Although acupuncture is being utilized to treat a variety of important health problems, its usefulness in obesity management has not yet been fully evaluated. The aim of this review paper was to survey and critically evaluate the descriptive and controlled trials of acupuncture for enhancing weight loss. The underlying principles of acupoint stimulation are described, with an emphasis on auricular (ear) acupuncture, the method most often chosen for obesity studies. The difficulties of selecting suitable placebo controls are highlighted. To date, most trials have been descriptive in nature, of short duration (< or = 12 weeks), and designed using nonstandard treatment protocols. Despite the unique challenges involved, further careful study of acupuncture's potential usefulness as an adjunct in weight management is recommended. An agenda for future research in this area is provided.