Thu, Nov 29, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Catgut weight loss not for all people: doctors

By Jake Chung  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Reporters watch yesterday as an acupuncturist demonstrates catgut embedding therapy on a patient’s arm. Though sometimes advertised as painless, the therapy can be painful because relatively thick needles are used.

Photo: Yang Chiu-ying, Taipei Times

While catgut embedding helps people to lose weight, careful consideration should be given to determine who is suitable for the treatment, National Union Association of Chinese Medical Doctors director-general Chen Wang-chuan (陳旺全) said yesterday.

Invited by the Consumers’ Foundation to share his knowledge of catgut embedding after a woman in Greater Taichung almost died after receiving the treatment, Chen said the method was usually more effective in people whose weight problems stem from an accumulation of subcutaneous fat, rather than visceral obesity, which would indicate other physical problems.

A woman in Greater Taichung had about 1,500 strings of catgut embedded in her body over a period of 15 months, leading recently to her nearly losing her life from the suppuration of about 10 wounds and cellulite complications.

The incident should never have happened, or should not have been life-threatening, as any responsible and licensed Chinese medicine doctors would have paid attention to disinfecting their equipment and whether their medicines had expired, Chen said.

They would have also taken note of any diseases their patients had, or if wounds exhibited red sores, he added.

Embedding catgut strings in pressure points is an ages-old technique, with a history as old as that of acupuncture, Chen said, adding that the procedure originally was intended to cure people with weak constitutions, not for people to lose weight.

In times gone by doctors did not have the thin needles used today, nor did they have hollow tubes with which to insert the catgut threads into a patient’s body, Chen said.

He added that the threads historically were usually placed in a patient’s body through microsurgery, after which they were sewn shut.

Though not the intended purpose, it was discovered that the procedure helped people lose weight, Chen said.

He said that the modern process of making catgut string differs greatly from the process used in the old days as practitioners are now able to fabricate the string through protein magnetization.

Once inserted, the proteins in the string provide the human body with energy, causing it to burn subcutaneous fat while absorbing the string, Chen said, and this caused weight loss.

However, it is an effect that would be more noticeable in and applicable to patients who suffer from an accumulation of subcutaneous fat, as they have either endocrine disorders or problems with their metabolism, Chen said.

Chen stressed that while the method might also be useful for patients suffering from visceral obesity, it is most probable that those patients already have some sort of disease.

Those with visceral obesity wishing to try catgut embedding should have their diseases — if they have any — cured before attempting the procedure, he said.

Chen said that people with subcutaneous fat can lose weight by exercising, going on a diet or adhering to a normal lifestyle, but some people like to take shortcuts and that is why they undergo radical procedures like catgut embedding.

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