Background: Despite a multitude of health initiatives, obesity rates in America have continued to increase yearly, with obese or overweight people making up two-thirds of the population. Due to a lack of significant results from diet and weight-loss medication, new methods of weight-loss are increasingly considered. This paper looks beyond traditional Western treatments for weight loss and will analyze views and treatments for overweight and obesity in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
Methods: Three databases were used to search for papers published after 2010 until October 2019 discussing obesity, overweight and TCM. No forms of Chinese medicine were excluded from the search. Studies were excluded if they did not meet the date criteria or if they overlapped with papers found in other databases.
Results: Six of the selected papers covered acupuncture (electro, balance or catgut embedding acupuncture methods) either jointly with other treatments or alone, one exclusively on moxibustion and three studies on three different types of TCM herbal medicine. Each study showed a statistically significant effect on body mass index (BMI) value decrease or total weight loss (TWL). The six acupuncture papers all showed statistical significance at the 95% CI against control groups (sham acupuncture or no acupuncture) and against before-treatment BMI values or TWL values.
Conclusion: Of the treatments reviewed, almost all acupuncture studies were shown to be consistently effective in treating overweight or obese individuals within this selection of studies, as well as in another meta-analysis. This may be due to acupuncture’s ties to a neuroendocrine mechanism. Future studies should further explore the neuroendocrine connection between acupuncture and weight loss. Herbal medication was also shown to have a significant effect in reducing weight in each study; however, two studies used mice or rats as subjects, therefore understanding the effects on human subjects is limited.