Influence of acupuncture on leptin, ghrelin, insulin and cholecystokinin in obese women: a randomised, sham-controlled preliminary trial

Funda Gucel et al, Acup Med, 2012, Vol 30, Issue 3

BMJ journals, Acupuncture in Medicine

Not all PCOS patients have difficulties managing their weight. However where weight is a contributing factor, acupuncture may be considered as part of a successful weight loss programme.

This small RCT shows that acupuncture may help to reduce weight and indicates that it’s mechanisms may be beneficial effects on the relevant hormones. Larger RCTs will help to elucidate further.


Background Obesity is an energy balance problem caused by overeating. Obesity treatment includes diet, exercise, behaviour treatment, pharmacotherapy and surgery; in addition, acupuncture is also an option.

Objective To investigate the effect of acupuncture on weight loss and whether a brief acupuncture treatment of 5 weeks can change circulating levels of leptin, ghrelin, insulin and cholecystokinin (CCK) in obese women.

Methods 40 women with a body mass index (BMI)>30 kg/m2 were equally randomised to either an acupuncture group or a sham (non-penetrating) acupuncture group and received treatment at LI4, HT7, ST36, ST44 and SP6 bilaterally. Both groups had two sessions of 20 min/week for a total of 10 sessions. Serum insulin, leptin, plasma ghrelin and CCK levels were measured by ELISA.

Results Acupuncture treatment decreased insulin and leptin levels and induced weight loss, together with a decrease in BMI compared with sham acupuncture. Furthermore, between-group analyses demonstrated increases in plasma ghrelin and CCK levels in subjects who received acupuncture treatment.

Conclusion These findings suggest that acupuncture may help to regulate weight owing to its beneficial effects on hormones such as insulin, leptin, ghrelin and CCK in obese subjects even after a few weeks of treatment.