Objective Auricular acupuncture is a common therapy used to control appetite; however, the underlying mechanism(s) of action is unclear. The present study examined changes in feeding behaviour and in the levels of several appetite-related hormones in response to auricular acupuncture, and attempted to identify the mechanism(s) by which this traditional medical treatment exerts its effects.
Methods Ten healthy adult volunteers (nine female and one male) were recruited by the KOSAI Oriental Healthcare Center. The participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups (n=5 per group): an acupuncture group and a placebo group. Each received detention needle stimulus on a weekly basis for 1 month. Changes in diet, body weight, blood pressure and blood biochemistry were evaluated before treatment and at 1 week after the start of treatment.
Results The difference in weight before treatment and after 1 week of treatment was significant for all participants in the acupuncture group (p=0.02). The percentage changes in active ghrelin in the acupuncture group were no significant changes observed in active ghrelin levels at 1 week after acupuncture in any individual participant (p=0.89). By contrast, the percentage changes in active ghrelin levels in the placebo group at 1 week after the start of acupuncture were significant (p=0.04). The insulin, adrenocorticotropic hormone, leptin and adiponectin levels did not change significantly in either group.
Conclusions There was a statistically significant difference in the percentage change in body weight and active ghrelin levels in each individual participant in auricular acupuncture groups. This is a pilot study and the sample number is small; however, auricular acupuncture may reduce appetite by suppressing ghrelin production.
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