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Ear Acupuncture can help People Lose Weight

Update Date: Dec 17, 2013 09:33 AM EST

Eastern, holistic medical treatment, acupuncture, has been around for centuries. Despite the lack of scientific evidence that acupuncture works, several studies have found that acupuncture can alleviate pain due to the strong placebo effect that it has on its patients. In a new and small study, researchers found that ear acupuncture, more properly known as auricular acupuncture therapy, could potentially help people lose weight.

For this study, the researchers from Korea recruit 91 overweight adults who had a body mass index (BMI) of 23 or higher. The team used acupuncture on five difference points of the outer ear, which were called shen-men (divine gate), spleen, stomach, hunger, and endocrine. They compared acupuncture on these five points to sham treatment and to one hunger point treatment. The participants were given a restrictive, but not a weight loss, diet to follow. The participants were also asked to avoid partaking in extra exercise during the eight-week treatment period.

31 adults were assigned to the five-point treatment group. They had needle injections that were 2mm deep into the outer portion of the ear. The needles were then kept in place with surgical tape for a week. Both ears received the acupuncture treatment. 30 adults were assigned the acupuncture treatment but only at one hunger point. The remaining 30 people were given the sham treatment.

The researchers took the participants' BMI, waist circumference, body fat mass, body fat percentage and blood pressure at three points in the study, which were the beginning, half way through the eight weeks and at the end. Before the study was finished, 24 people had dropped out with 15 of them from the sham treatment group.

Out of the people who remained, the researchers found that after four weeks, participants receiving the five-point treatment had a 6.1 percent reduction in BMI. The people in the one-point group had a 5.7 percent reduction in BMI. Participants in the sham treatment group experienced no BMI reduction. Weight and waist circumference also fell the most for the people who received the five-point treatment. Body fat percentage only fell after eight weeks in the five-treatment group. None of the treatment options had an effect on blood pressure.

The study was published in Acupuncture in Medicine.

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