top of page
  • Writer's picturePhilip Niño Tan-Gatue

Ear Acupuncture and Weight Loss

One thing that many patients may not realize is that there is not one entity called “acupuncture.”  The word, actually, is a loose umbrella term covering a variety of related procedures and methods of stimulating pressure points on the body.  Of course, strictly speaking, acupuncture means puncturing with a needle, but I digress.

One related procedure is called auricular or ear acupuncture.  This is because it is believed that the pressure points are in the ear.  Some physicians prefer to stick needles in the outer ear.  Others like myself prefer ear “seeds”, where spherical objects (often small seeds) are fitted over the ear points with adhesive tape or the like, and the patient instructed to press against the seeds.

Anyhow, our study for the day is one that compares true ear point use vs sham in the treatment of obesity.  Also, the parameters include serum hormone levels.

I have a funny feeling the study might have a typo though. The results portion says that Ghrelin levels increased and that Leptin levels decreased.  I believe the two may have been inadvertently switched.  Why? Oh, just because ghrelin makes one hungry and leptin makes one feel satiated.  Hence, if ghrelin is increased and leptin decreased, the patient may eat more instead of less!

The effect of auricular acupuncture in obese women: a randomized controlled trial.

Hsu CH, Wang CJ, Hwang KC, Lee TY, Chou P, Chang HH.


Institute of Traditional Medicine, School of Medicine, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan.

J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2009 Jun;18(6):813-8.


The aims of this randomized study are to examine the effect of auricular acupuncture on obese women and to explore the relationship between the effect of auricular acupuncture and obesity-related hormone peptides. METHODS: Forty-five of 60 obese women aged between 16 and 65 years with body mass index (BMI) >27 kg/m2 and who had not received any other weight control maneuvers within the last 3 months completed this study. The subjects were blinded and randomly divided into groups A and B. Group A (n = 23) received auricular acupuncture, and group B (n = 22) received sham auricular acupuncture using placebo needles, twice each week for 6 weeks. The subjects’ body weight (BW), BMI, waist circumference (WC), and obesity-related hormone peptides were measured at the beginning of the study and after 6 weeks of treatment. The data were compared and expressed as percent reductions. RESULTS: This study found no statistical difference in percent reduction in BW, BMI, and WC between the group receiving 6 weeks of auricular acupuncture treatment and the control group. After treatment, group A revealed a significant increase in ghrelin level and decrease in leptin level. On the other hand, group B, who received sham auricular acupuncture, showed no significant difference in ghrelin and leptin levels. CONCLUSIONS: This study found no statistical difference in percent reduction in BW, BMI, and WC between the two groups. No adverse effects of short-term auricular acupuncture treatment were seen in the study. Auricular acupuncture may have potential benefit on obesity-related hormone peptides.

I will try to look for the actual study and comment further on this.  Note that the sham here is using placebo needles, meaning no actual penetration occurred as opposed to real needling.

6 views0 comments


bottom of page