Acupuncture Improves Intestinal Absorption of Iron in Iron-deficient Obese Patients: A Randomized Controlled Preliminary Trial

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Background:Obesity has an adverse effect on iron status. Hepcidin-mediated inhibition of iron absorption in the duodenum is a potential mechanism. Iron-deficient obese patients have diminished response to oral iron therapy. This study was designed to assess whether acupuncture could promote the efficacy of oral iron supplementation for the treatment of obesity-related iron deficiency (ID).Methods:Sixty ID or ID anemia (IDA) patients with obesity were screened at Beijing Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine and were randomly allocated to receive either oral iron replacement allied with acupuncture weight loss treatment (acupuncture group, n = 30) or oral iron combined with sham-acupuncture treatment (control group, n = 30). Anthropometric parameters were measured and blood samples were tested pre- and post-treatment. Differences in the treatment outcomes of ID/IDA were compared between the two groups.Results:After 8 weeks of acupuncture treatment, there was a significant decrease in body weight, body mass index, waist circumference, and waist/hip circumference ratio of patients in the acupuncture group, while no significant changes were observed in the control group. Oral iron supplementation brought more obvious improvements of iron status indicators including absolute increases in serum iron (11.08 ± 2.19 μmol/L vs. 4.43 ± 0.47 μmol/L), transferrin saturation (11.26 ± 1.65% vs. 1.01 ± 0.23%), and hemoglobin (31.47 ± 1.19 g/L vs. 21.00 ± 2.69 g/L) in the acupuncture group than control group (all P < 0.05). Meanwhile, serum leptin (2.26 ± 0.45 ng/ml vs. 8.13 ± 0.55 ng/ml, P < 0.05) and hepcidin (3.52 ± 1.23 ng/ml vs. 6.77 ± 0.84 ng/ml, P < 0.05) concentrations declined significantly in the acupuncture group than those in the control group.Conclusion:Acupuncture-based weight loss can enhance the therapeutic effects of iron replacement therapy for obesity-related ID/IDA through improving intestinal iron absorption, probably by downregulating the systemic leptin-hepcidin levels.

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