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Acupuncture-enhanced treatment performs better than standard therapies alone

pain relief
Benefits of acupuncture
Good Housekeeping, February

If the idea of being poked with needles sounds less than appealing, acupuncture may not be for you. But according to Good Housekeeping, new research shows that the needles help with pain relief in some cases. “German studies have shown that something is definitely going on, neurologically speaking, when acupuncture needles are in place: In a series of imaging experiments involving short electric zaps to the ankle, researchers found that when acupuncture needles were inserted before the zap, the pain centers in volunteers’ brains were significantly calmer.”

The same study also compared the pain relief when acupuncture supplemented doctor-prescribed treatment with the relief delivered by traditional treatment alone. After looking at several common ailments, including arthritis, neck pain, migraines and seasonal allergies, the subjects who received acupuncture along with standard care felt more improvement, defined as feeling at least 50 percent better, than those who received standard care alone.

Karen Sherman, senior scientific investigator at the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, says it’s worth being patient when you try acupuncture. “You probably won’t be able to tell after one visit” if it has helped, though “you don’t want to wait 20 sessions” to get relief. Most important, when considering acupuncture, look for an accredited professional. The National Certification Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (www.nccaom.org) is a good place to start your search.

Overweight
We are what we eat
“Why We Get Fat,” by Gary Taubes

Caloric intake and calories burned have a direct effect on our weight and body composition, but are some of us internally programmed to be larger? Science writer Gary Taubes argues in “Why We Get Fat” that nature and nurture both play roles in why some people are overweight. “Children in the womb are supplied with nutrients from the mother in proportion to the level of those nutrients in the mother’s blood sugar,” he writes. So if the mother is obese, the baby will tend to be that way, too, he says. Babies born with more fat than normal are often prone to having weight problems later in life, making the cycle of obesity difficult to break. Taubes’s main suggestion for breaking the cycle is to limit carbohydrates: potatoes and starchy vegetables, sugars and corn syrup, among others. “The science tells us that obesity is ultimately the result of a hormonal imbalance, not a caloric one — specifically, the stimulation of insulin secretion caused by easily-digestible, carbohydrate-rich foods. . . .These carbohydrates literally make us fat, and by driving us to accumulate fat they make us hungrier and make us sedentary.” This is not a new argument, but Taubes, who has won awards for science writing, fills his book with interesting studies and facts that give his book some weight.

“Why We Get Fat” by Gary Taubes (Random House)

Whitney Fetterhoff

A patient lies on a bed as he undergoes acupuncture treatment at Beijing's Capital Medical University Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital. (DAVID GRAY/REUTERS)
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