As China’s unparalleled and sustained economic growth enters its 4th decade a burgeoning middle class is gaining modern apartments, flat screen televisions, SUVs, and potbellies. That’s right, China is get fat, though they still have a long way to go to reach the size of their American Idols. With the widening waist lines comes a staggering spike in fatty livers, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. While China is a communist country, it does have self-proclaimed “special characteristics”, meaning capitalism. Where there is a disease, there is a dollar to be made on a treatment. And when it comes to obesity there are numerous treatments being promoted, most interesting, and shocking, of which is the “Cat Guts Treatment”.
In a nut shell, people are having “cat guts” inserted at acupuncture points so that they can lose weight. What?!?
The Chinese name for this treatment, Yang Chang Xian, literally translates as “Lamb Intestine Sutures”. So which one is it? Lamb intestines or cat guts? Neither. In actuality, it is a very thin suture that has been soaked in Chinese herbs (no one knows which ones because the company closely guards its trade secrets) and polarized with powerful magnets. The suture is placed in to a hollow point, 18 gauge needle (the size and type that is used to draw blood) and then the needle is jammed (literally) into an acupuncture point and/or “fat area” of the body that the patient wants reduced. The practitioner wiggles the needle around, trying to stimulate the acupuncture point, and then press a button at the top of the needle that release the suture into the skin. A band-aid is placed over the insertion point to prevent any bleeding. While this sounds terribly uncomfortable, the patients swear that 90% of the time it does not hurt, and their calm demeanor on the table suggests the same.
The “Cat Guts” are placed in about 10-15 points in the body, concentrating mostly in the abdomen, love handles, hips and upper thigh. The patient is then sent home for 2 weeks, at which point they come back for another treatment. Patients report losing 4-6 lbs of weight over a two week period. The weight loss results from continuous stimulation at acupuncture points that promote GI function, from a decrease in appetite and from extra metabolic energy being used by the body to absorb the suture.
Women are seeking this treatment in droves and by any standard BMI (Body Mass Index) are far from obese. The most common reasons voiced for getting this treatment are:
- Young women who are trying to find jobs and feel that if they are thin it will be easier
- People who are not interested in working out but still want to lose weight
- People who are not interested in changing their diets but still want to lose weight
This treatment can cost anywhere from 200-1000 yuan (28-140 USD) per treatment, depending on whether the procedure is done in a subsidized, government run hospital or in a private clinic. This is 5-25 times more expensive than a standard acupuncture treatment, which runs about 40 yuan, but unlike the acupuncture, which is administered daily for a course of 10 treatments, this procedure is only done twice a month.
Cat guts anyone?