Research: Acupuncture may help with weight loss


Acupuncture treatment may reduce body weight by reducing insulin resistance.  

Blood sugar measurement

Blood sugar measurement

Obesity is a huge problem in the United States and around the world.  Research has proven that insulin resistance increases the need for higher levels of insulin to clear blood sugar from your blood supply after meals.  These high levels of insulin increase hunger and may lead to obesity.  We have long known that these effects result in metabolic syndrome and higher levels of central obesity.  It is a deadly circle in which our health continues to worsen and we circle the drain of life.  

Despite a plethora of research, we have found very little to indicate potential treatments outside of weight loss and exercise.  If we could find something to lower insulin resistance, it could assist with weight loss.  A new piece of research published in China in August of 2018 appears to show promise at reducing insulin and leptin resistance without dieting or exercise[1].  The study looked at acupuncture and its effect on body weight, blood lipid, leptin levels, and soluble leptin receptor levels in prediabetic patients.  Prediabetic patients have been shown to have suppressed insulin sensitivity and leptin levels.  Researchers looked at a group of 100 prediabetic patients were randomly assigned to medication (Metformin), acupuncture group,  and simple lifestyle intervention group.  All the patients of the 3 groups were treated with lifestyle intervention and their diabetic medications were discontinued (except for the Metformin group).  The acupuncture treatment was conducted once every other day for 12 weeks.  Patients of the medication group were ordered to orally take Metformin tablets for continuous 12 weeks.  The researchers measured body mass index, waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio, 2 h-postprandial blood glucose, fasting blood glucose, glycosylated hemoglobin, total cholesterol, triglyceride, fasting insulin, serum leptin, and soluble leptin receptor levels were measured before and after the treatment.  After the treatment, the acupuncture group had a corresponding reduction in body mass index.  Also, following the treatment, the levels of fasting blood sugar, 2 h-postprandial glucose, Hemoglobin A1c, total cholesterol, triglycerides, fasting insulin, and leptin all decreased in both acupuncture and medication groups.   These changes all indicate a reduction in both insulin and leptin resistance.  

The bottom line:  The mechanisms underlying treatment and prevention of prediabetes is to either overcome insulin resistance or reduce it.  Acupuncture appears to induce body weight loss, down-regulate FINS, insulin resistance, and leptin resistance and this appears to display a positive role in the treatment of prediabetes.  Since prediabetes and obesity have a similar mechanism of onset, these results may indicate acupuncture as a potential treatment for obesity.  More research is needed.  


Zhao Z. et al., “[Acupuncture Treatment Reduces Body Weight Possibly by Down-regulating Insulin and Leptin Resistance, and Up-regulating Soluble Leptin Receptor Level in Prediabetic Patients].,” Zhen Ci Yan Jiu, vol. 43, no. 8, pp. 506–11, Aug. 2018. [PubMed]
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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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