Complementary and alternative medicine for the treatment of obesity: a critical review

Int J Endocrinol Metab. 2015 Apr 20;13(2):e19678. doi: 10.5812/ijem.19678. eCollection 2015 Apr.


Context: Obesity and its associated morbidities pose a major health hazard to the public. Despite a multiplex of available diet and exercise programs for losing and maintaining weight, over the past years, interest in the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for obesity treatment has greatly increased.

Evidence acquisition: We searched PubMed, Google scholar and the Cochrane databases for systemic reviews, review articles, meta-analysis and randomized clinical trials up to December 2013.

Results: In this review, the efficacy and safety of the more commonly used CAM methods for the treatment of obesity, namely herbal supplements, acupuncture, and non-invasive body-contouring, are briefly discussed. The evidence supporting the effectiveness and safety of these methods is either lacking or point to a negligible clinical benefit, barely surpassing that of the placebo. Furthermore, several limitations are observed in the available scientific literature. These shortcomings include, without being limited to, uncontrolled trial designs, non-random allocation of subjects to treatment arms, small number of patients enrolled, short durations of follow-up, and ambiguous clinical and laboratory endpoints.

Conclusions: Further investigations are necessary to accurately determine the efficacy, safety, standard dosage/procedure, and potential side effects of the various CAM methods currently in use.

Keywords: Acupuncture Therapy; Biliopancreatic Diversion; Complementary Therapies; Dietary Supplements; Laser Therapy; Obesity; Treatment Outcome; Weight Loss.

Publication types

  • Review