Objectives: Childhood anorexia, among the commonest symptoms of children, involved long-term loss of appetite/decreased food intake and refusal to try or eat certain foods. Acupuncture is increasingly popular in childhood anorexia due to the side effects and dissatisfaction of conventional treatment, but, the efficacy and safety of acupuncture for childhood anorexia have not been reviewed systematically.
Methods: From 12 electronic databases, randomized controlled trials (RCTs) assessing acupuncture for childhood anorexia were identified in June 2021, with posttreatment improvement in clinical symptoms of anorexia as the primary outcome. A meta-analysis was conducted if two or more studies used the same interventions or same outcome measures. The risk of bias and quality of evidence were evaluated.
Results: A total of 32 RCTs with 3518 participants were included. When acupuncture was used as monotherapy or adjunctive therapy, the total effectiveness rate based on anorexia symptoms, hemoglobin levels, abdominal subcutaneous fat, and body weight significantly improved. However, results in nutritional indices were inconsistent. The recurrence rate of anorexia was significantly lower in the acupuncture group. No serious adverse events in relation to acupuncture were reported. in general, the risk of bias of the included studies was unclear and the quality of evidence for the main findings was low to moderate.
Conclusions: Acupuncture may improve symptoms of childhood anorexia without serious adverse events.