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Acupuncture for the treatment of obesity in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis
  1. Rong-Qiang Zhang1,2,
  2. Jiao Tan3,
  3. Feng-Ying Li4,
  4. Yong-Hong Ma3,
  5. Li-Xin Han2,
  6. Xiao-Li Yang2
  1. 1 School of Public Health, Shaanxi University of Chinese Medicine, Xianyang 712046, Shaanxi, China
  2. 2 Institute of Endemic Diseases of School of Public Health, Xi’an Jiaotong University Health Science Center, Key Laboratory of Trace Elements and Endemic Diseases of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, Xi’an 710061, Shaanxi, China
  3. 3 Department of Public Health, Xi’an Medical University, Xi’an 710021, Shaanxi, China
  4. 4 Immunization Department of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Xianyang 712046, Shaanxi, China
  1. Correspondence to Dr Rong-Qiang Zhang, Shaanxi University of Chinese Medicine, Xianyang, Shiji Road, Shaanxi 712046, China; zhangrqxianyang{at}


Objective Meta-analysis was used to assess the clinical efficacy of acupuncture treatment for simple obesity and to provide evidence-based medical data for treating obesity with acupuncture.

Methods A comprehensive search of studies on MEDLINE, EMBASE, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials and Chinese databases (Wan Fang,CNKI and VIP) from 1 January 1915 through 30 November 2015 (MEDLINE search updated through 31 December 2015) was performed. We included only randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that used acupuncture and sham acupuncture to treat simple obesity. The effect of acupuncture on simple obesity was measured using body mass index (BMI), body fat mass (BFM), waist circumference (WC), hip circumference (HC), and body weight (BW). The Jadad scale was used to assess methodological quality. The random effects model was used in the pooled analysis to adjust for the heterogeneity of the included studies, and funnel plots were used to examine publication bias. The differences between treatment groups were reported as mean differences (MD).

Results Eleven RCTs were selected after all relevant literature from the electronic databases had been screened. There were 338 and 305 participants in the acupuncture and sham acupuncture groups, respectively. Auricular and electro acupuncture were both able to reduce BMI in obese patients (MD 0.47 kg/m2, 95% CI 0.35 to 0.58, p<0.001; MD 0.50 kg/m2, 95% CI 0.38 to 0.62, p<0.001). BFM change after acupuncture treatment compared with sham treatment was statistically significant (MD 0.66 kg, 95% CI 0.51 to 0.80, p<0.001). There were also significant differences in WC and HC between the acupuncture and sham acupuncture groups (MDwc2.02 cm, 95% CI 0.21 to 3.83, p=0.03; MDHC2.74 cm, 95% CI 1.21 to 4.27, p=0.0004). BW was not statistically significantly different between the acupuncture and sham acupuncture groups (MD 0.60 kg, 95% CI −0.20 to 1.39, p=0.14). Begg’s test and funnel plots showed that the potential publication bias of the included studies was very slight (p>0.05).

Conclusion Acupuncture for simple obesity appeared to be an effective treatment, but more studies on the safety of acupuncture used to treat simple obesity are required.

  • acupuncture
  • RCT
  • obesity
  • treatment
  • Meta-analysis

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  • Contributors R-QZ planned the study. R-QZ, JT, F-YL and Y-HM screened the literature. L-XH and X-LY extracted the data from the literature. JT and R-QZ conducted the meta-analysis and wrote the manuscript. R-QZ submitted the study.

  • Funding This study was funded by the Youth Research Project of Shaanxi University of Chinese Medicine (2015NQ05).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data available.