Acupuncture and weight loss in Asians: A PRISMA-compliant systematic review and meta-analysis

Medicine (Baltimore). 2019 Aug;98(33):e16815. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000016815.


Background: Acupuncture is effective for reducing body weight; however, evidence in Asian populations is lacking. We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis to evaluate the efficacy of acupuncture for body weight reduction in Asians.

Methods: The Medline, Embase, Cochrane library, and Chinese databases were searched for relevant studies through October 20, 2018. Publications describing randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing acupuncture with other treatments for the reduction of body weight were compiled. Reviewers assessed bias and collected data on trial characteristics and outcomes. The study was conducted based on the reporting items of the guidelines for systematic evaluation and meta-analysis (PRISMA). Review Manager 5.2 software was used to calculate weight mean difference (WMD) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs).

Results: Twelve RCTs involving 1151 subjects were included. Compared with the control groups, the acupuncture groups exhibited significantly greater reductions of body mass index (BMI)(WMD -1.20kg/m2; 95% CI -1.91, -0.48)and waist circumference (WMD -1.85 cm; 95% CI -3.20, -0.49) In the subgroup analyses, significant differences in the reduction of BMI was observed between the acupuncture and sham acupuncture groups, the acupuncture plus diet and exercise, and the diet and exercise groups, and the acupuncture and no intervention groups, but not between the acupuncture plus exercise and exercise groups [corrected].

Conclusions: Our study demonstrates that acupuncture is effective in the intervention of overweight/obesity in Asians; however, compared with exercise alone, acupuncture combined with exercise had no effect on the BMI or waist circumstance in the short term. Long-term studies are needed to evaluate the efficacy of acupuncture in weight reduction in Asians.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy / methods
  • Acupuncture Therapy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adult
  • Asian Continental Ancestry Group / statistics & numerical data*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Exercise Therapy / methods
  • Exercise Therapy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / ethnology
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Overweight / ethnology
  • Overweight / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Weight Loss