Flab-fighting, Chinese style

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 July, 2012, 12:00am


Chinese medicine can be as effective in treating obesity as Western methods and with fewer side effects, a university study commissioned by the Hospital Authority shows.

Chinese University reviewed almost 100 previous studies on Chinese weight-loss treatments with the aim of providing a scientific basis for the authority's clinics to develop therapy in the field.

Researchers found that treatment of up to four months could result in an average weight loss of 5.8kg using herbal therapy and 4.1kg using acupuncture, results similar to those obtained using Western medicine.

'As a Western doctor, I found these results encouraging,' the university's assistant dean of medicine, said Professor Juliana Chan Chung-ngor, who led the research.

'A Western approach was used to show Western scientists that Chinese medicine methods work.'

The Hospital Authority commissioned the university to conduct the research last year. In the next few months it will start collecting data on patients' weight, height and waistline measurements at its 16 Chinese medicine clinics.

The authority's chief of Chinese medicine and integrative medicine, Dr Eric Ziea Tat-chi, said he expected information to be collected from about 50,000 patients in a large-scale clinical trial starting in January.

'We hope to find out how much demand there is for such targeted therapy, and what kinds of therapies are suitable for Hong Kong people.'

Ziea said the treatments were deigned to help lower the risk of health problems associated with obesity, such as diabetes, and not for those who simply wanted to be slimmer. He noted there were different causes of obesity, and said patients should be diagnosed before seeking treatment.

The review of 96 papers, in Chinese and English and from different countries, showed the herbs most commonly used to treat obesity included Scutellariae Radix (Huangqin) and Crataegi Fructus (Shanzha). The most common acupressure points are in the ear - aimed at the spleen and stomach - and points in the leg known as 'Sanyinjiao' and 'Zusanli'.

Obesity is usually treated with Western medicine and through behaviour changes. Chan said some drugs caused emotional or blood pressure problems and there was a lack of effective treatment methods.

In April last year, the Department of Health estimated that among Hong Kong people aged 18 to 64, one in five, or about 1.4 million people, were obese, defined by a body mass index of 25kg per sq metre or above.