Does Acupuncture Work For Weight Loss?

You've tried a variety of diets, mixed up your workout regimens and attended yoga classes in an attempt to lose weight — but nothing seems to be working. 

Could acupuncture be the answer?

Mayo Clinic generally defines acupuncture as an ancient Chinese medicine most frequently used as a way to address pain by inserting thin needles along the body at strategic points. Though, when you poke around a little more deeply, there are fundamental differences between the Eastern and Western models. The traditional Eastern approach comes at acupuncture from a philosophical angle, viewing it as a way to balance energy flow — or qi — within the body by targeting specific points along energy pathways (meridians). By comparison, Western practitioners view acupuncture more clinically, regarding the technique primarily as a method to stimulate nerves and muscles in order to reduce pain and discomfort. 

While there have been few studies on whether acupuncture actually works for weight loss, advocates believe that the technique of stimulating qi through acupuncture can influence the body's metabolism, reduce appetite and lower stress levels, and that this, in turn, could reduce obesity. Ancient Chinese teachings assert that weight gain is caused by imbalances stemming from specific locations in the body such as the liver, spleen, kidneys, thyroid and endocrine system. So if you see an acupuncturist for weight loss, these are the areas they will likely focus on during your treatments (via Healthline).

How acupuncture works best to promote weight loss

Since there is still uncertainty surrounding the effectiveness of acupuncture as a method for weight loss, even acupuncturists believe that a well-rounded approach to weight loss is ultimately the best solution. "Any acupuncture treatment would be more effective when the patient changes his/her eating habits and lifestyle habits, like exercise, sleep patterns and exposure to stress," Gabrielle Zlotnik, a licensed classical acupuncturist who has been practicing for 10 years, tells Verywell Fit. "Acupuncture can help initiate the change, but cannot replace the personal involvement of the patient in the process of weight loss or any other healing," Zlotnik explains.

U.S. News highlights a 2018 review of 27 clinical trials that supports this perspective, revealing that acupuncture alone showed minimal effects on weight loss, while showing promise when combined with other lifestyle improvements.

At the end of the day, if you want to give acupuncture a try to improve weight loss, be sure to use a practitioner who is licensed — and don't get your hopes up that the pounds will start melting away. But even if you don't end up seeing the weight-loss results you were hoping for, chances are good that incorporating acupuncture as part of a healthy lifestyle will provide you with a new sense of well being — and that alone is worth its weight in gold.