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Is acupuncture for weight loss effective?

Is acupuncture for weight loss effective?-1

The ancient Chinese tradition of acupuncture has worked its way into modern healthcare culture and is regularly used in many applications. Certain points throughout the body are stimulated through the application of very fine needles. These strategic points, along specific channels or meridians, balance the body’s energy. This balancing promotes certain health benefits including pain relief, increased fertility, decreased nausea, relief from high blood pressure, and now weight loss. A person can become overweight for many reasons, and this traditional alternative therapy tries to address these reasons and find the key points to activate balancing energy. So, at least in theory, the acupuncture for weight loss should allow a person to get rid of the excess fat.

Types of acupuncture for weight loss​​​​​​​

​​​​​​​Auricular acupuncture

This type of acupuncture for weight loss focuses specifically on external areas of the ear. Practitioners say that this part of the body is important for regulating systems of the entire body, and by working on specific areas on the ears quite impressive results can be achieved.


This subset of acupuncture for weight loss uses needles that penetrate the surface of the skin, and then electrical stimulation is applied to the needles. This current is thought to replace the need for excessive hand movements that occur in other manual, traditional forms.

​​​​​​​Laser acupuncture

In this acupuncture for weight loss therapy, lasers are used instead of needles to stimulate a patient’s pressure points. These “cold lasers’ deliver light energy only; no heat can be felt with their use. Individuals who are uncomfortable with needles or nervous about the traditional process can experience the effect in this alternative setting.

What is involved in this weight loss treatment?

An acupuncture for weight loss treatment package will include anywhere from twelve to twenty-one sessions with a licensed professional. The number of sessions per week often varies from professional to professional and can range from one a week up to three or four sessions every week. A typical visit includes a thirty minute to an hour and a half session where the patient lays or sits comfortably in the clinic while needles or other stimulation is applied to specific points on the body. These sessions are trying to alter the physiology and way that energy flows through the body to promote a healthy balance.

How does acupuncture support weight loss?

There have not been many objective studies of the success rates in using acupuncture for weight loss techniques, and ongoing research is being conducted on its benefits and uses. There are patient testimonials and a few documented studies that outline some ways it can help one lose the extra fat. The acupuncture for weight loss treatment can positively affect many areas of your life, including:

●      Appetite reduction and decreased cravings

Acupuncture can be one of the most effective ways to reduce appetite, which would definitely help patients get rid of the unwanted excess fat. A study completed in 2012 followed over one hundred obese people. Those that received acupuncture treatments in conjunction with their weight loss efforts reported a much lower hunger rate than the control group. This alternative therapy can affect many different body systems such as the endocrine system, gut bacteria in the digestive system, and the nervous system. This can help achieve one’s goals by balancing out hormones that produce positive and happy feelings can replace the urge to consume unhealthy foods. Regulating said gut bacteria levels and nervous impulses can also cause decreased appetite.

​​​​​​​●      Affects the nervous system

Acupuncture may activate the autonomic nervous system through regular treatments. When nerves are activated through the needles, they can send signals to the brain that change hormone levels and bring your body back to a healthy balance. The way the needles stimulate the skin may also release endorphins, and receiving these endorphins from a healthy activity instead of from food can assist patients in their weight losing challenge. Another effect of this shifted nervous system, and balanced endorphins is an effect on mood. As the body returns to a natural and balanced state, the mood can lift. Some patients experience a sense of depression and anxiety lifting after acupuncture for weight loss treatments. A person’s motivation is increased when they feel that they are actively seeking out and working toward their goal. By coming into acupuncture for weight loss treatments on a regular basis, those who are attempting to create a more healthy lifestyle can have tangible evidence that they are working to accomplish their goal. Even if the results are coming out really slow at start, or if a plateau is hit, this activity can give the confidence and motivation to continue pushing forward. The key acupuncture points that are stimulated during treatment may also increase this motivation to succeed.

●      Gut bacteria

Studies have shown the changing the body’s gut bacteria can restart and boost weight loss. Acupuncture may affect the environment of the gut, changing it to restore a balanced and healthy ecosystem. Diversifying the type of bacterias present in the gut and getting rid of certain strains can help people lose weight and keep it off.

●      Inflammation reduction

Part of obesity is increased inflammation. Individuals suffering from excess weight tend to have more inflamed tissue, and this is thought to make losing all excess fat more difficult. With acupuncture treatments, the body may return to a more natural balance. This balance may affect these inflamed tissues, returning them to a healthier state.

Any possible risks?

As long as the treatments are performed by an experienced and licensed practitioner, there are few side effects to be concerned about.  Seeing a professional that follows strict safety and health standards will prevent any dangerous side effects. A person may see small marks for an hour or two where the needles were placed. This is a very small price to pay, especially compared to many other conventional weight loss treatments available today. There are medications that cause heart palpitations, heart attacks, depression and anxiety. There are diets that cause people to feel horrible for a time period (like the ketogenic or Atkins diet) as well. Acupuncture, on the other hand, has no contraindications and no interactions with any known substances or medications that would cause harm. The treatments do not require much effort on the part of the recipient. The only true cost is financial. If one can afford the price of treatments from a qualified practitioner, there do not seem to be many downsides.

Final thoughts

​​​​​​​Acupuncture for weight loss can be a part of an intensive lifestyle change. It may be the external motivation that a person needs to overhaul their lifestyle and dietary habits. While there has not been much objective evidence of the benefits of adding acupuncture techniques to your training regime, there are no serious risk factors either. This treatment should not be a person’s only avenue to creating a healthy lifestyle and weight management, but it can give a major psychological boost.

Thanks for reading our article. If you liked it, then you are sure to love all the other articles, case studies,  and news posts made by the thousands of healthcare providers that use HospitalHippo. If you are looking for acupuncture for weight loss centers or want to contact a provider directly, you can do so through their Provider Page. They would be able to advise you on what best suits your needs.


The newest holistic treatemtn in the West seems to be acupucture now. Considering homeopathic treatments from both China and India have been used by families for decades, it seems weird that only now people are starting to recognise the benefits of acupuncture and stimulation of pressure points (seen in certain practices of yoga as well) and the use of homeopathic medicine over popping pills which make you feel even worse with their side effects. Perhaps its just another way for larger hospitals to commoditise what is a very well-known and common practice whilst pharmaceutical companies begin to sell haldi (turmeric) paste for cuts and bruises at an extortionate price as "recent and emerging" reserach have now begun to to tout its benefits, even though most South Asian women have been using it since their mothers and grandmothers have taught them on how to use such herbal treatments.

03/07/2017 07:30 GMT

I think most of the points you've made in your comment are not valid. As a medical student, I learn what goes wrong with the body about 95% and how I'm supposed to fix it. Most of the treatments include, what you've termed as, "popping pills". These pills have been specifically designed and tested thoroughly in order to bring about the best cure and treatment for such conditions. This is not to say that homepathy is false. Herbal treatments do have benefits to treating the symptoms of certain conditions but in diseases where the cause is bacterial or fungal or viral, then homeopathy has no use. Not even the beloved haldi paste can save the day. Therefore< i urge you to make sure you fully understand the scenario behind the intense research that occurs in order to bring these medications to the market and think about just how many people's lives are either being saved or their quality of life is being improved, thanks to these medications.