The effects of auricular acupuncture on weight reduction and feeding-related cytokines: a pilot study

BMJ Open Gastroenterol. 2015 Feb 9;2(1):e000013. doi: 10.1136/bmjgast-2014-000013. eCollection 2015.


Objective: Auricular acupuncture is a common therapy used to control appetite; however, the underlying mechanism(s) of action is unclear. The present study examined changes in feeding behaviour and in the levels of several appetite-related hormones in response to auricular acupuncture, and attempted to identify the mechanism(s) by which this traditional medical treatment exerts its effects.

Methods: Ten healthy adult volunteers (nine female and one male) were recruited by the KOSAI Oriental Healthcare Center. The participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups (n=5 per group): an acupuncture group and a placebo group. Each received detention needle stimulus on a weekly basis for 1 month. Changes in diet, body weight, blood pressure and blood biochemistry were evaluated before treatment and at 1 week after the start of treatment.

Results: The difference in weight before treatment and after 1 week of treatment was significant for all participants in the acupuncture group (p=0.02). The percentage changes in active ghrelin in the acupuncture group were no significant changes observed in active ghrelin levels at 1 week after acupuncture in any individual participant (p=0.89). By contrast, the percentage changes in active ghrelin levels in the placebo group at 1 week after the start of acupuncture were significant (p=0.04). The insulin, adrenocorticotropic hormone, leptin and adiponectin levels did not change significantly in either group.

Conclusions: There was a statistically significant difference in the percentage change in body weight and active ghrelin levels in each individual participant in auricular acupuncture groups. This is a pilot study and the sample number is small; however, auricular acupuncture may reduce appetite by suppressing ghrelin production.