-224.
  • Zhang, Hong, et al. "Effects of acupuncture therapy on abdominal fat and hepatic fat content in obese children: a magnetic resonance imaging and proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy study." The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 17.5 (2011): 413-420.
  • Zhao, M., Z. Liu, and J. Su. "The time-effect relationship of central action in acupuncture treatment for weight reduction." Journal of traditional Chinese medicine= Chung i tsa chih ying wen pan/sponsored by All-China Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine 20.1 (2000): 26-29.
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