Is laser acupuncture an effective complementary therapy for obesity management? A systematic review of clinical trials

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Abstract

Background

Complementary therapies may increase the success rate of weight loss via a calorie-restricted diet. Acupuncture is a popular complementary therapy for obesity management. To our knowledge, no studies have summarised the effects of laser acupuncture (LA) on obesity.

Objective

To evaluate the efficacy of LA, in particular with respect to its impact on anthropometric features and appetite in obese adults, by conducting a systematic review of previous clinical trials.

Methods

We searched PubMed/Medline, Scopus, Web of Science, the Cochrane Library, Embase and Google Scholar electronic databases for papers published through October 2016. All clinical trials in English containing either anthropometric indices or appetite parameters were included. Two reviewers independently examined studies based on a predefined form for data extraction and the Jadad scale for quality assessment in order to minimise bias throughout the evaluation.

Results

After screening the papers, seven clinical trials met the criteria and were included in the systematic review. Positive effects of LA therapy were seen in body weight (n=3), body mass index (n=5), waist circumference (n=4), hip circumference (n=3), waist to hip ratio (n=4) and % fat mass (n=3). Appetite parameters were reported in one study, which showed that LA can reduce appetite and increase the sensation of feeling full.

Conclusion

Although some studies have indicated beneficial effects for LA on obesity, the lack of evidence with high methodological quality made it impossible to reach a definitive conclusion about the efficacy of LA for obesity management. Further high-quality, randomised, sham-controlled clinical trials with a larger sample size are needed to shed light on the efficacy of LA for obesity management and weight maintenance.

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