Potential role for acupuncture in the treatment of food addiction and obesity

Jason Aaron Chen, Justin Albert Chen, Sanghoon Lee, Gerard Mullin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Addressing the global obesity epidemic requires innovative approaches that are also acceptable to affected individuals. There is growing evidence suggesting that food addiction, one contributor to obesity, bears many similarities to drug and alcohol addiction, presenting a potential role for addiction-focused acupuncture as a novel treatment modality. In this perspective article, we begin by briefly reviewing the evidence linking food and drug/alcohol addiction. We then describe the development of an acupuncture-based protocol for treating opioid addiction in Hong Kong in the 1970s and discuss the evidence base for acupuncture's efficacy in treating a range of substance use disorders. Next, we describe acupuncture's proposed mechanism of action in attenuating withdrawal and promoting abstinence. Finally, we note the dearth of studies specifically examining the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating food addiction and suggest that more research should focus in this area as part of the effort to combat rising rates of obesity worldwide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)52-55
Number of pages4
JournalAcupuncture in Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • acupuncture
  • auricular acupuncture
  • electroacupuncture
  • substance misuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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