Self-administered auricular acupressure integrated with a smartphone app for weight reduction: Randomized feasibility trial

Lorna Suen, Wenru Wang, Kenneth King Yip Cheng, Matthew Chin Heng Chua, Jerry Wing Fai Yeung, Wai Kin Koh, Simon Kai Wang Yeung, Janice Yuen Shan Ho

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Obesity is a common global health problem and increases the risk of many chronic illnesses. Given the adverse effects of antiobesity agents and bariatric surgeries, the exploration of noninvasive and nonpharmacological complementary methods for weight reduction is warranted.Objective: The study aimed to determine whether self-administered auricular acupressure (AA) integrated with a smartphone app was more effective than using AA alone or the controls for weight reduction.Methods: This study is a 3-arm randomized waitlist-controlled feasibility trial. A total of 59 eligible participants were randomly divided into either group 1 (AA group, n=19), group 2 (AA plus smartphone app, n=19), or group 3 (waitlist control, n=21). A total of 6 reflective zones or acupoints for weight reduction were chosen. The smartphone app could send out daily messages to the subjects to remind them to perform self-pressing on the 6 ear acupoints. A “date picker” of the 8-week treatment course was used to enable the users to input the compliance of pressing and the number of bowel movement daily instead of using the booklet for recordings. The app also served as a reminder for the subjects regarding the dates for returning to the center for acupoint changing and assessments. Treatment was delivered 2 times a week, for 8 weeks. Generalized estimating equations were used to examine the interactions among the groups before and after intervention.Results: Subjects in group 2 expressed that the smartphone app was useful (7.41 out of 10). The most popular features were the daily reminders for performing self-pressing (88%), the ear diagram indicating the locations and functions of the 6 ear points (71%), and ear pressing method demonstrated in the video scripts (47%). Nearly 90% of the participants completed the 8-week intervention, with a high satisfaction toward the overall arrangement (8.37 out of 10). The subjects in group 1 and 2 achieved better therapeutic effects in terms of body weight, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and hip circumference and perceived more fullness before meals than the waitlist controls. Although no significant differences in the pairwise comparisons between the 2 groups were detected (P>.05), the decrease in body weight, BMI, body fat, visceral fat rating and leptin level, and increase in adiponectin level were notable in group 2 before and after the intervention.Conclusions: The high compliance rate and high satisfaction toward the trial arrangement indicate that AA can be used to achieve weight reduction and applied in future large-scale studies. AA integrated with the smartphone app has a more notable effect than using AA alone for weight reduction. Larger sample size should be considered in future trials to determine the causal relationship between treatment and effect.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere14386
JournalJMIR mHealth and uHealth
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 29 May 2019


  • Acupressure
  • Adiponectin
  • Auriculotherapy
  • Leptin
  • Obesity
  • Overweight
  • Randomized controlled trial
  • Smartphone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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