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Endocrine and Energy

A crossover study published in the International Journal of Acupuncture had 50 patients with type 2 diabetes divided into two comparable groups. One received acupuncture and no medicine, while the controls received hypoglycemic medication. Total glucose decreased more in the Acupuncture group than the controls. Cholesterol levels also declined in the Acupuncture group, and HDL was elevated only by the acupuncture treatment.

Acupuncture and Adrenal Insufficiency
The hormones secreted by the endocrine glands play an important role in the body. Experiments have shown that acupuncture exerts varying degrees of influence on the endocrine glands and thereby indirectly influences other organs.
Acupuncture can affect the pituitary-adrenal cortex system. During clinical use of acupuncture it was discovered that within one or two days after acupuncture treatment began, the twenty-four hour urine count of 17-hydroxycorticosterone and 17-ketosteroid generally increased. A blood test taken twenty minutes after needling 8-36 (Zusanli) and LI-4 (Hegu) on healthy subjects showed that the 17-hydroxycorticosterone steroids content in the blood rose significantly, sometimes by as much as a factor of two or three, and was maintained at these levels for a considerable time. Simultaneously, the blood content of the eosinophils showed a corresponding decline. All of these changes show that the secretion of ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) increased. Similar results have been obtained in experiments on animals. After regular acupuncture or electroacupuncture, the blood content of 17-ketosteroids increased, the adrenal cortex became thicker and heavier, and the content of cholesterol and ascorbic acid in the adrenal cortex declined. The Shenyang Scientific Medical Research Institute, using direct measurement methods, found that the ACTH content of the blood of white rats rose markedly after receiving electroacupuncture. This demonstrates that acupuncture can strengthen the functioning of the pituitary-adrenal cortex system and thereby raise the power of resistance of the body and hasten its recovery from disease. The effect that acupuncture induces upon the functions of the pituitary-adrenal cortex system has a direct relation to the original state of the system, with acupuncture serving a regulatory function.

Acupuncture and Thyroid
Acupuncture can regulate thyroid gland functioning. The Shenxi Province Traditional Medicine Research Institute found that when acupuncture was used in the treatment of endemic goiter, not only did the goiter shrink and the symptoms improve or disappear, but also the amount of iodine in the urine markedly decreased and the ability of the thyroid to absorb and use iodine was increased. In cases of hyperthyroidism, acupuncture can shrink the thyroid and reduce the basic metabolism.

Weight Loss
1) Effect of acupuncture on weight loss evaluated by adrenal function
Abstract: In order to understand the relationship between patients' adrenal function and simple obesity and effect of acupuncture on it, the obesity indices, lipid indices, fasting blood-glucose, noradrenaline, dopamine, adrenalin and cortisol were observed.
The results indicated that patients with simple obesity had hypofunction of the sympathetic-adrenal system and the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal system. (Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 1993 Sep, 13(3):169-73)
Acupuncture treatment not only affected weight loss but also enhanced functioning of the two systems, suggesting that the effect of acupuncture on weight loss may be produced by enhancing the functions of both the sympathetic-adrenal system and the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal system.

A related study (due to acupuncture’s regulatory effects on cortisol and the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal system), nearly 60 women assessed at Yale University found that high levels of cortisol (an adrenal stress hormone) were linked to plump bellies. The study participants, who were thick-waisted regardless of their total weight, also reported suffering from more chronic stress. The researchers believe that elevated cortisol levels cause the body to produce more of the hormone insulin. Increased levels of cortisol and insulin may cause more fat storage around the abdomen.
Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 1993 Sep, 13(3):169-73.

2) Positive data from acupuncture study for reducing body-weight
Acupuncture in the treatment of psychoactive-drug-induced obesity – an experimental study

Sham-controlled RCT with 2 arms (psychoactive-drug-induced obesity or obesity of other causes) and 3 parallel groups in each arm.
Forty-five patients in a psychiatric hospital with psychoactive-drug-induced obesity; mean age 41 years, weight 87kg, body-mass index 30kg/m2; and 44 obese patients mean age 42 years, weight 86kg, body-mass index 31kg/m2 who were not taking drugs with adipogenic (weight loss) effects.
Patients in each of the two arms were randomized to receive either acupuncture (n = 15), sham acupuncture (n = 15) or acupuncture plus physical exercise (n = 15). Acupuncture and sham acupuncture were administered once weekly for 6 weeks. Physical exercise, comprised mainly of a walking or jogging program, was performed twice weekly for 60min over a period of 6 weeks.

In the drug-induced obesity group treated with acupuncture there was a significant change in body-weight compared with baseline (2.6 kg, SD 0.7). Patients treated with sham acupuncture gained on average 0.6 kg body-weight (SD 1.3). Patients who received physical exercise in addition to their acupuncture treatment had a significant decrease in body-weight of 4.3 kg (SD 1.3) compared with baseline. The results were similar in all groups in the non-drug-induced obesity arm.

Authors’ conclusion: “This study demonstrates a simple, pragmatic and effective intervention for reducing body weight in patients with psychoactive-drug-induced obesity.”
Eich H, et al, Dtsch Z Akup 2005; 48: 6–11.