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Benefits of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation discussed

A research presentation given at the 2019 Irish Endocrine Society (IES) Annual Meeting demonstrated how transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) appears to improve diet control among obese patients by alleviating hunger, as well as lowering cholesterol and C-peptide.

A group of subjects who were eating a calorie-controlled diet and also received TENS for six weeks experienced greater weight loss than those on a calorie-controlled diet alone.

TENS is widely used to alleviate discomfort associated with knee arthroplasty, and some of the pain fibres pass from the stomach through the spinal root T6. Researchers thus hypothesised that this could help to alleviate the physical feelings of hunger in order to control appetite among obese patients.

This randomised study involved eight controls and 10 subjects who received TENS treatment of dermatome T6 for 20 minutes, twice a week for six weeks. Both groups ate a diet of 1,200 calories daily. The patients involved in the study all had a BMI of over 30 kg/m².

Following this period, it was found that the group receiving TENS had improved adherence to the diet plan and felt less hunger. The group also experienced greater weight loss (-7.7 (3.9) vs 1.7 (6.1) kg, P=<0.01), and greater reductions in cholesterol (-0.6 (0.8) vs 0.4 (0.6)mmol/L, P=0.01) and a greater reduction in C-peptide (-1.5 (1.6) vs 0.4 (1.2)ng/ml, P<0.05).

While patients receiving TENS experienced lower cholesterol and significantly lower C-peptide, they did not show any significant difference in measures of leptin, adiponectin, ghrelin, FGF-19, FGF-21, C-reactive protein, glucose, cortisol or vitamin D.


This research was carried out by Eurofins, Sandyford, Dublin 18, the Asthma Research Centre, Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown, the department of endocrinology, Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown, and the National Institute on Ageing, National Institutes of Health, Baltimore, Maryland, US.

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