Acupuncture to treat obesity
Obesity is undoubtedly one of the biggest social heath issues we face today. Obesity is most definitely on the rise, and because it is closely associated with a number of health complications, it is an issue that needs to be addressed. In this article we look at how acupuncture is proposed as a method by which obesity can be addressed and potentially treated.
What is obesity?
Obesity is clinically defined through a measure called the Body Mass Index, most often shortened to BMI. BMI takes into account a person’s weight and height to determine whether or not he or she is under- or overweight. A BMI of 18.5-25 is considered healthy, while anyone weighing less than that is considered underweight, and anyone over 25 is considered overweight. People with a BMI between 30 and 35 are considered moderately obese, 35-40 is considered severely obese, while 40 and above is classed as morbidly obese. It is important to point out that while BMI is a useful measure for determining a healthy weight range, it isn’t the most accurate as it doesn’t take into account factors like muscle mass. People with a great deal of muscle mass can report a BMI that indicates that they are overweight .
Obesity is a health risk because it is a major risk factor for diseases like diabetes (type 2), some cancers, asthma, infertility, osteoarthritis, and heart disease. Clinically, obesity can be defined also as an overabundance of body fat, which accumulates in a number of different locations on the body. As a person puts on more and more weight, their bodily systems are put under increasing stress. Joints for example, are worn down more and become susceptible to osteoarthritis and other injuries. Excessive fat disrupts a person’s natural hormonal rhythms, which can cause sub- or even infertility.
The dietary and lifestyle habits fuelling obesity usually involve an excess of fatty foods with a minimum of exercise, both of which take their toll on the heart. Too much dietary fat like cholesterol accumulates in our blood vessels, causing an increase in blood pressure which can cause heart conditions and other illnesses in the long run.
Obesity is unique in that it is extremely preventable. Lifestyle changes can dramatically reduce body fat and overall weight. Adjusting what foods are being ingested and in what quantities alongside a regular exercise regime can restore both a healthy BMI and good health to various bodily symptoms.
Obesity is considered one of the leading causes of preventable death in the world today, and as such a lot of emphasis is placed on prevention and addressing the problems obesity can present. A management strategy based on acupuncture has been reported as potentially useful, and in the following section we look at how acupuncture can potentially benefit people to manage their weight.
How can acupuncture help manage obesity?
Acupuncture treatments are extremely effective in a number of different situations, and it has been proposed that this particular treatment can benefit obese people. That being said, the area is definitely one in which further research is needed before it can be concluded whether or not acupuncture is a reliable method of managing obesity.
Traditional acupuncturists abiding by the ancient Chinese doctrines upon which acupuncture was founded believe that acupuncture achieves its goals by restoring the healthy and harmonious flow of Qi. Qi is believed by the ancient Chinese to be a life energy responsible for good health, and when its flow through designated channels called meridians is obstructed, disease is believed to ensue. Acupuncture and its techniques were originally devised as methods by which Qi flow can be restored.
In the absence of any scientific evidence to support the belief in Qi, many modern acupuncturists believe that acupuncture works by stimulating the nervous system. This is based on research that indicates that acupuncture can trigger the release of important signalling chemicals that can regulate both physical and emotional processes.
More specifically acupuncture has been shown by some researches to cause weight loss by stimulating the release of certain hormones and lowering the blood level of substances known to affect hunger and cravings. Acupuncture has also shown some success in lowering the amounts of certain lipids (fats) circulating in the blood stream.
It is important to point out that while acupuncture has shown some promise as a treatment for obesity, it is intended as a tool to complement lifestyle changes aiming to address obesity. Without dietary adjustments and changes to the amount of exercise a person does, acupuncture can do little to help reduce body weight.
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