International Journal of Obesity (2005) 29, 1030–1038. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0803008; published online 31 May 2005

Notice of Concern
Based on an initial investigation the majority of the findings of this paper were found to have previously been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition without proper cross-referencing. As our investigation continues, the International Journal of Obesity will update its readership of the progress and decisions made.

Complementary therapies for reducing body weight: a systematic review

Conflict of interest: none.

Funding: none external.

M H Pittler1 and E Ernst1

1Complementary Medicine, Peninsula Medical School, Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, UK

Correspondence: Dr MH Pittler, Complementary Medicine, Peninsula Medical School, Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, 25 Victoria Park Road, Exeter EX2 4NT, UK. E-mail:

Received 7 September 2004; Revised 22 March 2005; Accepted 4 April 2005; Published online 31 May 2005.



The prevalence of obesity is increasing at an alarming rate and a plethora of complementary therapies are on offer claiming effectiveness for reducing body weight. The aim of this systematic review is to critically assess the evidence from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and systematic reviews of complementary therapies for reducing body weight. Literature searches were conducted on Medline, Embase, Amed, and the Cochrane Library until January 2004. Hand-searches of relevant medical journals and bibliographies of identified articles were conducted. There were no restrictions regarding the language of publication. Trial selection, quality assessment and data abstraction were performed systematically and independently by two authors. Data from RCTs and systematic reviews, which based their findings on the results of RCTs, were included. Six systematic reviews and 25 additional RCTs met our inclusion criteria and were reviewed. The evidence related to acupuncture, acupressure, dietary supplements, homeopathy and hypnotherapy. Except for hypnotherapy, Ephedra sinica and other ephedrine-containing dietary supplements the weight of the evidence is not convincing enough to suggest effectiveness. For these interventions, small effects compared with placebo were identified. In conclusion, our findings suggest that for most complementary therapies, the weight of the evidence for reducing body is not convincing. Hypnotherapy, E. sinica and other ephedrine-containing dietary supplements may lead to small reductions in body weight. However, the intake of E. sinica and ephedrine is associated with an increased risk of adverse events. Interventions suggesting positive effects in single RCTs require independent replication.


alternative medicine, complementary medicine, overweight, systematic review



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