Leptine, Weight Loss, and AcupunctureLeptin, Weight Loss, and Acupuncture

By Dr. Li Zheng

Leptin is derived from the Greek word 'leptos' meaning thin. Leptin is one of the key hormones involved in hunger, metabolism, and how fats and carbohydrates get stored and utilized. Leptin tells your hypothalamus that you have eaten enough and need to start burning fat. The hypothalamus is the control center of the brain for fullness and fat storage. The rate of production of leptin directly correlates with weight loss or weight gain. Women have significantly higher circulating leptin than men.

Leptin resistance is very similar to insulin resistance. With insulin resistance, chronic elevated levels of insulin make your muscle and fat cells more resistant to the action of insulin. Chronic elevated leptin levels decreases the hypothalamus sensitivity to leptin. If your body produces too much fat by chronically drinking soda and/or eating too much ice cream, the long term elevated leptin will desensitize your hypothalamus. As a result, your hypothalamus will not respond to leptin signaling and you tend to eat too much.

The following two scientific research studies show that s acupuncture has a bi-directional adjustment of leptin levels. The first one shows that if rats gained weight within a short period of time before they develop resistance to leptin, acupuncture can help increase leptin and its receptor levels to suppress food intake and burn more fat. The second experiment shows that if obese people have already developed leptin resistance due to chronic high levels of leptin, acupuncture can help lower leptin levels and make the hypothalamus more sensitive to leptin stimulation, which may be associated with resensitizing leptin receptors.

Scientist Bai CY, et al. observed the effects of electroacupuncture (EA) on leptin and leptin receptor mRNA expression in the hypothalamus of rats with nonalcoholic fatty livers in 2010. Male rats were randomly divided into a control group, a model group, and an electrical stimulation group. The model group was established by feeding the animals with a high fat diet for 8 weeks. Electrical stimulation was applied to unilateral ST 40 and ST 36, once daily for 4 weeks. After the treatments, the serum triglycerides and total cholesterol levels increased significantly in the model group. While serum triglyceride and total cholesterol levels in electrical acupuncture group were reduced considerably. Electrical stimulation can lower serum triglyceride and total cholesterol levels in rats with fatty liver, which is closely related to its effects in up-regulating the expression of hypothalamic leptin and leptin receptor mRNA. This may explain how the increased leptin and leptin receptor levels can help rats lose unhealthy fat induced artificially.

Luo HL and Li RH did human research to show how electrical acupuncture can optimize the level of leptin and help humans lose weight. Sixty simple obesity patients with elevated leptin levels were randomly divided into a control, manual acupuncture, and electrical acupuncture groups with 20 cases in each group. Liangqiu (ST 34), Xuehai (SP 10), Gongsun (SP 4), Neiting (ST 44), Tianshu (ST 25) and Fujie (SP 14) were punctured respectively once every other day for 27 times altogether. After the treatment, 5.0%, 85.0% and 95.0% of the control, manual and electrical acupuncture groups respectively lost weight. The therapeutic effects of both manual and electrical acupuncture groups were significantly higher than that of control group. Furthermore, serum leptin levels in both manual and electrical groups decreased significantly and the effects on the electrical acupuncture groups were markedly better than those of manual acupuncture and control groups. No significant changes were found in leptin levels in the control group. Both electrical acupuncture and manual acupuncture can effectively lower blood leptin levels in simple obesity patients by resensitizing the hypothalamus, contributing to reduced food intake and increased metabolism. The effect of electrical acupuncture is significantly superior to that of manual acupuncture in the treatment of simple obesity.


Dr. Li Zheng

Graduate of Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, Ph.D. in neuroscience at the Medical College of Ohio. Professor and clinical supervisor of New England School of Acupuncture. Researcher in the Dept. of Anesthesia in Massachusetts General Hospital. Website: www.acumagic.org.



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