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Ear acupuncture proves to be an effective treatment for weight loss

Weight loss might be as simple as a touch on the ear, according to new research unveiled at the European Congress on Obesity in Dublin, Ireland. The study suggests that ear acupuncture using metal beads, coupled with a controlled diet, can significantly reduce body weight, BMI, and body fat.

The revelation comes from a study conducted by Dr. Takahiro Fujimoto of Clinic F, Tokyo, Japan, and his team. Unlike the traditional method of intradermal needles, which requires professional acupuncturists, this alternative approach uses metal beads. 

These tiny beads are attached to six specific points on the outer ear, stimulating nerves and organs that regulate appetite, satiety, and hunger.

Dr. Fujimoto clarifies, “This type of acupuncture does not require complex knowledge or skill. In Japan, this method to aid weight loss has been used for over 30 years.”

Basics of acupuncture

Acupuncture, a staple in traditional Chinese medicine, operates on the understanding that our health depends on the free flow of energy, or qi, in our bodies. 

The flow of this energy along invisible pathways, known as meridians, can affect our physical and mental health. A disrupted flow can potentially result in health problems. These pathways aren’t just found in our bodies, but also in our ears.

Auricular acupuncture therapy, where the outer ear is seen as a representative of all body parts, is one such approach. 

The therapy employs thin needles or beads placed at certain points, often along meridian lines, to restore the qi flow by resolving any blockages or disruptions. This approach has found use in treating drug addiction, assisting in smoking cessation, and promoting weight loss.

While the exact mechanism is still a mystery, studies suggest that ear acupuncture may help regulate the endocrine system, modulate metabolism, promote digestion, and decrease oxidative stress.

How the study was done

Building upon past research that observed significant weight loss in Japanese women treated with ear acupuncture, this new study involved 81 Japanese men aged 21 to 78, all living with overweight or obesity. The focus was on those with high levels of unhealthy abdominal fat.

The study utilized 1.5 mm metal ear beads placed on six points of the outer ear. To ensure uniform pressure, the beads were kept in place using surgical tape and replaced twice a week during hospital visits. Participants were also guided on diet and had their body weight monitored. They were asked to halve their total food intake during the three-month treatment period, maintaining food diaries for record.

What the researchers learned

At the start and end of the treatment, several measurements were taken. These included body weight, body fat percentage, fat mass, lean mass, muscle mass, BMI, and abdominal fat. 

The results showed substantial changes after three months. Participants lost an average of 10.4cm off their waist circumference, 4% of total body fat, and BMI decreased by almost 3 points.

Dr. Fujimoto concluded, “Our findings suggest that acupuncture on the ear may aid weight loss when paired with diet and exercise. It’s likely that acupuncture has a positive effect by curbing cravings and appetite, improving digestion, and boosting metabolism.”

The authors, however, caution that the study has several limitations, being an observational study carried out on a small group of Japanese men over a short period. As such, the results cannot definitively establish causation.

More about acupuncture

Acupuncture is a technique that originated from traditional Chinese medicine over 2,500 years ago. It’s based on the premise that a blockage or disruption in the flow of the body’s life energy, or “qi”, can cause health issues. Acupuncturists insert very thin needles into the skin at specific points on the body—known as acupuncture points—to restore the flow of qi, balance the body’s energy, stimulate healing, and promote relaxation.

Theories of Acupuncture 

Traditional Chinese Theory

The traditional Chinese theory suggests that the body has more than 2,000 acupuncture points connected by meridians or pathways, creating a flow of energy called ‘qi’. When the qi’s flow is balanced, it brings health. But when it’s blocked or unbalanced, it can lead to illness. Acupuncture aims to restore this balance.

Western Theory

In the Western view, acupuncture is believed to work by stimulating the central nervous system, triggering the release of chemicals into the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These biochemical changes may stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being.

Applications of Acupuncture 

Acupuncture is used to treat a wide range of health conditions, including:

  • Pain syndromes such as arthritis, migraines, and chronic pain
  • Sleep disorders like insomnia
  • Digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome
  • Mood disorders including depression and anxiety
  • Respiratory conditions like asthma
  • Reproductive issues including infertility and menstrual cramps
  • Allergies


During an acupuncture treatment, the practitioner will insert thin needles into specific points on the body. These needles can be inserted to various depths and can be left in place for a few minutes or longer. The process is generally not painful, with many people feeling minimal discomfort as the needles are inserted. The practitioner may gently move or twirl the needles, or even apply heat or mild electrical pulses to the needles.

Safety and Side Effects

When performed by a trained practitioner, acupuncture is generally safe. Some people may experience minor side effects such as soreness, minor bleeding, or bruising at the needle sites. More serious side effects, such as infections or punctured organs, are extremely rare.

Scientific Evidence

While there is scientific evidence that acupuncture can help manage certain pain conditions, much about its mode of action remains uncertain. Researchers are also studying the efficacy of acupuncture in treating conditions such as depression, anxiety, and hypertension.

Remember, it’s important to discuss with your healthcare provider before starting acupuncture or any other type of alternative or complementary therapy. They can help ensure the treatment is safe and guide you to a reputable practitioner if needed


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