Ear acupuncture using metal beads has shown promise in reducing weight, body mass index (BMI), and body fat when combined with a restricted diet, according to recent research presented at the European Congress on Obesity.
The study, conducted by Dr. Takahiro Fujimoto and colleagues from Clinic F in Tokyo, Japan, suggests that this acupuncture technique can control food cravings and does not require the expertise of traditional intradermal needle acupuncture.
Dr. Fujimoto explains that the tiny metal beads, when attached to specific points on the outer ear, stimulate nerves and organs responsible for regulating appetite, satiety, and hunger.
“Since these tiny metal beads are attached to six points on the outer ear that stimulate nerves and organs which regulate appetite, satiety and hunger, this type of acupuncture does not require complex knowledge or skill,” explains Dr Fujimoto. “In Japan, this method to aid weight loss has been used for over 30 years.”
Acupuncture is based on the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, which focuses on the flow of energy or qi throughout the body. Auricular (ear) acupuncture therapy posits that the outer ear represents the entire body, and by placing thin needles or beads on certain points along meridian lines, the flow of qi can be restored to address various health conditions.
While the exact mechanism is not fully understood, studies suggest that ear acupuncture may help regulate the endocrine system, modulate metabolism, improve digestion, and reduce oxidative stress. Previous research in Japanese women with overweight or obesity showed that those treated with ear acupuncture using beads experienced significant weight loss that was sustained for six months after treatment.
In this new study involving 81 Japanese men with overweight or obesity, auricular acupuncture with 1.5 mm metal ear beads was administered on six points of the outer ear. The participants were also given guidance on diet and were asked to reduce their food intake by half during the three months of treatment. The beads were placed on both ears and kept in position using surgical tape. The participants’ body weight, body fat percentage, fat mass, lean mass, muscle mass, BMI, and abdominal fat were measured at the beginning and end of the study.
After three months, the study observed significant differences in the participants’ measurements. On average, they experienced a reduction of 10.4 cm in waist circumference, a decrease of 4% in total body fat, a decline of 2 points in measures of unhealthy abdominal fat, and a decrease of almost 3 points in BMI.
Dr. Fujimoto emphasizes that acupuncture on the ear, when combined with diet and exercise, may aid weight loss by curbing cravings and appetite, improving digestion, and boosting metabolism. However, the study has limitations, including being observational, conducted with a small group of Japanese men over a short period, and unable to establish causation.